Sport Performance: The Top Two Inches

Tuesday 31st March 2015

Ever wondered what makes an athlete mentally tough? Why do some athletes develop in their sport whilst others drop away? Why is it so difficult to perform well when the pressure is on? 

The boys in our sports performance groups have been exploring what makes a mentally tough athlete and a few of them have had a chance to test how well they perform under pressure.

Twelve individuals were randomly selected to test themselves on three unique challenges. The challenges had been designed to target a number of behaviours that aid the development and performance of individuals. The individuals selected were required to wear Heart Rate monitors and their HR levels were visible to an audience whilst they carried out the three challenges.

Challenge 1: Control

The participant, whilst maintaining his HR in a specified Zone, had to successfully negotiate a beam walk. If their HR was outside the specified Zone, they had to stop walking and bring their HR back under control before progressing any further along the beam. Each competitor had 2 minutes to complete as many circuits of the beam walk as he could.

Challenge 2: Evaluate

The competitor had to elevate a clear tube using a rope and pulley system on either side of it without letting the ball inside the tube fall out to reach a fixed target container located on the right side of the track. Once at a target container the player had to deposit the ball into it. The player had to decide which of the three differently positioned target containers to aim for before they began there go.

Activity 3: Anticipate

The competitor had to place a ball in the raised end of a clear tube. They then had to move to the other end of the tube in order to catch the ball with the same hand without touching the base of the tube. After each successful attempt, a section of the tube was covered with a non-see through piece of tube which made it harder to judge when the ball would leave the tube. Each contestant was given 4 lives and we saw how many non-see through sections could be added to the tube before each contestant uses up his life.

Whilst the challenges were fun to do, we also learnt a lot about performing under pressure. We saw individuals react very differently to the challenges and audience and saw how pressure can directly impact performance.