Whether it’s sight-reading under pressure, nailing that big shift in an audition, or making an impossible shot to get all your classmates an A in organic chemistry, we all know from experience that performing up to our full abilities is infinitely more challenging when it feels like there’s something at stake.

But we’ve also learned from recent research (like here and here), that we don’t have to accept this. That being clutch under pressure is a skill we can get better at – by practicing under pressure.

Of course, that’s easier said than done, because it’s not like we have a “pressure” button we can push to instantly make our hands go cold and turn our brain into mush.

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So what are we to do? What are the most effective ways of manufacturing pressure training situations in advance of a big performance or audition?

Elite coaches

team of researchers interviewed 11 Olympic/International-level coaches, representing a range of sports1, to find out how they integrated “pressure training” into their athletes’ preparation for competition.

There were differences among the coaches, but nevertheless, a few themes emerged. Specifically, two main strategies, each with three key elements.

Strategy #1: Demands of training

The coaches noted that competitions are usually more demanding – both mentally and physically – than anything an athlete would normally encounter in training, so one way of increasing pressure is to manipulate the difficulty of a training session.

They reported doing this in three ways: