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Athletic Pressure in Sports Affects All Players, Whether It Be Positive or Negative

Rachel+Breummer+with+Kierra+Williams+showing+positive+form+of+pressure.+Breummer%2C+a+junior%2C+brings+veteran+leadership+to+a+young+team+competing+at+a+high+level.+With+such+high+competition%2C+pressure+is+something+Breummer+and+the+team+deal+with+on+the+regular.
Credit to Angelee Orozco
Rachel Breummer with Kierra Williams showing positive form of pressure. Breummer, a junior, brings veteran leadership to a young team competing at a high level. With such high competition, pressure is something Breummer and the team deal with on the regular.

It’s pressure to serve an ace. It’s pressure to hit the three’s. It’s pressure that pushes a player to finish the end of a run or swim. Yet pressure is how a player falls at the hand of the opponent. Pressure is felt by every athlete and comes in a variety of forms.

Pressure can be split into two kinds: external and internal.

External pressure is pressure that comes from the outside. The “outside” is anything that happens directly to an athlete. These pressures can include grades, teammates or even coaches.

“I’ve had a lot of good coaches where I know they see potential in me growing and learning so they’re mostly hard on me because they know I can do better,” varsity volleyball player, Junior Rachel Bruemmer said. “And sometimes, it’s frustrating when I just do something stupid and they’re like, ‘what the heck.’ But a lot of pressure is just I want to make my coaches proud and do what I can because they always work so hard for us to win so I don’t want to give up on them and my team.”

In a study published in the National Library of Medicine, researchers tracked the relationship between coaches and players and how it affected player performance. Results showed that coach pressure improved player performance, but also hindered it, aligning with Breummer’s suggestions. Track and cross country runner Sophomore Moya Jefferson relates to this idea.

“I’d say standards [are a pressure],” Jefferson said. “You have people who are looking at you like your coach or something, and you have a varsity sport and you’re trying to keep your time and you know, if you do bad you can get kicked off.”

External pressure is not limited to pushing someone to better, it can also help someone stay grounded. Cohen Oster is a Freshman on JV and varsity basketball. As the only freshman on varsity, Oster liked the experience which kept him grounded.

“Everyone gets on you if you do bad because you’re the freshman you know, keeps you in check,” Oster said. “I think it humbles me. If I’m like messing around, it shows me that I can’t be doing that.”

Internal pressure is the opposite of external pressure. This means the pressure comes from your mind, as well as how you see and view things. Internal pressure encompasses many things including nerves.

“I get nervous easily by the desire to get better,” Junior Edward Lee, varsity swimmer said. “I want to do better. So, that’s like, that brings me down. Always before the race, I get nervous, and there’s like the most pressure and I have to overcome that to become a better swimmer.”

David Udelf, a writer from Psychology Today, interviewed Britton Colquitt, a Minnesota Vikings punter. During the interview, Colquitt touched on nerves he has even as a professional player.

“You’re terrified,” Colquitt revealed in the July 2023 article. “It gets in your mind that ‘if I screw this up, I could lose the Super Bowl.’

But internal pressure is not only nerves, it can also be comparing yourself to others.

“Sometimes when you see [teammates] do better it can make you do better,” Jefferson said. “But sometimes it’s just like, ‘wow, they did a lot better than me and I wish I could have done as good as them.’”

Arguing what pressure impacts athletes more is objective, but either side can also be backed with evidence. An article published by Montana State University Athletics states, “It is well- documented that mental health challenges greatly impact athletic performance. Stress, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, trauma, substance use and loss of relationships impact athletic performance.”

This article was college-athlete-centered, high school athletes relate to this idea.

“They say 90% is mental, 10% physical,” Jefferson said. “Because you’re already in shape, you already do the workouts, but how you perform is based on how you think, it’s your choice to perform good or not. And if you are brought down and have a bad mental lookout, you’re not going to do good, you know?”

These students come from varying sports ranging from individual to collaborative sports. Both types are very different from each other. Individual sports promote self-reliance and self-discipline, while collaborative sports emphasize teamwork and sportsmanship.

“In track, if I mess up like I know, nobody cares, because I’m not affecting them and I can just do better next time,” Bruemmer said. “But then volleyball, it’s like, I’m letting down my team or people are being like, wow, she kind of sucks and then they start to care a little more.”

Lee agreed.

“The difference between individual sports and team sports is in individual sports I feel more pressured and more responsible on myself,” Lee said. “Because like team sports, I can rely on other teammates, but individual sports is like lonely. I got to do by myself, so it’s more pressure. In swimming, if I do relay event, it’s definitely more reliable. It’s more relaxed. It’s fun to do that. And I feel less pressured under that. But individual event there’s kind of more lonely cause I got it because I gotta do it by myself.”

FHN Athletes are not alone. According to a study released by the National Library of Medicine, 91 percent of students interviewed said playing sports caused them some kind of pressure or stress. Coach Tracy Wuertenberg coaches varsity cheer and says to help cope with that pressure, athletes need to know who’s there to support them.

“The biggest thing when it comes to motivation is just knowing that there are people who are there for you and that support you, no matter if you’re struggling or you’re excelling,” Wuertenberg said. “As athletes, the girls truly do care about each other. And number one behind anything no matter I think anything in life is developing a relationship with people and that leads to success, both mental success and skill success. It’s understanding that everybody has a good and a bad. Some days are great, some days aren’t and a relationship with a person helps you accept that.”

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