Australian players celebrate with the world cup trophy. (AP Photo)

Pressure training is not just a preparation tool but a fundamental element in shaping athletes’ mental fortitude for sustained success.

In the wake of India’s loss to Australia in the World Cup 2023 final, the spotlight turns to the intriguing concept of pressure training in sports psychology.

Pressure training in sports is a transformative strategy, essential for preparing athletes for the challenges of high-stakes competitions. It operates as a mental simulation, instilling a sense of urgency and a crucial competitive edge. Imagine it as a tailored exposure therapy, systematically building athletes’ resilience to navigate intense pressure, regulate emotions, and make astute decisions in the heat of the game.

Dr. Pankaj Borade, Psychiatrist, Ruby Hall Clinic, emphasizes its transformative impact on athletes, likening it to a mental simulation that builds resilience and a competitive edge. “The technique replicates the psychological demands of high-stakes competitions, empowering athletes to manage anxiety, perform under stress, and foster enduring mental toughness,” says Dr Borade.

On the contrary, Maithili Bhuptani, Lead-Sport & Exercise Psychologist, Reliance Foundation Youth Sports, reflects on India’s performance and dismisses the notion of the team choking under pressure. However, she acknowledges the impact of external factors like pitch conditions and the dew factor, highlighting the potential anxiety-provoking thoughts for the Indian team.

Bhuptani delves into the essence of pressure training, defining pressure as the increased importance to perform well. She emphasizes the role of sport psychologists in strategically implementing pressure training during off-season sessions to enhance athletes’ abilities to cope with pressure in actual competitions.

What is pressure training?

Pressure can be created by announcing and applying consequences for athletes if they fail to perform up to a specific standard during training (William et al., 2023).

Pressure training basics: Who, what, when, and why

Deciding when and for whom to conduct PT can also enhance understanding of the intervention. “Refer to Diagram (pressure decision tree). The priorities and goals of a coach, team, or athlete could indicate such expectations to perform under pressure.

Although PT has potential benefits for performance, achieving those benefits is not necessarily a straightforward process. For example, coaches and practitioners have to create enough pressure to simulate competition but also avoid creating so much that it overwhelms athletes,” adds Bhuptani.

Pressure training is not just a preparation tool but a fundamental element in shaping athletes’ mental fortitude for sustained success.

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