How much training do you do for pressure situations? Considering questions I often see about creating pressure in practice, it’s something coaches definitely think about, but probably don’t do enough with. There’s no doubt it’s a challenge to create the right situations. Here’s something that might help.

An episode of the Sports Psych podcast features a discussion of some research on the subject of pressure training. I think the biggest takeaway from it is a better framework for thinking about helping our athletes develop the right skills than a lot of us probably have at the moment. This comes in a couple different ways.

First, one of the early talking points of the show is where exactly pressure comes into play. It’s very easy to think just in terms of high profile situations. Match point of the Olympic finals is an obvious example. In reality, though, pressure comes in a lot of different forms and affects competitive athletes at all levels. Many of them have little or nothing to do with winning and losing.

Another key takeaway from the conversation may surprise some readers. A lot of coaches think that having teams/player do sprints or something like that for losing or failing to succeed is a form of training for pressure situations. In fact, it’s not. It’s punishment. Not the same thing. There is some further talk about the whole question of toward vs. away from motivation as well.

The third thing I’ll mention that came up is that you can’t do pressure training the week before the big match and think you’re going to achieve anything. It’s something you have to do over time, just like developing any other skill. And it is definitely a skill.

Oh, and on a related note, pumping in noise to replicate how loud it’s going to be in the gym isn’t pressure training. It’s definitely preparation, but more in regards to focus.

If you’re interested in this topic, definitely give the podcast a listen.

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John Forman
John Forman

John is currently the Talent Strategy Manager (oversees the national teams) and Indoor Performance Director for Volleyball England, as well as Global Director for Volleyball for Nation Academy. His volleyball coaching experience includes all three NCAA divisions, plus Junior College, in the US; university and club teams in the UK; professional coaching in Sweden; and both coaching and club management at the Juniors level. He's also been a visiting coach at national team, professional club, and juniors programs in several countries. Learn more on his bio page.

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