Failure To Cope With Pressure 


Pressure is a normal part of sports for athletes. 

It’s not uncommon for most athletes, weeks before competition to begin to talk about the pressure that they feel.  As well, when an athlete begins to compete at higher levels and bigger competitions the “perception” of pressure increases and for many, that can be overwhelming and lead to self-doubt, negative self-talk and a focus on the “future thinking” of catastrophic outcomes that will happen if mistakes are made and expectations not met.

Athletes respond to pressure in different ways and pressure can come from different sources, be perceived differently, and affect athletes in different ways.

Types Of Pressure

  • Expectations of a perfect performance
  • Expectations of parents & coaches
  • Expectations of outcome

Expectations of perfection is a form of pressure that comes from the belief that a performance is not good or not a success if there are mistakes made.  Athletes assume that if they don’t perform perfectly then the performance is a failure and they themselves will be viewed by others as a failure and not a good skater. An athlete who feels the weight of excessive expectations and the pressure to perform to perfection regardless of their present state or ability will either try too hard or hold back, afraid to “go for it”.

Expectations of parents & coaches that are perceived or imagined by the athlete creates pressure that causes anxiety as the athlete tries to control what they “think” others think of them or how others “might” think of them if they should fail to meet those imagined expectations. The thought of being a disappointment to parents, coaches and fellow skaters becomes overwhelming and keeps the mind in a “future thinking” focus interfering with performance.

Expectations of outcome.  Most of this pressure is generated from the focus on high or even unrealistic expectations, which take the mind of an athlete out of the present and off their performance and focuses on points, placement, and outcome.  When a skater performs with an outcome focus the skater rarely gets the outcome that they desire.

Performing under pressure is a matter of staying focused on the task at hand, trusting your skills, your training and remaining “in the moment”.

Coping With Pressure When Expectations Are High And The Pressure Is High:

Performing under pressure requires that you “perform within yourself” and in the moment”, regardless of whether it is a practice session, a simulation or an important competition.


In order to cope with perceived pressure, reflect on competitions and training sessions that you performed well and examine the mindset that you carried into that competition.

  • What were your expectations leading up to that competition?
  • How did they help empower your performance?
  • What pre-competition routine can you create to repeat the performance at your next competition?

Most of the athletes I coach in mental toughness training, perform their best when they don’t carry high expectations into the competition.

One key to coping with pressure is to “let go” of the outcome and of what others think about your ability and performance, such as parents, coaches, friends and yes even judges!

This way you can let go of the expectations you perceive from others and focus on execution of your performance plan, one element at a time…..but that takes training the mind to stay focused in the present and on each task that you are performing.

This takes an understanding of what is in your control and what is not in your control as an athlete in your sport and creating process goals and a plan to overcome any challenges and obstacles, and learning how to “deal with” and accommodate for what is out of your control!  For example:  where the competition is held, whether the type of ice you will be competing on is hard or softer than you are used to, whether there is the endurance aspect with higher elevation to deal with, who you are competing against, etc.

Mental Toughness Training teaches athletes the tools and skills to deal with the pressures and challenges that competing can create.


Outcome Or Future Thinking

When the mind is focused on “outcome” or “future thinking” it ceases to be in alignment with the body and on the same track to achieve the goal and desired outcome.  If the mind is focused on what might happen next instead of focusing on the task at hand, in the present moment, the body will not have the needed input & focus to perform difficult elements and tasks.  Like the railway tracks of a train that run parallel to each other, the tracks of the mind and the body need to run parallel and in sync with each other as well to accomplish the goals of the athlete.

Past Thinking

If the mind becomes focused in what has happened in the past, for example, “I fell on my opening jump last competition and it blew my chances…” the mind in this situation is focused on the past mistakes and begins to worry about the same outcome happening again, creating anxiety and tension in the body, taking the mind away from the present, in the moment  focus needed to perform the task at hand.  Again, the focus of the mind and the body are not in alignment with each other, making it very difficult to achieve the goal and outcome of the performance.

Present Thinking

THE BODY AND THE MIND ARE IN ALIGNMENT with each other and focused in the present.  In order for the athlete to compete to their potential, the mind and body can not be traveling on different tracks of focus, the mind cannot be in the past or focused on the outcome or in future thinking.

For many athletes, the mind often gets stuck in past or future thinking which affects focus during performance. The goal is to have the mind and body in alignment with each other, focused in the present, on the task at hand, moving toward the goal. Just like a train traveling on railway tracks, if one track heads in one direction and the other track in a different direction the train would derail and not arrive at its destination.

MENTAL MUSCLE EXERCISE #1: Effective Breathing Exercises

When the MIND is focused in the present and in alignment with the BODY the “mind-body” tracks run parallel and the athlete can move easily to the destination, the goal of the performance.

When you train your mind to stay focused in the moment you will achieve your goals with effortless ease, flow, and success!

Breathing exercises keep the heart rate at a level that is manageable and excites rather than causing fear.

  • Box Breathing
  • 5 Senses Breathing exercise

For information on the breathing exercises that work, contact me at:  christine@figureskatingtraining.com to learn how to manage your nerves and stay focused in the present and perform to your best!

MENTAL MUSCLE EXERCISE #2: Visualization & Mental Choreography

Visualization with specific keywords to focus the mind during performance and keep the mind in alignment with the body

  • Visualization of individual elements
  • Visualization of programs with keywords

For information on how to visualize effectively, contact me at:  christine@figureskatingtraining.com and become a fearless mental warrior!

MENTAL MUSCLE EXERCISE #3: In My Control/Not In My Control

Each individual athlete responds to pressure in his/her own way.

Some skaters perform their best when the pressure is on, everything negative, sudden obstacles, pressure from fellow competitors – are all opportunities to rise to the challenge.  Acknowledging what is in your control to change/improve or reframe to your benefit and what is not under your control to change and how to deal with these situations.


Nathen Chen used the electric atmosphere after Yuzuru’s skate at the World Championships and the intense competition of the other senior men to motivate himself to perform to a personal best.

Motivational statements, quotes and cliché statements are everywhere, younger athletes hear these types of statements all the time…

“Pressure is your friend,” “Pressure can help you play better” and “Pressure can help you get to the next level.”

Despite hearing about the virtues of pressure, most young athletes view pressure in a negative light.

Many young athletes experience pressure differently, such as;

  • “My parents put too much pressure on me,”
  • “I am under so much pressure with school and athletics,”
  • “I always choke under pressure,” etc.

Understanding Pressure:  What’s the scoop on pressure?

1. Many athletes don’t exactly know what pressure really is. In reality, pressure always exists to some degree in competition. Not only is pressure normal, it is necessary to narrow your focus and fuel your efforts.

2. Some young athletes do not know that pressure can be managed. Each athlete performs better within a certain range of pressure. That range of pressure is directly influenced by how you perceive pressure and the specific competitive scenario you are faced with.

3. Many athletes have no idea how to cope with pressure. Managing pressure is a skill, a mental skill, just like the skills you learn on the ice. You can learn effective pressure strategies that can help you manage pressure, move you into your optimal range and perform your best.

It is important to have awareness and understanding:

  • how you view pressure,
  • how you experience pressure
  • how you compete under pressure, in order to respond well to under pressure.

Sophia:  “I can lie to you and say I knew I was going to skate my personal best, but I was terrified I was going to blow it.”

Sophia was able to manage the pressure by eliminating potential distractions that might have caused excessive nerves. She knew what worked and what didn’t and kept to the routine that worked for her. Sophia focused on what she could control which helped her perform under pressure.

Developing the courage and discipline to rise to the occasion and perform to your best under pressure – when it counts requires that “whatever it takes” mentality… And what it takes is learning how to manage pressure.

To learn how to use awareness, reframing and other mindset tools to combat nerves, self-doubt and to perform to your best under pressure contact me at:  christine@figureskatingtraining.com


Don’t Wait Till Next Season to Start Your Mental Training!  Your off-ice mental training program sets you up for success!

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To Learn How to Compete Under Pressure Check Out My Website! www.figureskatingtraining.com




What setback are you struggling with in your skating? 

Do you want to learn valuable tools you can use to “motivate & launch” you to success?

Don’t miss my Fearless Tip #10 next week!

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Christine Reeves Beleznay, CMTT, CLC, CNLP
Certified Mental Toughness Trainer,
Certified Life Coach,
Certified Neuro-Linguistic Practitioner

NCCP Skate Canada Figure Skating Coach


If you have applied these mind gym tips and exercises in your skating practices & have found it helpful please send me an email at christine@figureskatingtraining.com

I would love to hear how it has helped you on your journey to becoming a fearless competitor!  

If you like my tips and would like to take your mental toughness training to a whole new level check out “WORK WITH ME” on my website:    www.figureskatingtraining.com 

Send me an email at christine@figureskatingtraining.com with what you are struggling with and I will tell you how I can help you overcome whatever your challenge!






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