You Can't Hide From Pressure

The reason why we feel the stress of pressure is because it's supposed to discourage us from participating in high stakes events that could hurt our survival. This may have been helpful for our ancestors, but today, we often find ourselves in pressure situations that we have no choice but to participate in. As athletes, when we're facing pressure in games, it does no good to quit and run away.

When you are in a pressure situation, you have three options:
1. You can escape the situation and not even perform under pressure.
2. You can embrace the pressure, try your best to cope effectively with it, and perform as best as you can.
3. Or you can fail to cope effectively, let your nerves get to you, choke, and perform poorly.

When you're in a situation when there's no choice but to perform under pressure, choice #1 isn't even an option. As an athlete, there are many times when you can't hide from pressure. For example, when a basketball player gets fouled on the last play of the game and has to shoot two free throws to tie the game, the player can't opt out. He has no choice but to enter the pressure situation. Therefore, when option #1 isn't even available, you must choose either option  #2 or #3. Obviously no one wants to deliberately choose option $3. However, because of fear, athletes sometimes subconsciously try to find comfort in option #3. To cope with the pressure, they choose to use counterproductive defense mechanisms. For example, they may choose to have a bad attitude and feel bad for themselves. Or they may think of excuses and get angry. They wish they could escape the situation altogether, but they forget that they can't, therefore they fail to commit to option #2.

This is why it's so important to remember that there's no escaping pressure as an athlete. When you can't escape a pressure situation, the only rational choice you have is to embrace the situation and try your best to cope effectively with it. And to cope effectively with pressure, you have to stay positive, relax yourself, focus on the task at hand, be brave, and trust your instincts.

However, there are times when you actually do have a choice whether to enter a pressure situation or not. For example, imagine that your friends are pressuring you to jump off a cliff into water. This is a pressure situation that you have the option of entering or not entering. No one can force you to jump into the water. And since there's no reason why you absolutely have to jump in, you can rationally decide not to. In this case, it can be smart to choose not to enter the pressure situation, since the rewards may not outweigh the risks.

Outside of sports, it can be smart to avoid certain pressure situations. But as an athlete, you rarely have the freedom to avoid pressure. Therefore, you must accept the fact that you can't hide from pressure, and be determined to cope with it as best as you can. The more you accept pressure, the better you'll perform under it.

Here is a great quote from a professional rock climber that relates to this topic:
"All the analysis, all the thinking, all the managing risks happens ahead of time. Once you commit, you give yourself 100 percent to the climb." - Alex Honnold


  1. Thank you for sharing this useful information, I will regularly follow your blog.Excellent post, thanks for sharing, it’s indeed very helpful for new blogger like me
    Sports Mind Coach


Post a Comment