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Pressure is the feeling of stress or nerves that comes from the desire to perform well, to not let anyone down or to prove your talent. Pressure is usually felt in the most stressful of situations, like a big match or selection camps.

When you are an elite athlete, you will be faced with this pressure or could find yourself in stressful situations on a regular basis. This pressure is often part of sport and there are many examples of athletes at the top of their game who have “frozen” or “choked” under pressure, and there are of course as many examples of athletes whose performance has not suffered, and who may have even performed at their career-best despite the huge pressure surrounding them. That is because stress is not inherently good or bad – rather how you appraise or view a stressful situation will be what makes the difference.


“Everything negative – pressure, challenges – are all an opportunity for me to rise.” – Kobe Bryant

When we view a situation as a threat to us we are usually afraid that we are going to fail. That not performing to our best will let someone down – coaches, teammates, family, that we will let ourselves down and embarrass ourselves, or that the hard work, tough choices we have put into training etc has been a waste of time. This all boils down to a big dent in our self-esteem. What is ironic is that if we view high-pressure situations as a threat to our sense of selves, then we are actually more likely to make mistakes, miss tackles or kicks that we could normally make, forget calls and ultimately fail.

When we view something as a challenge, the likelihood is that we will perform well – or in fact, better than normal! We are instead faced with a situation where we can put our training into practice, show off our talent and make ourselves proud. A challenge is an opportunity to use our resources for a desirable outcome. When we are in a situation that allows us to showcase our resources we are more than likely going to rise to that challenge and be successful.

Perceived pressure in a challenge state will result in increased heart rate, more blood will be sent to the brain which helps in decision making and control over thought and emotions. Oxygen which helps produce energy will be delivered to your muscles to help you physically execute your skills and technical ability.

Build your resources.

Pressure is something that athletes will experience on a regular basis. How you perceive this pressure could change from moment to moment, this is normal. There are however, ways to create a challenge mindset to help you deal with the pressure you face.

Self-confidence and self-compassion are huge resources to help you create a challenge mindset. Belief in yourself, your abilities and the hard work you’ve put in will help you draw on these in the clutch moments.

Knowing that we are all human and mistakes can happen, not fearing failure are all part of self-compassion. You have to be willing to make a mistake in order to move forward.

Social support, working on team cohesion trust in your teammates, coaches and management staff will help you get into a challenge mindset. They have your back and you have theirs.

Control the controllable, there will always be aspects of the game that are outside of your control, instead of focusing on what the other team might do, the weather or conditions, decisions of officials etc., you can eliminate unhelpful thoughts and help you focus on performance.

Focus on achievement rather than avoiding failure. It may seem obvious, but if you focus on what you can do rather than on what you can’t or shouldn’t you will more likely face these situations with a problem-solving attitude which can lead to success.


What are five things you can work on to create a challenge mindset for yourself?

List some things here and get ready to set some goals.


You’ve highlighted some areas you can work on to help set you up to have a challenge mindset. Choose one to set an intentional goal for in order to help you improve that area.

Remember your goal should be realistic.


You’ve highlighted some areas you can work on to help set you up to have a challenge mindset. Choose another to set an intentional goal for in order to help you improve that area.

Remember your goal can be adaptable.


“Pressure can burst a pipe, or pressure can make a diamond”
– Robert Horry, Former NBA Player

As elite athletes you won’t be able to escape pressure, it’s part of the game. But you can learn to deal with it. By creating and building a challenge mindset you will more likely be able to succeed in those clutch moments.

One way to do this is to build and maintain your resources, check out the other areas in this section of TYF Pro which can help you do this.