Pressure to Perfom.

  • Cynthia Johnson

I wasn’t a fan of the Olympics going ahead, but once they started I was hooked. I like the competitiveness, the mastery, the grace, and the human spirit.

I also get hooked because I like to observe how people respond to the pressure of performance.  Clearly the athletes can all perform under pressure or they wouldn’t be there, but the Olympics is another level again and while many seem to relish the increased pressure, for others it is too much and mistakes are made. My understanding is that many people have the physical skills to achieve at the elite level of any sports but there are fewer who also have what people call the mental skills, that is, the ability to control their attention in a way that means their mind doesn’t interfere with their physical performance.  For this reason elite sports people often invest in mental skills training and coaching.  If you are interested, we have written about what Sir Graham Henry has to say about the mental skills of sport in an earlier blog.

I also like what athletes can teach us about rest and recovery. In post-competition interviews the athletes talked about going back to rest, stretch, sleep, or eat. Many also talked about the value they found in unwinding with team-mates or going to support others.  I noticed that they knew exactly what they were going to do after their intense performance, - that they had a plan.  They recognise that rest and recovery is important if not critical for their performance and they plan in advance how they are going recover post-performance.  I wonder, how many of us have a plan for rest and recovery?

Finally, some athletes have shown us that that resilient people are not necessarily totally unbreakable – that there are times when it becomes too much. We have written before about being carried over the threshold. In these instances people usually need a complete break and professional help. But sometimes a temporary break and tapping into the tools necessary to put yourself back together is a sign of resilience – Simone Biles’ return to complete the beam is a great example of that. What is encouraging is some athletes felt able to talk about their struggles and that on the whole people responded with compassion, unlike the era of Sir John Kirwan when he was reportedly advised to “harden up.”  (We have written before about compassion in reaction to sports performance.)

Our courses teach people about performing under everyday pressure and how to prevent the pressure from overwhelming their thinking, damaging relationships, and neglecting self-care.  We talk about mental skills training for everyday performance and show how to find calm, rest and recovery during times of pressure. 


Photo: Sam Balye Unsplash

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