The Power Of Pressure

Pressure to perform, pressure to succeed, and pressure to stay physically healthy are just a few pressures athlete face daily. Pressure for most becomes overwhelming and zaps athletes ability to be great. What if we could use pressure to power us up?


Pressure is any factor or multiple factors that can increase the importance of performing well. It is an internal experience or a feeling that we create.

We create this internal experience or feeling by our perception of the event or events in our life. Our perception is everything. As athletes we tend to feel on edge about every competition, every play, and every practice. That at any moment our careers will be over, that we will disapoint someone, or not make it at all.

We get consumed by the pressure we feel. Pressure causes us to choke, become stressed, anxious, tense and makes the things we fear real.

For example: We hear our coach say “we have to win this next game!” From that statement we create pressure, our mind translates that into a threat. This game is life or death, I have to be perfect or else! We then become overwhelmed and under perform. We choke due to the fear of failure that pressure ignited.

A blurred image of a sports stadium.

Pressure Is Power

Pressure is not always our enemy. It can wake us up, keep us alert and motivated. Pressure like nerves is energy, energy to succeed, to win, to focus on the things you want. It can get you pumped and fuel your tank. It can power up our performance because we want to win and succeed.

We have to monitor our perception of events. Like the example above, you may have to win the next game to stay in the playoffs or win a national title, and that is EXCITING! It does not mean you as a person or player will be nothing if you don’t win. Yet, our athlete brain goes straight to that outcome. Managing our perception of events is crucial for athletes to succeed and feel powerful. More importantly we have to monitor the pressure we put on ourselves. Most athletes report to me they are their biggest sources of pressure.

I want athletes to get out of their own way and re-evaluate what pressure means to them.

Next time something pops up that you feel pressure from ask yourself if you see it as a challenge that powers you up or a threat that is draining your power.

Here’s four things to look at:

  • Identify the threat: This is usually not losing the game or under performing but who you think you’ll disappoint or what you could lose personally. Write them all down!
  • Truth check: Will those people truly be disappointed and for how long? Personally will your name be tarnished forever or will you never play again? Are your anxious worries that true? Keep them in check.
  • Find the Power: There’s no doubt your event is big and comes with pressure. This doesn’t mean bad. What perception can you change. What can you learn from winning or losing. Pressure can mean you love what you do, you want to win, want to succeed and that is exciting. Fill your tank with the power of possibility and perseverance not doubt and fear.
  • Take control of your pressure: Pressure has become a bad word, a word that means choke, fall apart, or can’t handle. You can handle the pressure, manage it, and use it. Pressure is power that is actually a wonderful thing to have.

I am no longer a competing athlete but pressure never goes away. I monitor it, keep it in check and use the power it gives me to succeed.

Cortnee White, M.ed

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