Developing Composure in Clutch Situations

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

This is Part 10 in the series on Mental Strength and High Intensity Athletic Performance.

In today’s piece, we are going to look over how you can manage mistakes and how those mistakes impact your performance on and off the field.

To begin with, how are you handling pressure in an intense situation like a championship game or an extreme CrossFit routine?

The truth is, no matter how good you are and how much you have practiced, or the coaches have taught you, if you aren’t able to stay cool when you are in a critical situation and your nerves consume you, then you will never reach your athletic peak during any high intensity sports performance.

In the dire, clutch situations true champions thrive. An example is Michael Jordan and his control and dominance of the court.

When you are in the middle of a high intensity sports performance, during a CrossFit routine or in the middle of a game on the field, there are some essential things you need to keep in mind.

• Look at and recognize your natural response to stress. Know how to tell the difference between good and bad nervousness.
• Understand what is regularly causing you to become uptight.
• Have a series of relaxation techniques in place to help with your mental strength and understand how to use them.

The thing you need to understand, that many athletes don’t, is that stress doesn’t come from people on the outside or circumstances. You can’t get it from the crowd, the weather, the game you are playing, hitting your peak on a high intensity sports performance or even from your coach.

Your stress actually comes from how you choose to respond from it. Did you see, I mentioned you have a choice? What you need to understand is that there is a choice there on how to react to stress. Unfortunately, for many athletes, that it is do the automatic unconscious approach and not the thoughtful one.

It’s not actually what is happening around you that causes your nerves to act up, but what is going on within your mind.

You might not understand it, but this is actually good news!

But how is that good news when it can impact you in the middle of a high intensity sports performance? Since no one can make you nervous during a competition or a CrossFit sessions and only you can, you are then in complete control of your nerves.

By working on your mental strength training, it is possible for you to come up with a proactive plan that can cease nervousness in the heat of competition, during a high intensity sports performance and in every situation, help you to achieve peak performance each time.

It is important to understand that you do need to be relaxed in order to achieve peak athletic performance. Anyone who is uptight will never achieve it. Imagine doing an intense CrossFit routine. If you lose your focus, you are more likely to end up hurt.

To help you through this process, you will need to look at four critical steps to achieve control over your nerves.
Step 1: The best initial defense you will have is to know how to read yourself. This means being able to determine what happens before the nervousness sets in.

Take a moment to create a nervous scale from 1 – 100 with 1 being snoozing and 100 being over the top as follows:

• 1 – 33: There is not enough excitement in this case and your performance is flat. You simply don’t care.
• 34 – 66: Your mind is piqued and you are in the zone.
• 67 – 100: You are over the top in nerves and you are far too excited. The outcome and performance are too much of the focus.

Mental Strength Plan for Calming Nerves

Now you need to become very aware of your tendencies. Before a competition, CrossFit routine or any high intensity sports performance, do you know where you stand? Awareness is vital to your overall success.

Let’s take a moment to do an exercise together that will help you to read yourself. Take a piece of paper or in your workout journal label the sheet, “Poor Performance”. This will be about being too nervous or not nervous enough.

You will end up experiencing nervousness in three ways:

1. Felling – You will find that “good” feelings are very different from “bad” feelings
2. Mentally – This is the type of self-talk and you focus on, good vs. bad
3. How you end up behaving or acting before a performance; good vs. bad

Go back to the last time you ended up having a bad performance the last time. It could be hard, but try. It could be a CrossFit training where you weren’t able to do the high intensity sports performance or even been a time you didn’t do well during competition.

As you do this. Start to think about and write down the various signals of detrimental nervousness:

• What was where you feeling?
• Where did you sense the energy in your body?
• What were you thinking?
• What was the self-talk you were having with yourself? Was it all about me, my opponents, the game, etc?
• How did I behave?
• Did I end up isolating myself, did I go quiet, and was I my mind around all over the place?

We are going to do this same exercise for when you had a great performance under pressure

Signals of positive nervousness:

1. What were you feeling at the time?
2. Where was the energy centralized in your body?
3. What were you thinking during all this?
4. What was your self-talk about?
5. How did you end up behaving?
6. Did you end up focusing on the task at hand?

Let’s be honest for a moment. If you are unable to read yourself, then you will never be able to achieve peak performance.

When you are able to discern the place you are before a performance will help you to take the action that is required for you to change things.

Step 2: Acting “as if”. You have seen this in previous posts that have made in the past. This requires changing your behavior on the outside and have it start to coincide with how you feel and behave in that optimum zone.
When you begin to act like you want to become, then you eventually become the way that you are acting. You begin to lead yourself in the right direction, over faking it. You have experienced this before and you are reminding yourself how this looks and feels.

Step 3: This is the point where you understand your nervousness and where it comes from. For this, you need to realize you are not the source. But it is something that is internally generated.

This is done based on your focus. Understanding that from here, it is caused. Remember, the source is generated from within you. This occurs during a competition, CrossFit training, even before or after any time doing a high intensity sports performance and when start to focus on the wrong things, you end up hitting a flat line.
But what are the wrong “wrong” focus items? All the things out of your control like any of the following, but not limited to:

1. The judges or referee’s
2. Whether you are playing in
3. Opponents on the field
4. How a coach has treated you
5. The expectations of others
6. Getting sick
7. Your teammates and their thoughts
8. Any past mistakes you have made
9. Any future results you want to have happen

If you turn your focus on the uncontrollable items that occur before or during an event:

1. You’re going to get more and more uptight
2. Your level of confidence will start to go down
3. Performance will suffer

Your mental strength practice, such as during a peak performance and begin able to effectively handle the uncontrollable when things happen. You do this through concentration and focus on the field, during a CrossFit scenario and even while doing a high intensity sports performance.

It is fine if an uncontrollable pops momentarily into your head, you just need to ensure it doesn’t stay there.

Step 3: Take notice when an uncontrollable is there and shift your focus from it. You will eventually get to your uncontrollable very well and how to take your focus away from them each time. Since these are unique to you and your reaction to them is unique, you will need to take the time to get to know yourself better and to find what type of refocusing ends up working better for you. Before long, you will have this down.
Knowing your enemy allows you to prevent their attacks.

Step 4: Next, you need to have dependable and effective relaxation techniques on hand. You can have a couple sets of these. One set for during an event, CrossFit or any high intensity athletic performance. The other during the time you are on the field playing the game.

One of the fastest ones that work is the 7-11 breathing technique. This is when you inhale for a count of 7 and exhale as you count to 11. This will trigger your parasympathetic nervous system and it will help to calm you.
You will need a tool kit in place that helps you to center yourself and to get focused on what you are doing. That will be the best way for you to gain control of your performances.

Gregg Swanson is owner of Warrior Mind Coach and specializes in the development of mental strength to reach your human potential and achieve peak performance. He is also the creator of the Mental Strength Coaching Certification, providing the tools to help trainers and coaches get the most from their clients and athletes.

Printable Version

We Are Scouting Top Writers

Are you passionate about fitness and have something to say? Reach a huge online community and get the discussion going - start writing for Tabata Times today!

Share this post
@TabataTimes on Twitter, become a fan on Facebook 
Advertise Here

Most Popular of All Time

North End CrossFit shared a link on Facebook

North End CrossFit posted an article
CrossFit Woodbridge shared a link on Facebook

Hey CFW tomorrows post (If the smelly shoe fits ) has been published on CrossFit Woodbridge!! See you at the box!!

CrossFit Woodbridge posted an article
szurley published the post You're doing it wrong. This is how you Bar Mup... on Tabata Times
Alright so in all honestly I still don't have a ring Mup a.k.a muscle up but let me tell you, bar...
zmosbarger published the post The Tug-o-War Between Playing to Your Strengths and Staying Constantly Varied on
We have been on the road for eighteen days now, a time span that has allowed us to visit fourteen...
CrossFit Chronic shared an image on Facebook

szurley published the post Skipping Leg Day on
OK so you are probably rolling your eyes thinking about the last time someone at a CrossFit gym...
CrossFit Tyson's Corner shared an image on Facebook

CrossFit Fairfax shared a link on Facebook

Two weeks before our Nutrition Challenge officially starts!

CrossFit Reston shared a link on Facebook

Two weeks before our Nutrition Challenge officially starts!

CrossFit Falls Church shared an image on Facebook

Last call before Fall Whole 30 kicks off September 17th! Join Amy and Bonny at CFA September 11th, 7:00 pm if you have any questions about this CFA/CFFC challenge! Folks who want to drop off their $25 buy-in are free to come by and do that as well! Note: If you have already attended info sessions for Whole 30 before then this meeting is completely optional. Just email Amy and Bonny that you would like to join! and

CrossFit Chronic shared a link on Facebook

CrossFit Chronic posted an article
Brickhouse CrossFit shared a link on Facebook

"A foundation of quality food needs to be in place. However, once that’s in, basing your diet on daily macros allows flexibility in what you can add to this base." Oh-oh. What is Jay up to now?

CrossFit RVA shared an image on Facebook

A strong midline is imperative to hold plank positions. How does Duncan look? _____________________________ #burpee #crossfit #crossfitrva

CrossFit Reston posted on Facebook

Happy birthday to Sarah Pomeroy!! Birthday burpees > spinning!!!

CrossFit Tyson's Corner shared an image on Facebook

Keep it simple. #crossfit #rkc #intensity #CFTC

CrossFit Chesapeake shared an image on Facebook

We are a week into our "Everything in Moderation" Nutrition Challenge. The high-fat, low-carb approach is taking some people out of their comfort zones. Not so for Tara, she's posting some gourmet-lookin' pictures on our challenge group page. Whether you're doing the challenge or not, have you tried any new recipes this week? Share them with us! That's what the community is for :) (Thanks to Tara for the photo!)

CrossFit Woodbridge shared an image on Facebook

Congrats to Jess and Austin as they gave birth to their baby boy this morning!

Brickhouse CrossFit shared a link on Facebook

tarynhaggerstone published the post CrossFit: What Makes a Good Competition? on
Over the past couple years, the number of people who do CrossFit has gone through the roof, and...
Fentress CrossFit posted on Facebook

Wednesday's WOD: 21-15-9 Over the bar Burpees Power Cleans 135/95# Then 50 Sit-Ups 50 Ball Slams

CrossFit 757 shared a link on Facebook

L-Sit & 3 Rds: Run + Power Snatch: Accumulate 3 mins in L sit/hang/hold Then 3 rounds: 800m run 10 power snatch (165/110)

CrossFit 757 posted an article
paleobutter published the post Paleo Paella on Nutrition WOD
This is a Paleo version of the Valencia style of paella. Adaptions include smoked/ grilled chicken...
Patriot CrossFit shared a link on Facebook

Once you learn how to Pose, fall, and pull you must learn one other crucial piece of running technique: cadence. […]

CrossFit West Springfield posted an article
CrossFit Shadyside shared a link on Facebook

CrossFit Advance posted on Facebook

For those of you with smartphones there is a free app you can download to automatically calculate your weights for this new strength cycle. Search "Wendler Calculator" or "5/3/1 Calculator" all you have to do is enter you 1 Rep Max and make sure the "use 90%" is activated, and it will tell you what whats to use.

Compound CrossFit posted an article
Ballston CrossFit shared an image on Facebook

J. Humenay published the post Answering The Question - "Why Do You Lift?" on
Recently, I've been asked the question, "Why do you do Olympic lifts? There are so many other ways...
CrossFit Chesapeake posted an article
CrossFit Rosslyn posted an article
CrossFit Falls Church shared an image on Facebook

CrossFit Rosslyn shared an image on Facebook

CrossFit Rosslyn shared an image on Facebook

CrossFit Rosslyn shared an image on Facebook

Patriot CrossFit shared a link on Facebook

When Serious Becomes TOO Serious Many of us take our fitness, and our training, pretty seriously. Serious is good — it allows you to dedicate yourself to getting better at...

CrossFit Pittsburgh posted an article
CrossFit Arlington shared a link on Facebook

Wed 10 Aug 2014

CrossFit Arlington posted an article
Trident CrossFit posted an article
Patriot CrossFit posted an article
CrossFit Integrated Fitness shared a link on Facebook

CrossFit Reston shared a link on Facebook

Skill - Strict HSPU 4 rounds for time: • 10 Strict HSPU • 15 Power Snatch 95#/65# Core - 2 x 15 Good Mornings 45/33#

CrossFit Old Town shared a link on Facebook

CrossFit Rubicon posted an article
CrossFit Chronic shared a link on Facebook

CrossFit Pittsburgh posted on Facebook

Available right now: 1 pair of Men's Cordura WOD Shorts Size 33" Retail $60.00 yours for $40.00.

astewart30 published the post Size Doesn't Matter on
From the time I was 10 years old I have been aware of my size. I have always known how much I weigh...
CrossFit KSX posted on Facebook

Tuesday's Workout Strength: 10 min EMOM 3 Deadlift @ 70% of 3RM Conditioning: 12min EMOM 3 Power cleans 155/115 5 strict pull-ups Rest 2 min: 3 rounds of: 1 min elbow plank 45 sec max supermans 30 sec Russian twist with weight 20/15 * 30 sec rest between rounds*

CrossFit Iron City posted on Facebook

This week's challenge is: 3 min AMRAP of 20 DU's Jason L. already has 2 wins down, who is going to take the top spot this week?

CrossFit Arlington shared an image on Facebook

CrossFit Center City shared a link on Facebook

#DIDYOUKNOW that CFCC offers Custom Fit Meals? These fresh, healthy meals are a great option for weeks when you're especially busy. They offer a huge menu that rotates week to week, and there's no commitment required. Use code CENTERCITY to take 10% off your first order. If you're thinking about participating in the #cfccrecharge or are struggling to find healthy options on-the-go, give CFM a try! #nutrition #paleo #paleoish

CrossFit Center City shared an image on Facebook

Don't forget we are holding a 2 hour introductory Strongman clinic on Sunday September 28th. Link to sign up is in the comments. Email Record at if you have any questions about it and remember it is open to both CFCC member and non-members!

CrossFit Prime posted an article
CrossFit Prime posted an article
CrossFit Athletics posted on Facebook

SFH Fish Oil and *new* pure protein (without Creatine) is in stock!! Get it while it's hot.

@TabataTimes on Twitter

Watch the latest episode of GPTV