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  • Writer's pictureTom Foxley

Pressure & Expectations: The Cycle

Today I was speaking to an athlete who described a very familiar pattern of pressure and expectations.

Around 50% of the athletes we work with are limited by this cycle.

How much does the following story ring true with you...?

When I was a kid I played a lot of football (soccer) and cricket (yep - very English).

It was fun for me to play the sport.

I felt free and like I was enjoying every moment of it from a young age.

Then I got pretty good, and started to get opportunities coming to me.

All of a sudden, everyone including myself, had expectations of me.

I started feeling the pressure to perform.

The more pressure, the less fun I had, the more I became fearful of training, and the worse I performed.

As such, I never made the most of my potential.

Apart from when I trained alongside a veterans team (over 40's) where there was no pressure, and as such I felt free once more, and performed at my best.

When it didn't count, I performed really well. When it counted, I put pressure on myself, and choked.

Flash forward a decade or so and I was one of the fittest guys in my unit with the Royal Marines.

I got put forward for the Physical Training Instructor training and had to go through a somewhat arduous test to get in.

The pressure once more was on, and I choked - finishing last out of the whole course and my application was turned down.

The athlete I spoke to today had a similar story.

She came to CrossFit and started doing really well. The Open was fun and she placed way higher than expected for a couple of years in a row.

Then, the pressure piled on because others considered her to be "good".

Now, she rocked up to the gym and felt the eyes watching her and felt like she was expecting to perform well.

The pressure got too much, and she began under performing.

Because she under performed, the pressure dropped off again, and she began to do better.

Now, she's in the cycle of [No Pressure -> Perform Well -> Expectations -> Too Much Pressure -> Choke]

When we explored this, the pattern was threaded throughout her history of sport and training..

Does this sound like you?

Do you find pressure limits your potential?

Does your history affect your performance?


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