Championship Strategy/Coping with Pressure

Steam Engines

21“The pressure makes me focus.” Sammy Sanchez, Olympic Champion 


Golden focus in Beijing

Golden focus in Beijing

Clutch players are the pressure-meisters of sport. These are the great ones who rise to the occasion when all odds are against and nearly every second of play is gone. When the pressure is greatest, this is the player who gets passed the ball when down points and nearly out of time; this is the one judged second place in semi’s who starts the final round with the hardest feat; or the come-from behind speedster who moves to the front when the big fight begins. Champions cope with pressure by utilizing its vapor not to steam like a cooker but to cook like a steam engine. Forward positive force propels in self-controlled momentum. Fear is turned into focus.

A culture of discipline is essential for cultivating this strategic capability. Mastering strategic fundamentals before engaging in forays of high-risk or complicated tactics produces not just skills but confidence utilized in high pressure situations. Big events create tension that makes simplicity a premium. Back to the basics often works for podium performance. It may be a fancy, well-funded, high profile event, but fundamentals are enough to win because pressure causes most to make subtle errors of judgment. Pressure riders focus on simple strategy, skills, and self-awareness to pull out the win. At lower level events where pressure is lowest, these same athletes master primary skills that require focus and self-control instead of the easiest way to get results.

For instance, lead-outs are a more advanced skill that builds on podium performance through sprint wins. Being 2nd wheel in a final corner to clinch a mass sprint win puts more pressure on a novice than hanging out and figuring somewhere in a final surge. Championship strategy starts early where pressures are applied to skills formation, strategic experimentation, and realistic but challenging goal-setting. Ego and anxiety miss the mark.


Prayer for Coping with Pressure

“While we’re going through the worst, you’re getting in on the best!” 222 Corinthians 4:12


We are grateful for opportunities to turn up the heat little by little to teach us coping skills necessary to succeed. We pray, not for troubles, but that we ride facing challenges with aplomb under pressure.


Ponder Can I execute when under pressure? Affirm I cope with pressure or I find ways to relieve it for achievement. Watch how pressure performances occur and see the translation into triumph.



21Sammy Sanchez 2008 Olympic Men’s Road Race Interview by NBC Sports Television, August, 2008

22The Message, Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

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