Dealing With PressurePosted on Friday, June 14th, 2013
Pressure Impacts Play, Address it Ahead of Time
With the regular season winding down and post-season tournaments and All-Stars right around the corner, it’s extremely important to make sure our players are as prepared mentally as they are physically. While this advice absolutely applies to regular season games, often “big games” amplify the pressure to succeed personally and win, so I thought now would be a good time to address this topic.
1) Coaches: in your pre-game speeches and in practices leading up to a “big game,” put your emphasis on encouraging your team to execute the individual parts of the game that you believe will give your squad a better chance of success. By this I mean that we should be focusing on “staying aggressive at the plate” or “hitting our cutoff man on relays” rather than “we have to win” or “tomorrow’s a big game.” The “we have to win” strategy not only puts more pressure on the team, but actually doesn’t address the process required to win. Focus on what you believe needs to be accomplished in order to win, not on the actual result of winning. Your team will play with much more confidence because the boys will have a clear set of instructions (the process) and the less they think about winning (the results), the less pressure they’ll feel, and the better they’ll play.
2) Parents: If you sense your son is nervous before a big game (or even if they’re not), remind them how proud you are of them win or lose, as long as they give their best effort on the field. With most kids, the pressure they feel in sports is a result of wanting to make you as parents proud of them, so if you can remind them that you will be most proud if they give a tremendous effort, they will not only have a better sense of control during the game, but will relax knowing that your focus as a parent isn’t entirely on winning or great personal statistics – two things that are almost entirely out of any 1 player’s hands. We never know when we show up to the field if we’re going to have 4 hits at the plate or 4 strikeouts – the statistics and results in baseball are largely out of the player’s control. But effort, attitude, and sportsmanship are things all players have control over on a daily basis and success in baseball should be defined in those terms, and not necessarily by what’s on the scoreboard or in the scorebook.
3) Players: In baseball, there really is no such thing as a “big game.” Think about it, if you go 4-4 with 4 grand slams, are you going to get called up to the Dodgers to hit clean-up instead of Matt Kemp? Nope. You’ll go home after the game to hang out with your friends, do your homework, spend time with your family, and so on. If you go 0-4 with 4 strikeouts, are you going to get kicked out of the league? Will your baseball career end? Are your parents going to stop loving you? Of course not. You’ll go home after that game to hang out with your friends, do your homework, spend time with your family, and so on. So if your life will not change after the game win, lose, or draw, is there really pressure? I don’t think so.
Of course you’d rather win than lose, rather get 4 hits than 0 hits, but the pressure you put on yourself because it’s a “big game” usually only makes you play tighter and more nervous. I don’t know of a single athlete on the planet who plays their best under those conditions.
Play loose, play hard, have fun, focus on what you can control, and the rest will take care of itself.