As the increase of athletic opportunities continues, athletes, young and old, may face many negative and harmful effects due to increased competition and pressure. Often athletes must perform in situations where the intensity and stress level becomes unbearable. When this occurs, athletes, coaches and parents need to know effective strategies on how to deal with pressure.
1) Enjoy and have fun with the sport or activity. Parents and coaches frequently place too much emphasis on winning and losing and forget that the primary reason most ath-letes and participants play is because they enjoy the game. While there is a time and a place for an emphasis on winning and losing, most athletes need to appreci-ate the experience and friendships made rather than the win-loss record.
2) Train properly in order to physically handle the intensity of the activity. If an athlete trains his body to withstand the rigor of the sport during practice and preparation, then the actual contest appears quite easy and less stressful. Quality athletes and coaches know that their preparation on the practice facility needs to be at a level that allows the athlete to avoid feeling overwhelmed during the actual game or contest. When workouts and training simulate competition intensity, athletes feel less pressure during the contest.
3) Focus on the task at hand. Some athletes allow peripheral problems and distractions to affect their performance. Crowd noise, opponents and hovering parents often cause tremendous stress for an athlete. During the competition, an athlete’s focus needs to be on the responsibilities at hand and not outside distractions. Solve these problems beforehand, or wait until after the competition in order to help eliminate pressure.
4) Seek out professional help. Some athletes undergo such high levels of stress and pressure that they consult counselors or sports psychologists. These professionals develop specific strategies on an athlete-by-athlete basis that cater to problems in performance. Professionally trained counselors work; however, many problems with pressure are resolved by speaking with teammates, coaches or parents.