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How to perform your best under pressure

Who will handle the pressure?

By Josh Lifrak, IMG Academy mental conditioning specialist

Pressure can burst a pipe. Pressure, however, can also create diamonds.

When we look at the history of sports and think about the most mentally tough players of all time, the argument will ultimately land on the amount of championships won by the athlete. The question then is, how do athletes deal with the expectations and the pressure?

The big key is to embrace the pressure and accept that it is there. Then it is crucial to focus on the elements that are truly in the control of that athlete.

Athletes cannot control what the press, coaches or others think of them. They cannot control how many people watch the event. They cannot control what is tweeted or posted about them. They can simply focus on the key elements that they control. In terms of the mental game, there are three key elements that they can control: Attitude, Concentration (what they focus on) and Effort. Or better known as ACE.

It is interesting to note that athletes can ultimately only focus on one thing at a time. If they are concerned with what someone writes about them then they are not focusing on playing the game. Conversely, if they focus on the game and doing their job, if they focus on "What is Import Now" (W.I.N.) then they will not be thinking about what others think about them.

“I can't worry about what people say about me, about my game, about who I am as a person. People have their own opinions and rightfully so.”—Lebron James

The simple answer to how to create diamonds is:

1) Acknowledge, accept and embrace the pressure

2) Control your ACE

3) Focus on the "W.I.N."

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