Think about the times when athlete had frozen, failed or just couldn’t match their potential. We often question their technical, tactical or physical ability, rather their ability to perform under pressure (psychological).
- How many times has this athlete been in this situation/exposed/tested
How we train our athletes.
We train our athletes on our technical, tactical and physiological ability for at least 90 percent of the training session. Though do we consider the psychological areas?
“In training everyone focuses on 90 percent physical and 10 percent mental. Where in fact in competition, its 90 percent mental due to the little physiological differences that separate the elite athletes“. – Elka Graham, the Australian Swimming legend
- When do we start challenging their mental side?
- When do we put the technical, tactical and physiological attributes to the test, a proper test, under restraints?
The hypothalamus is a part of the brain (which has a direct link with the Sympathetic Nervous System) that is present in all humans and animals and is the oldest part of the brain (Cannon, W. 2002). The SNS is responsible for the ability to conduct one’s self in pressurised situations; an intense performance situation, most commonly known as the fight, flight or freeze response. This part of the brain is activity when the athlete is being tested or challenged to new experiences.
As well as developing the athletes’ individual technical ability you might want to consider their ability to perform these techniques under pressure. Consider incorporating a ‘pressure session’ to your bi-weekly routine that would provide an opportunity for the athletes to performing under pressurised conditions with repercussions to their actions. Summed up – training with the threat system firing.
So, how do you do this?
Think about a forfeit/consequence that might push your athletes to an uncomfortable position, it has to be big enough to effect their attribution to the session and linked to their sport (e.g. whoever misses are not on pens in the next game, or if your team scores they can vote an opposition play out the game, etc).
This isn’t suggesting that you should start turning up the heat in every training session. An equal amount of time between the ‘skill development’ and ‘pressure’ sessions. If too hard or too easy, the athlete can become de-motivated due to lack of success or boredom.
Research has shown a lot of success coming from this type of training regime. The success has come from the athletes creating routines / actions that can help manage the the situation. This is where the education comes in. (Get in touch and see how we can help with this).
You might see this when athletes do a routine prior to an event or just after a situation has arisen. This could be pushing their socks up and down; Take a drink; Clap hands; Or possible just repeat key phrases to themselves. Anchors are set to help an athlete break away from a specific emotions and instil a more effective one.
Work with your athletes on what pressure is and also how to overcome it together. Look at specific training session that will pressurise your athletes under a controlled environment.
So, Key messages to take away
- Athletes need to perform under pressure,
- Educate athletes on coping techniques,
- Adopting a ‘pressure session’ into your schedule,
For more education on “Performing under pressure” keep an eye on the Events page.
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