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David Hughes, Business Lawyer for Business Owners

"I went to Amanda for help with my batting, which was stuck in a rut. Amanda has really helped me in becoming aware of unhelpful thought processes while batting and working on a positive ‘mental routine’. She is enthusiastic and approachable, and her tips and methods have been very effective. I would definitely recommend Amanda."


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Amanda discussing Andy Murray winning the US open

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Amanda Owens Radio Interview after Andy Murrays US Open Win

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Amanda discussing Andy Murrays Semi Final Win

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Amanda Owens interview with Duncan Goodhew on Britain becoming a nation of winners

 

How Pressure Affects Performance

Pressure: Can you handle it? What is pressure and how pressure affects performance! by, Amanda J. N. Owens FRSM, MSc, AASP Certified & Registered Sport Psychologist, BASES Accredited, BOA Advisory Committee Panel Member. Leadership & Change Management specialist.

Sports professionals day in day out perform under huge amounts of pressure. Some athletes excel and some athletes capitulate and choke under pressure. So how do some athletes learn to cope and perform at their best consistently, whilst others under-perform? In some instances the whole team can collectively choke and under-perform. In the world today, we live in a pressurised environment that includes, longer days, deadlines, and omnipresent technology. Today’s workplace and life is fast paced, immediate responses are now modern day Business etiquette requirements; Ipads, Blackberry’s and emails on the go are the norm. We live and function in a constant vacuum of pressure. For some individuals this is where they thrive; here they perform better, run on high cortisol levels and are in a constant threat mode. For others the pressure can be debilitating, constricting and can lead to mood and anxiety disorders, high levels of anxiety, as well as depression and illness from work impacting family, relationships and one’s mental health. On a daily basis we hear and are confronted frequently this term in sport and indeed in everyday life. While organisational psychology and business psychology appear to have realised the importance of understanding the concept of pressure. It seems sport psychology is far behind with the research. Yet success and failure are the resultants from how an individual and/or team perform under pressure. Much has been written about arousal, stress and anxiety in sport psychology and business psychology. The research looks at the consequent impact relationships on performance, however, very little is known about the concept of pressure. It is a separate construct: What is pressure? It appears that pressure is a combination of anxiety, arousal and understanding the stress response process; however, pressure is more linked to perception of the situation and learnt emotional responses. If the individual has memory and learnt experiences that he or she can draw on and emotionally utilise to ensure they can deal with pressure. This includes the emotional responses and ability to control nerves, positive responses and learnt behaviour. Everyone responds to pressure differently and it is important to note that everyone is unique and would be helpful to ask: Understanding how the complexities of motor control and Schmidt’s model can influence and impact pressure in a positive way in the way we learn and especially under pressurized conditions. In addition, how Understanding one’s cycle of experience (Gestalt psychology) and emotional or physiological responses as well as perception impact behaviour and in some athletes enable them to perform well under pressure while others under-perform and ‘choke.’

With the London 2012 Olympic & Para Olympic games under way in less than 150 days. How many of the athletes will perform under pressure? The media circus that surrounds the Olympic Games could have a negative impact on certain athletes. Recently we have witnessed a British diver being possibly distracted by the media and a public spate between the Diver and the performance Director due to media commitments. With the wealth of sport science support available to athletes and the subsequent training facilities this should be manageable. It seems the external perceived stressors such as media commitments and perceptions of ‘expectation’ not too mention emotional responses trigger a plethora of nerves, perception distortions and panic all have a role to play in the pressure felt by the athletes.

Within sport psychology worryingly there is very little written on the topic and concept of pressure within sport. Within Organizational and Business psychology the term pressure is more understood. An article in the Harvard Business Review (HBR) discussed the pressures of banking and how these are confronted by the traders and on the floor. In the finance and banking sectors performing under pressure is a pre-requisite for success, attaining targets, maintaining performance and keeping their job. Therefore, how can athletes and teams as well as management and support staff deal more effectively with pressure?

What athletes should be asking themselves when under pressure? Acknowledging the pressure and acceptance of pressure. Utilising and applying the 5 steps of Change Process (5 steps of change). Building a memory bank both within the brain function and muscle memory of how to perform under pressure will improve overall performance. Get practicing, thinking and feeling the experiences of performing at your best and winning. Whereby, you have performed well under pressure. Utilise and apply as part of your daily routine and utilise as your preparation. Apply and use as a model, be aware of how to perform better under pressure rather than allowing the pressure to get to you! What does pressure mean to me? How does pressure affect me? What positive experiences do I have of pressure? How is pressure different from stress or anxiety to me? How behaviourally can an athlete or team learn? What muscle memory: what memory and experiences can an athlete or team draw on to perform better and consistently under pressure? How many athletes have learnt to perform under pressure? How many athletes have been prepared for the unique pressure of the London 2012 games? Having home games can add additional pressure. What type of pressure do the athletes face? Are they aware of these? Building models of effectiveness under pressure collective and individual Increasing intensity in training to cover pressure scenarios to ensure as realistic as possible Using biofeedback and psycho-physiological methods to assess pressure Understanding individual and team perceptions of pressure. What is exactly? Does it change? Alter depending upon situation, leader/captain & Manager? How have you dealt with pressure situations before? Individually and collectively in a team environment? Behaviours to apply under pressure. Understanding default behaviours, emotional attachments, experiences (positive and the emotional response) negative and the emotional response.

What I notice?

What do I more of, less of?

How am I with others?

What do I imagine when under pressure?

What is my mood state under pressure?

How do I communicate under pressure?

What do I hear myself and others say under pressure?

How do I react in a pressurized situation?

What do I repeatedly do under pressure (patterns)?

How do I feel?

Building models of effectiveness under pressure collective and individual Increasing intensity in training to cover pressure scenarios to ensure as realistic as possible Using biofeedback and psycho-physiological methods to assess pressure Understanding individual and team perceptions of pressure.

What is exactly?

Does it change?

Alter depending upon situation, leader/captain & Manager?

How have you dealt with pressure situations before?

Individually and collectively in a team environment?

Behaviours to apply under pressure.

Understanding default behaviours, emotional attachments, experiences (positive and the emotional response) negative and the emotional response.

What I notice?

What do I more of, less of?

How am I with others?

What do I imagine when under pressure?

What is my mood state under pressure?

How do I communicate under pressure?

What do I hear myself and others say under pressure?

Handle the pressure – not for pressure to impact and have a handle on you!

 

Copyright A.J.N.Owens Believe Change Management Consultancy Limited 29/03/12

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