Why is it that some athletes step up in high-pressure situations when athletes dread those feelings of pressure?
You have been in those situations where the end of a competition is running near and there is that critical moment where the outcome is about to be decided… your heart is pounding… it’s all up to you now… You feel that pressure to perform in the clutch… You think, “it’s either hero or scapegoat time.”
In this same scenario, two athletes may respond totally opposite. One may get “psyched up” for the challenge while the other may become “psyched out” and overwhelmed.
The difficulty with pressure during competition is that it can preoccupy your mind and distract you from focusing on your game.
Most athletes talk about “feeling pressure” but it is your “thoughts” about pressure that causes that overwhelming sense of fear.
Pressure is a part of all competition… but that doesn’t mean pressure is a bad thing. The problem is that athletes are expected to deal with pressure without ever being taught how to manage it.
What Is Pressure?
Pressure usually refers to the feelings and thoughts an athlete has about performing in a competitive situation.
Pressure kicks in a mental and physical response to meet the athletic demand in front of you.
How you think about the athletic demand will determine how you respond in pressure situations.
If you learn how to harness the energy in pressure, it can enhance performance and help you rise to athletic challenges.
The Pressure of Kicking Field Goals
A placekicker is one of the only athletes whose sole responsibility is putting points on the board…
Placekickers do not choose what yard line the will attempt their kick from, it is chosen for them…
And every attempt gets an immediate pass/ fail grade…
In addition to all this pressure, placekicks often have to successfully make a kick with the game on the line.
Ian Frye is a senior kicker for the University of Virginia football team. Frye is among the nation’s best at his position and is a candidate for the Lou Groza award (awarded to the best NCAA Divison I placekicker.) Last year, Frye was a second-team All-ACC selection after connecting on 22 field goals out of 27 attempts.
UVA Special teams coach Larry Lewis extolled Frye’s cool demeanor under pressure.
“Those kinds of things [pressure] really don’t affect him. Ian really is quite focused when he’s out there. Nothing really bothers him.” – LEWIS
How is Frye able to perform under pressure? Frye has been coached to develop the ability to deal with pressure in a unique way. Coach Lewis creates game-like situations to condition Frye’s body and mind to deal with pressure.
“A lot of times that’s why I go out and scream and yell at those kids. A lot of special teams coaches don’t do that. I try to do that. Just put a little pressure on them, to see if I can rattle their cages a little bit during practice. Ian’s pretty level-headed most of the time.”
Frye concurs that training under pressure has given him the mental toughness to succeed at critical moments in games.
“As a kicker, you have to be ready for any type of pressure that comes at you. Being under pressure constantly really helps for a kicker.”
Try This Tip To Improve Your Performance Under Pressure:
- Adopt unique methods to increase levels of pressure you experience in practice.
- Make these scenarios as “game-like” as possible. Take notice to how you respond to these “practice pressure situations.” The more you train, the better you will become at performing under pressure.
Pick up Dr. Patrick Cohn’s free sports psychology report titled, “10 Costly Mental Game Mistakes Athletes Make Before Competition“