How To Cope Better With Pressure When You Execute Your Skills

10 February 2024

Mental Edge Newsletter

Helping You Gain A Mental Edge

How To Cope Better With Pressure When You Execute Your Skills

Pressure exists in every sport to varying degrees and is created in our minds.  To some athletes and coaches pressure is a good thing where the increase in stress improves their focus and concentration.  To others however it is scary and has a detrimental effect on performance levels.  When we think of athletes competing, pressure comes from within where an athletes expectation levels are often high and unrealistic (“I should score from 8/10 chances in football”) or focus is mis-directed (dwelling on past mistakes and then worrying about making future mistakes).  External factors play a part too,  where the scoreline, results, the size of a match or other people (coaches, parents and opponents) can influence the pressures athletes face. 

As a result, having coping strategies and tactics in place to succeed and thrive under  pressure is vital for athletes.  Different psychological tools I’m referring to include structured performance routines in the build up to competing, perhaps looking at the week before and finding ways to ensure that you as an athlete are mentally refreshed and ready.  Incorporating, rest and recovery, time to switch off and social interaction.  Considering the type of training and practice that you partake in and how you go about your warm up that gives you confidence when you compete is important too.  As well as working out what specific mental reps in the form of journalling, meditation or visualisation can benefit you and help you get into an optimal performance state.

One other consideration should be how well drilled your pre shot routines are.  These types of routines aren’t for every sport due to the hectic and moving nature of some sports, however the golfer, cricketer, snooker player, rugby goal kicker, goalkeeper (goal kicks/penalties) and tennis player (serving/returning serve) will find huge benefits adopting well thought out routines.  Pre shot routines after all are designed to help athletes perform to their maximum potential under stress, focusing their attention on helpful cues and with less focus placed on outcomes and distractions.  We’ve all been there I’m sure when our inner voice takes over and tells us we’re going to fail or an opponent tries their best to get into our heads, a well oiled and practiced pre-shot routine can combat this.

Essential elements of as pre-shot routine

The power of self-talk

For a bowler in cricket to produce a delivery that they set out to, being able to distance themselves from negative thoughts is important.  To do so a level of acceptance is required, accepting that your human and your thoughts don’t have to be the reality is a good starting point.  Perhaps saying to yourself “STOP” and then engaging in positive or encouraging self-talk with cue words such as “brave” or “calm and composed” or statements such as “be present”, “lets do it” or “it’s time to execute.”   

Using your vision

Ahead of playing a shot a golfer would be advised to visualise themself executing a shot to the best of their ability.  This will increase the trust factor when they strike the golf ball. 

Focusing your attention

The goalkicker in rugby or the penalty taker in football can have enormous pressure on their shoulders.  The responsibility to win or lose a match can rest on them.  This can weigh them down if they start thinking about their team-maters, coaches, family and friends or supporters.  Then in the moment, weather conditions, the crowd or opponents may do their best to provide chaos and put you off.  A good way to quieten the mind in this case, links to focusing on a single cue ahead of striking the ball.  Perhaps a spot on the ball. 

Final thoughts

Overthinking or paralysis by analysis is an issue for many athletes.  They get caught out being “future orientated” and try to predict what will happen when executing skills causing doubt and more thoughts!  For some, they are overly mechanical in their thoughts, they try to consciously control movements which is a sign of an athlete who lacks confidence in their ability.  The end result is often then frustration at underperforming.    


It’s very easy to get in your own way by judging the magnitude of the task that you are about to carry out or to get caught up mindreading others, rather than concentrating on yourself and what you need to do.   Using a “one ball at a time mentality” focusing on making the next moment and making it as high quality as you can.

This statement informs a small part of great chat I had with former international cricketer and Senior Leadership Coach, Jeremy Snape on the latest episode of the Demystifying Mental Toughness podcast. Enjoy listening!

In the zone David Charlton


We’ve recently started a regular newsletter with tips and tricks for those interested in the psychology of football or soccer. Feel free to sign up today. 


David Charlton Sports Psychologist

Best Wishes 

David Charlton

Online Sports Psychologist | Mental Performance Coach who supports many highly motivated athletes, young and old, developing their skills or who are already highly skilled so that they gain a mental edge and get the most from their talent across the globe from USA/Canada to Great Britain and Ireland to UAE, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, using ONLINE Video Conferencing.    

Managing Director – Inspiring Sporting Excellence

Host of Demystifying Mental Toughness Podcast

Founder of The Sports Psychology Hub 

Author of The Mental Edge

With over a decades’ experience supporting athletes, coaches, parents and teams to transfer their skills from training to competitive situations, under pressure.

T: +44 7734 697769

E: [email protected]

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