Pressure vs. Challenge Mindset
Hi everyone. I’m Coach Taryn, and today I want to talk about the differences between pressure vs. challenge. This topic has come up a lot in my one-on-ones with athletes and is relevant for gymnasts with upcoming meets. My hope is that some sports seasons resume as COVID gets more under control, ane so I want to talk about the difference between approaching a competitive environment as something that’s either something that’s putting pressure on yourself or as a challenge.
Pressure comes from either putting pressure on yourself, internally, or from the environment, coaches, parents, or other people who are involved in your competitive life. When you focus on pressure and feel like, “I have to do well, I need to win. I should be able to be better than everybody else,” then it’s like this weight that’s coming from above. It comes from up on top of your head and it pushes you down and it squishes you. It makes you feel like you are performing with a whole bunch of added or extra weight on your shoulders.
Usually, when this happens it results in poor or not so great performance. All of a sudden, you think about trying to do a series on the beam or a double axle on the ice with added weight on your shoulders. Things aren’t working well, you’re not performing the way that you do every day in practice.
As we often hear… athletes falter under pressure.
The other way we might think about approaching a meet or a competition is to think about it as a challenge. I like to encourage my athletes to not even use the words “competition” or “meet”. Instead, I encourage them to think about it as a performance, to think about it as a challenge, or to think about it as something exciting. Changing the language plays a really big role in how we perceive something.
For example, if you know that you have a meet coming up, think about it as this exciting challenge that’s before you, something where you get to rise to the occasion. When I think about approaching a meet or competition as a challenge, all of a sudden it feels like the reverse of pressure. It feels like something that’s coming from beneath and it’s lifting or boosting me up, making me feel powerful, strong, empowered. It can make you feel like, “Hey, I’ve got this.”
As you think ahead to some of the meets or competitions, the upcoming performances that might be on your schedule, think about it more as a challenge. Use exciting language around it vs. saying things like “I have to, I need to, I should be better than everyone else” because then you’re thinking about it with pressure.
When you think about the challenge or the excitement part of it, the language is like, “I want to get out there and do this. I ‘m excited to get out there and do this. I’m ready to get out there and do this.” That language that feels more positive. It feels more encouraging, empowering, lifting someone up rather than squashing them down.
So, as you think about this upcoming season, as you think ahead to the exciting start of 2021 and the new opportunities it brings, think about rising to the challenge. Think about approaching competition and even practice as a challenge. When you are asked to do something difficult, working on hard skills, pushing through those long practices, think about it as a challenge rather than something that you have to do or should be doing perfectly.
We know there’s no such thing as perfection.
We know there are going to be mistakes. Think about it as this exciting challenge that you get to work through. You get to rise above it. You get to test your limits and see what you’re capable of.
For a lot of athletes, I think that can be a much more exciting and really effective way of thinking about approaching all of the things you get to do as an athlete. Meets, competitions, long practices, performances – see them as challenges that you get to be excited about rather than something that feels like a stressful pressure environment where you have to be perfect.
With that being said, I hope everyone had a safe and happy new year. I look forward to working with you. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a great one.