Here is an interesting take on the NY Yankees approach to managing pressure.
Their mental conditioning expert Chris Passarella would like to reduce the hold that pressure has on athletes by eradicating the use of the term altogether.
In his estimation athletes create pressure for themselves based on their expectation of success.
“Pressure is simply the cognitive measure of your likelihood to meet personal standards of an execution of a skill.”
In other words, athltes put pressure on themselves based on expectations and by focusing on the ever changing context. Therefore instead of managing pressure the Yankees are attempting to eliminate the concept of pressure. Tactics will shift based on situations, but the degree of pressure should not.
Here are a three of the ways that they are trying to manage this:
Every at bat is essentially the same.
Focus on how hitters perform in any situation as opposed to at based on perceived importance. They are eliminating the idea of more pressure and less pressure and instead it’s just an at bat.
“This is a player who performs at his best regardless of the situation. For every homer in the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded, there are many other identical hits that occur throughout the season without the same fuss.”
Train your focus on your own process and ability and not on the external situation surrounding you.
In order to do this the Yankees make use of “trigger” words while training that they can then repeat while performing. An example of this would be “process” indicating that the athlete should focus on the process and nothing else.
The benefit of this training is found in the simplicity. There is no complex method to master.
“By repeating these words throughout the tournament, McIlroy was able to place the same emphasis on each shot. His opening tee shot on Thursday meant as much to him as his final putt on Sunday. Passarella points out that it is the simplest techniques that yield the best results, “It wasn’t a complex scheme that he has able to master” he says. “It’s just reverting back to normal and ensuring that those triggers have meaning. It’s so important to express how you’re feeling in any situation because then you can either stay in the zone or revert back to normal.” As previously mentioned, it is often the simplest mental processes that allow for improved performances during pressurised moments.
The Yankees also make immediate use of video for feedback with attention to mindset during situations and not just for technical or tactical assessments. They use videos quickly after the game and part of the process is to describe their mindset when they were at bat. The explanation allows the athlete to recognize different mindsets and adjust in the future.
All professional athletes must find their way to perform. These are ways that the Yankees employ for managing pressure.