Sunday, 14 Jul 2024

Helping Your Team Thrive Under Pressure

image: volleyball players in action

All athletes face pressure at some point in their careers, and volleyball players are no exception. The desire to perform well for their team, win matches, and achieve personal bests can create a significant amount of pressure. Research has shown that team competitions can induce feelings of responsibility towards teammates and the added pressure of being evaluated and compared to opponents (Cooke, Kavussanu, McIntyre, & Ring, 2013).

Dealing with pressure during competition can be challenging. Some players struggle to channel pressure into positive energy and instead experience mental blocks. Psychologist Sian Beilock describes this as “choking,” where athletes under pressure deliver performances inferior to their potential (Harms, 2010). Overcoming pressure requires understanding its causes and developing strategies to cope with it effectively.

The Impact of Pressure on Performance

Pressure affects athletes differently, but several theories explain why some athletes struggle under pressure. One theory suggests that athletes become hyper-focused on their thought-processes, hindering the execution of skills. Another theory proposes that athletes become distracted by irrelevant cues that interfere with their performance. It is likely that a combination of these theories contributes to the pressure-induced performance decline.

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Strategies for Overcoming Pressure

As coaches, we can help our athletes overcome pressure by implementing several strategies. By creating pressured situations during practice, we can make athletes accustomed to the feeling of pressure. Regular exposure to stress builds resilience and helps athletes cope better in high-pressure situations.

Interrupting the train of thought is another effective technique for managing performance anxiety. For example, athletes can whistle or sing to divert their attention externally, preventing them from concentrating on every aspect of their game. Studies have shown that this diversion of attention can enhance performance (Vickers & Williams, 2007).

Building confidence is crucial for athletes to maintain focus and determination in competition. Believing in their abilities is essential for athletes to perform at their best. Coaches must instill unwavering confidence in their players, ensuring it becomes an integral part of their core beliefs.

Positive thinking is also key. Coaches should encourage athletes to focus on what actions to take, rather than dwelling on mistakes. By redirecting their thoughts towards constructive actions, athletes can maintain a positive mindset and improve their performance.

Furthermore, it is vital for athletes to have faith in their team’s collective abilities. Trusting that teammates can deliver even in challenging situations alleviates some pressure from individuals. Coaches should foster a team culture that emphasizes collective effort and unwavering support for one another.


Q: How can athletes overcome performance anxiety?
Athletes can overcome performance anxiety by interrupting their train of thought through activities like whistling or singing. This technique diverts their attention away from the pressure and helps them perform more instinctively.

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Q: What is the importance of building confidence in athletes?
Confidence plays a crucial role in an athlete’s performance. When athletes believe in their abilities, they can maintain focus and determination, even in high-pressure situations.

Q: How can coaches help athletes cope with pressure?
Coaches can help athletes cope with pressure by creating pressured situations during practice, teaching relaxation techniques, and fostering a positive and supportive team environment.


Performing successfully under pressure is vital for athletes in any sport, including volleyball. While athletes may not possess innate capabilities to handle pressure, coaches can provide them with the necessary tools to overcome difficulties. By implementing strategies to manage pressure effectively, athletes can unlock their full potential, deliver exceptional performances, and thrive under the most demanding circumstances.

Cooke, A., Kavussanu, M., McIntyre, D., & Ring, C. (2013). The effects of individual and team competitions on performance, emotions, and effort. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 35(2), 132-143.

Harms, William. (2010). Retrieved on Sept 20th, 2013 from Alpinetgheep.

Mesagno, C., & Mullane-Grant, T. (2010). A Comparison of Different Pre-Performance Routines as Possible Choking Interventions. Journal Of Applied Sport Psychology, 22(3), 343-360.

Vickers, J. N., & Williams, A. (2007). Performing under pressure: The effects of physiological arousal, cognitive anxiety, and gaze control in biathlon. Journal of Motor Behavior, 39(5), 381-394. doi:10.3200/JMBR.39.5.381-394.