Managing Pressure

Here is an interesting take from last May on the NY Yankees approach to managing pressure.

Managing Pressure

Their mental conditioning expert Chris Passarella would like to eradicate the use of the term altogether and thereby reduce the hold that pressure has on all athletes.

In his estimation athletes create pressure for themselves based on their expectation of success.

Passarella says, “Pressure is simply the cognitive measure of your likelihood to meet personal standards of an execution of a skill.”

In other words, we put pressure on ourselves based on our expectations. There is no absolute pressure situation that will be the same for all.

Therefore instead of managing pressure they are attempting to eliminate the concept of pressure.

Here are a three of the ways that they are trying to manage this:

1. Every at bat is essentially the same.  Focus on how hitters perform in all situations not clutch thereby eliminating the idea of more pressure and less pressure.

“This is a player who performs at his best regardless of the situation. For every homer in the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded, there are many other identical hits that occur throughout the season without the same fuss.”

2.   Train your focus on your own process and ability and not on the external situation surrounding you.

In order to do this the Yankees make use of “trigger” words while training that they can then repeat while performing. An example of this would be “process” indicating that the athlete should focus on the process and nothing else.

The benefit of this training is found in the simplicity. There is no complex method to master.

By repeating these words throughout the tournament, McIlroy was able to place the same emphasis on each shot. His opening tee shot on Thursday meant as much to him as his final putt on Sunday. Passarella points out that it is the simplest techniques that yield the best results, “It wasn’t a complex scheme that he has able to master” he says. “It’s just reverting back to normal and ensuring that those triggers have meaning. It’s so important to express how you’re feeling in any situation because then you can either stay in the zone or revert back to normal.” As previously mentioned, it is often the simplest mental processes that allow for improved performances during pressurised moments.

3. Immediate feedback.  The Yankees also make immediate use of video for feedback with attention to mindset during situations and not just for technical or tactical assessments.