When one’s own identity is at stake, it is difficult not to feel under pressure.
The higher the stakes, the more pressure and the more impact there is on your performance as a coach. This is when the ventral area of the striatum, an area of the brain related to risk and reward, is activated.
Your attention shifts from focusing solely on the relevant elements of the game to concentrating on the outcome and its consequences. You start thinking about possible scenarios and judgments and worries arise.
The main problem is not in these thoughts, but in the impact on your attention and working memory.
Making complex decisions requires processing a lot of information related to the goal, keeping it in memory while avoiding attending to other non-relevant stimuli. The system responsible is your working memory, and attention is a key aspect of its functioning.
The problem is that the working memory’s capacity to process information is very limited.
When the threat of a big loss or the eagerness for a victory is near, the related thoughts, sensations and emotions consume a lot of working memory capacity, leaving less for what is important. Under pressure, working memory becomes overloaded and performance drops.
But, the importance of a result does not depend on an objective assessment of the situation, but on a subjective perception. So, for better or worse, it depends on your approach.
Learning to differentiate when you are most vulnerable to pressure allows you to adapt better. You will be able to use targeted training strategies for each situation, and apply the right techniques at any given moment.
If you want to reach high levels, you have to learn to perform under the pressure of performance and expectation. Knowing what triggers the pressure is important, but we can do more.
Revising your mindset and your idea of winning is the fundamental basis, but having psychological resources and strategies can make all the difference.
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