November 13th, 2014

Health N

Staff Report

Health N
Handling pressure and competition / photo provided by Norton Sports Health

Most people play a sport for the thrill of having fun with others who share the same interest. But it’s not always fun and games. There can be a ton of pressure in high school sports. Learn more from the experts from Norton Sports Health.

A lot of the time it comes from the feeling that a parent or coach expects you to always win.

But sometimes it comes from inside, too: some players are just really hard on themselves. Whatever the cause, the pressure to win can sometimes stress you to the point where you just don’t know how to have fun anymore.

Can stress affect sports performance?

Stress is a feeling that’s created when we react to particular events. It’s the body’s way of rising to a challenge and preparing to meet a tough situation with focus, strength, stamina and heightened alertness. A little stress or the right kind of positive stress can help keep you on your toes, ready to rise to a challenge.

Events that provoke stress are called stressors, and they cover a whole range of situations — everything from outright danger to stepping up to take the foul shot that could win the game. Stress can also be a response to change or anticipation of something that’s about to happen — good or bad. People can feel stress over positive challenges as well as negative ones.

What can I do to ease pressure?

Deep breathing: Find a quiet place to sit down. Inhale slowly through your nose, drawing air deep into your lungs. Hold your breath for about 5 seconds, then release it slowly. Repeat the exercise five times.

Muscle relaxation: Contract (flex) a group of muscles tightly. Keep them tensed for about 5 seconds, then release. Repeat the exercise five times, selecting different muscle groups.

Visualization: Close your eyes and picture a peaceful place or an event from your past. You can also visualize.

Positive self-talk: Watch out for negative thoughts. Whether you’re preparing for a competition or coping with a defeat, tell yourself: “I learn from my mistakes!” “I’m in control of my feelings!” “I can make this goal!”  

How can I keep stress in check?

Don’t keep stress bottled up; suppressing your emotions might mean bigger health troubles later on. Talk about your concerns with a friend. Sometimes it may help to get an adult’s perspective, like your coach or fitness instructor. Here are some other things you can do to cope with stress:

Treat your body right. Eat well and get a good night’s sleep.

Learn and practice relaxation techniques.

Get some type of physical activity other than the sport you’re involved in.

Don’t try to be perfect.

If you’re feeling completely overscheduled and out of control, review your options on what you can let go. It’s a last resort, but if you’re no longer enjoying your sport, it may be time to find one that’s less stressful. Chronic stress isn’t fun — and fun is what sports are all about.

© 1995-2013. The Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth. Reprinted with permission. View the full article at

The Norton Sports Health team of highly trained sports medicine specialists include orthopedists, neurologists, physiatrists and primary care physicians who work together with trainers, physical therapists, nurses, nutritionists and other care providers to design customized programs that return patients to optimal performance and fitness following a sports-related injury. Learn more at


Recent Articles