The role and creation of pressure in training: Perspectives of athletes and sport psychologists

William R. Low, Paul Freeman, Joanne Butt, Mike Stoker, Ian Maynard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
69 Downloads (Pure)


To prepare athletes for psychological pressure of competition, pressure training (PT) systematically applies pressure on athletes during training. This study explored how to create pressure for PT and how PT improves performance in competition. Specifically, it aimed to explore the views of sport psychologists and athletes on: (a) common properties of effective pressure manipulations, and (b) PT’s mechanisms for improving performance under pressure. Eight sport psychologists and eight international-level athletes participated in semi-structured interviews. Thematic analysis identified three properties of effective pressure manipulations: (a) extending the reach of consequences, (b) simulating psychological demands of competition, and (c) approximating, but not replicating, intensity of competition pressure. Analysis also produced three themes that described how PT benefits performance: (a) learn and practice coping skills, (b) “change the relationship” with pressure, and (c) increase the quality of training. Understanding these benefits can help communicate to athletes why they should participate in PT.

Lay summary: Pressure in training can help athletes adjust to pressure in competition, and this study found that practitioners can create pressure by applying psychological demands and consequences that have an extended impact on athletes. Athletes can then practice coping skills and learn that pressure does not have to hurt performance.Applied implications To create pressure in training, practitioners should implement pressure manipulations that increase the sense of importance to perform well. These pressure manipulations include consequences that have extended reach or demands that emphasize psychological challenges of competition. PT helps athletes train mental skills learned in workshops or one-on-one consulting.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)710-730
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Applied Sport Psychology
Issue number4
Early online date22 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - 10 Feb 2023


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