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UK Coaching Team
Rapport Building and Communicating Organising and Planning

Blessed or Stressed: Dealing with Pressure in Sport

Not everyone has the mental self-belief and inherent ability to cope well during the high-pressure situations that are an integral part of sport. But coaches have some valuable techniques at their disposal that can make all the difference between success and failure, as Blake Richardson discovered from speaking to gymnastics coach Nick Ruddock and UK Coaching’s Chris Chapman

How well you cope with pressure can mean the difference between finishing first and missing out on a medal. It isn’t hyperbole to claim that if you possess this innate ability to thrive under pressure, it can be a monumental weapon; if you don’t, it can be a monumental chink in your armour.

In team sport, the habit of crumbling under pressure has been perfected by the England football team. Two words that strike fear into fans and England players alike: penalty shoot-out. And two more words to sum up the aftermath of said shoot-out: inevitable heartbreak. Certainly when the shoot-out comes in the latter stages of a tournament. 

So, what methods and techniques can coaches adopt to instil mental fortitude in their protégés so they can avoid such major meltdowns and the agony that trails in their wicked wake?

Nature versus nurture

British Gymnastics High Performance Coach Nick Ruddock agrees that people can fall into two camps: the haves and the have-nots. 

“It is quite clear that some athletes are genetically wired to cope better with pressure than others,” says Nick. 

The bottom line is that, with really strong competitors, they haven’t just been taught to cope with pressure, there is something innate there as well.”

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