Practice These 3 Tips to Performing Better Under Pressure

An athlete's focus the day of competition often differs from other days. On non-competition days, many athletes are training hard, working on their weaknesses while strengthening their strengths. However, on competition days athletes may seem tenser, more serious, and in some cases, quieter. This time of readiness is one that many athletes take too seriously. Depending on the time of the event, athletes may separate themselves from their team, reflecting on their upcoming performance and isolating themselves from any distraction that could “harm” their focus and overall result.

The problem with taking competition days too seriously is that it often puts the mind in a state of duress and un-readiness. This is because every day prior to competition the athlete was mentally training with a different level of focus, intensity, and in many cases mindset. Top Olympian athlete Michael Phelps stated that he mentally treats his competition days the same as any other day. The reason why is because the mind seeks comfort under duress. If the athlete goes into his or her competition as if it were practice he or she will be able to stay calmer because his or her mind is conditioned to treat all days the same.

Below is a list of 3 areas that athletes should mentally work on treating the same.  

Routines – Practicing with structured routines helps calm the mind the day of competition because routines help bring a feeling or relatedness to new environments. Make sure to develop very structured routines and practice them with the same frequency and intensity every practice and every competition.

Keep your goals small – Athletes, coaches, and parents often make the mistake of focusing on big goals the day of competition. There’s nothing wrong with setting big goals for motivation and vision of what every athlete is aspiring for; however, big goals should not be discussed and focused on the day of competition. Big goals make it difficult for the athlete to focus on the present and often result in the athlete overthinking which leads to underperformance. Keep the goals very small and focused mostly on task and a positive feeling.

The environment – This is where most athletes become overwhelmed. Athletes need to treat every environment the same no matter if it is a local competition or a national one. Remember that the mind loves confidence and a big part of confidence is the elimination of doubt. Convincing yourself that you are always competing in the same environment will help quiet the mind and reinforce readiness.