What Is Pressure and How Does It Impact Your Game?

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What Is Pressure and How Does It Impact Your Game?

Pressure is an interesting word.

The online dictionary defines it like this:

  1. the continuous physical force exerted on or against an object by something in contact with it.
  2. the use of persuasion, influence, or intimidation to make someone do something.

I like to look at dictionary definitions in order to frame how it shows up in life.

So, let’s look at this in relation to your body and playing hockey.

How often do you, or others around you, use persuasion, influence or intimidation to make you do what you wouldn’t instinctively do?

Do you put continuous emotional force on yourself?  I’ve used the emotional aspect here because often it is the place where the most pressure is exerted. Isn’t it?

Your parents think you should be playing in a certain position or have a certain role on the team, and they let you know it.  That’s emotional pressure.

You hit the ice and put a lot more force on your body than what it is really capable of, all to perform at a level that you think you need to be at.  That’s pressure.

There are a lot of ways, I’m sure, that you put continuous force on yourself, or for that matter allow someone else’s words or ideas to intimidate you.

How Does This Impact Your Game?

For starters, it creates a lot of emotional stress and tension inside you.  Show me someone that has pressure exerted on them by others or themselves who isn’t stressed, and I’ll give you a million dollars.

It’s simply not possible to be emotionally at peace, nor calm and tension-free when you put pressure on yourself.

Physically that tension will most likely play out in your body as tension and tightness in your muscles. Not a great way to play a game that requires you to be flexible and agile.  

When you have this pressure on yourself, you’re more likely to be injured.  I’m not saying it’s a given that you will be injured, but muscles and joints that are strained and tight are more likely to succumb to injury, that’s all.

Emotionally I’m sure you may want to give up, at times, because it’s so difficult to live up to the expectations of others. That might be your parents; it could well be your coach.

Emotional strain or stress has a big toll on your ability to function rationally, think clearly and even get a good night’s sleep.

Yes, if you haven’t been sleeping well, it’s because of the pressure that you or others are putting on you.

But hang on a minute?  How can others ‘put pressure on you’?

Seriously, tell me how they can do that?  Just consider that, they can’t. They are simply speaking what they want to see you do. It’s totally up to YOU if you chose to do it or not.

It’s fact that YOU can make a choice to feel pressured into doing something or chose not to.  The difference is your ability to be comfortable saying “No, that doesn’t work for me,” or “No, I don’t want to do that”

Often, we get into the space of believing we don’t have a choice.  And in that place, we believe that we have to do what others tell us.

So, what’s the worst thing that could happen if you didn’t try out for the National Team?

Or, what’s the worst thing that could happen if you made the choice to not practice six days a week?

Maybe the worst thing isn’t so bad after all.  Maybe it’s what would work best for you.  Think about it.

Play Hockey for the Fun of It

What might it be like to let up with some of that pressure and play hockey for the fun of it?

Can you imagine what that would be like, no pressure? You show up and enjoy each and every minute, do your best and whatever happens, happens. That’s it.

Others might have opinions about how things went, and ultimately, it’s up to you to have had fun, or not.

If you look at your hockey as something you are doing for the love of it and to have fun, then you can’t possibly put too much pressure on yourself.  And, I’ll bet you that if you could do this, your performance would improve.  What do you think?

Karen Cherrett is a Sports Mindset Coach who specializes in coaching hockey players. Your game is only as good as your mindset. Karen coaches players to be more focused and play with ease, not stress. Life playing hockey should be fun. Your mindset matters. Your mental health matters. Play the game you love without the mental overload.