Dealing With Pressure

 Very few athletes can comprehend what it is like to play professional sports.  The pressure can be intense and gut wrenching to say the least.

  Pressure - it's a way of life in athletics.  Pressure abounds ... pressure to win, the pressure to make the team, the pressure to keep your position and ranking, the pressure of criticism and fame.

  Basically there are two types of pressure that an athlete will face.  The first type of pressure is the kind which you have control over.  This type of pressure is usually the pressure that comes because you have failed to train and properly prepare.  It shows up when you are out of shape - whether it be your cardiovascular system, your flexibility, your strength, your weight, or your mental state of mind. It is not being in the optimal combative state.

  This type of pressure also shows up in your preparation for competition.  This usually happens going into a battle without a plan or strategy.  It is going into a tough competition without doing your homework on your opponent.  All of this type of pressure is totally avoidable.  The real problem is that you created this mess by not being disciplined to detail.

  Another type of pressure is the kind that is unavoidable.  It is beyond the realm of your control.  This kind of pressure usually comes from outside sources.  It is the pressure to live up to someone else's expectations.  This is the kind of pressure you must learn to face, because there is nothing you can do to prevent it.

  The most important issue to consider as an athlete and as a coach about pressure is how you are going to deal with it.  It is there.  It just won't go away.  You can't run, you can't hide, you can't pretend it is not there; you must face it.

  When you step on the field of competition, you step on a field covered with "landmines" of pressure.  At every step, at every turn is the possibility of a pressure explosion.  Expect it... it comes with the territory!

  Pressure or stressful situations can be your foe.  Too little stress and you will be under-aroused, and not be fully motivated to perform. Too much stress and you will be over-aroused, and may panic, tighten up, thereby harming your performance.  Either way, too hot or too cold, your performance will suffer.

  Pressure really comes from you.  Now that may sound strange, but it is true.  Pressure and stress can come in many different forms; lack of time, grades in school, money, parents, boyfriend/girlfriend, injuries, trying to make the team, etc.  Sports psychologists believe that some individuals are bothered by certain things, while others have no problems whatsoever in the same situation.

  The bottom line is nothing in particular causes stress.  The pressure, the stress is caused by how you perceive the situation, the idea, the requirement, or the expectation.  It comes down to how you interpret the event or circumstance.

  It is important to realize that any pressure you do feel is caused by how you are looking at the situation.  It is coming from your picture of how things should be, and what you think needs to be.  By placing such values on an idea you begin to produce pressure, tension, stress, anxiety, and fear.  No one can compete in their ideal performance mode with that load on their back!

  If you find the pressure is building you can take the following steps:

  Just by understanding that you are in control, you are a step closer to actually being in control.  You have the power so use it!

  When an athlete is worried about the possibility of a poor performance, they call the feelings they are experiencing "nervousness." When the same athlete is in a positive frame of mind concerning a competition, they call the feeling, "excitement."

  You control the process.  A simple trick is to "reframe" or rename the stress.  Instead of focusing on the "butterflies" in your stomach as nervousness, instead call it EXCITEMENT.  Be excited that you can compete.  Be excited that this is the opportunity you have been training for.  Be excited that this just may be your best performance ever.

  Capture the moment.  That’s what you train and live for, to play in those situations.  Love the moment!

 Yours in football,
 Coach Z

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