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Athlete Performance in high pressure - stress environments.

Michael Klinger

Michael is the Team Mentor for the Australian Team to the 21st Maccabiah Games.

Michael attended Mount Scopus College and in his junior years played cricket at Maccabi Ajax Cricket Club. Michael represented Australia at the 1997 Maccabiah Games as a 17-

year-old, in the Gold Medal Open Men’s Cricket team. In the opening game he made a century, followed by a 50. In the finals he scored 30 odd. In the same year Michael represented Australia in the U19 team against Pakistan.

Leading into the Maccabiah Games in 9 months’ time, it is a fantastic opportunity for our Australian athletes and coaches to start preparing for competing in a high-pressure environment. I was very fortunate during my playing cricket career where I experienced similar tournament style competitions to that of the Maccabiah Games. These included playing for Australia in a 2-week T20 series against Sri Lanka, Big Bash, IPL and other T20 franchise tournament around the world

There are several keys to success in performing under a high-pressure environment but one of the key aspects is being able to switch the mind on and off during the tournament. It is impossible to stay totally focused and absorbed in the contest of your competition for the full 2-3 weeks of Maccabiah. Being able to take mental and physical breaks to enjoy the experience, have fun with other athletes and staff is a key factor to then being able to give your total focus and attention to detail when it comes to training and competing.

Becoming accustomed to high pressure situations at practice will also help you translate to coping with high level of stress during competition. For some athletes, Maccabiah might be the pinnacle of their sporting career and a pressure environment which they have not yet experienced. Exposing yourself to a variety of pressure situations during training can help athletes become acclimated to it. No doubt, the best way to do this would be to experience many high-pressure competition environments but this is not possible for everybody. However, it is possible to find ways to replicate this pressure in a training environment and could be a key to performing well by the time the Maccabiah Games come around in July 2022. For example, in skill-based sports, training under fatigue (especially knowing the heat everyone will encounter in Israel) is a great way to create a more stressful training environment. Athletes in skill-based sport could complete a series of shuttle sprints, a two-kilometre time trial or a high volume of burpees for example and then attempt to execute their skills in training. This replicates some physiological symptoms that are experienced under pressure like heavy breathing, heavy limbs etc.

Another successful technique which can significantly help performance in high stress situations is practicing visualisation. This is done by imagining yourself performing your sport in your mind without actually performing any of the motor movements. Practicing visualisation allows you to imagine your performance in a stress-induce environment to become acclimatised to it.

If athletes can focus 100% on the task at hand when required and find ways to relax the mind and body away from training and competition, explore ways to practice under stress and pressure and focus on your strengths in training leading into the Maccabiah Games, you will give yourself the best possible chance to perform at your best and achieve a successful result.

Good luck and keep preparing well and exposing yourselves to high-pressure and high-stress situations in your training.


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