Dealing With In Game Pressure
The pressures that come with being a student athlete can be overwhelming. Students are expected to be students first, not let their sport impact their academics, life at home, and off-field relationships. However, when playing their sport, it’s easy to let these things go and be in the moment and exist inside of the game.
That doesn’t mean the pressures go away though. Pressure on the field can come from a multitude of sources. These include coaches, teammates, fans, parents, and a lot of the time, internally. The expectation to improve as a player and a team never ends, even when the expectations are unrealistic. Dealing with these factors, along with all the variables than can occur during a game is difficult, but is also a skill that can be learned and gotten better at as well. The ability to endure the in-game pressures of any sport is known as Mental Toughness.
Mental Toughness means something different to each athlete and each team and can be practiced in many different ways. Some coaches try to practice this by simulating high pressures situations, giving consequences for messing up and rewarding the winner of a certain drill or scrimmage. Other methods include having team meeting before big games throughout a season and discussing what players and coaches might be afraid or hopeful of so everyone knows that their peers are on the same page and wants the same thing. Some teams try to be mentally tough by setting goals, goals that will keep them on track throughout the season and let the team know when they’ve swayed away from their trajectory.
The method that a leadership chooses must be based on tendencies that a team has. Does your team have players and coaches that get frustrated with each other during big games? Do people yell on the field and on the sideline? Try an activity that practices trust, and make sure your players and teammates are spending time outside of practice together. Does your team fold in big moments, break down and loose games they should have won? Try to put your team in high pressure situations early in the year, and break the habit of losing by knocking off a good team. Does your team underperform and seem to go below expectations? Try setting goals, but not just long term process goals, set smaller goals. Have a goal for each practice, each game, each workout, always set your sights on something that pushes you to get better, but is achievable.
The ups and downs of sports are inevitable, and for many people are the reason they play and watch, but the most important thing to remember and make sure if that your players and leadership are both enjoying themselves through the ups and downs. It’s very hard to have a team that’s mentally tough when no one wants to be there.