An Effective Tip On Dealing With Pressure
Pressure. Who wants it? Who wants the be the one to take responsibility when the games on the line... to either be the reason for the win, or the reason for the loss... and even more importantly, how do you control pressure when it begins to rear its big head...
Greg Norman, 1996 US Masters... choked
Ben Hunt, 2015 Grand Final against the Cowboys... choked
The All Blacks, 2007 Rugby World Cup Final against France... choked
Myself, 2006 National Baseball Championships... choked
It happens when the pressure gets to us too much. We lose our attention, we lose our focus, and we let the situation get the better of us. But what if there were simple ways we could begin to teach these next generations of young athletes so that they can cope with the pressure
But not only cope - what if we could teach them to thrive under the pressure...
Practice Under Pressure
Donal Bradman practiced for 10 years before he set foot on a cricket pitch with a bat in hand. And people say this practice is what helped him attain the golden average of 99.94 over his career. But here's the thing, he didn't truly just practice the art of batting - he practiced something much harder...
See, the Don would hit a golf ball up against a wall using a stump - and he'd never miss... he practiced under pressure... he took the task he'd been performing and make it harder so that when competition time came, it was easier
The best kind of practice involves intensity & getting outside of your comfort zone, for this is where growth happens. And if we're not growing anywhere, we're not going anywhere...
But here's the twist... it's not necessarily a physical intensity more so than a psychological intensity. As dealing with pressure is all in our heads - that's where the battle is won or lost
We need to stress the brain & test decision-making abilities under fatigue, at intensity, and in the heat of the moment... And if we can train and develop these skills in training, then during the game it'll seem second nature
You Get What You Focus On
Many times when we let the pressure get the better of us, we're focusing on the outcome and not the process. We're letting our clarity slip and going into a state of overwhelm, tightness, and over-compensation... we begin to focus on everything that could go wrong
And we get what we focus on...
What we need to learn to do is stay calm in the moment, gain clarity for the situation, and focus on the task at hand, not the outcome of the future
The best news is, there's a way we can develop this skill - a way we can stay connected to the present moment and keep the pressure at bay - and it's known as anchoring
See, when pressure comes - we will either see negative things, feel negative emotions, or become overwhelmed by the situation ahead of us... and to rectify this we need to bring our attention back to the present moment
Fast forward to the 2011 Rugby World Cup Final in NZ, and the All Blacks again face the French. It's 8-7 with a few minutes left on the clock. Four years earlier the All Blacks choked, but not this time
And as the pressure rises, Richie McCaw grabs each of his wrists and stamps his feet - reconnecting with himself and the present moment... Brad Thorne splashes water over his head - cooling down his thoughts... and Keiran Read stares off into the distant edge of the stadium and crowd - regaining his perspective of the moment
All of which is developed in training, so that when pressure arises in game, players can perform these "rituals" and be brought back to the present moment... to regain clarity of the task at hand
We call this anchoring... personally, whenever I feel the pressure begin to rise, I stop, close my eyes, take a deep breath, squeeze both my wrists and exhale slowly and fully... I find focusing on this task brings me back to the present moment and task at hand
It's not rocket-science, and it's something all young athletes can begin working on developing today so that they can thrive in their next pressure situations... I mean, look at the "kickers" in both league & union, all have a little ritual they perform before each kick... and they'll all take a DEEP breath before kicking - just watch next time...