The Most Effective Coping Technique for Competition Performance

Nervous athlete

A Review by Alyssa Bialowas

An athletes’ ability to handle their nerves and perform under pressure leads to successful performance outcomes in competition. Athletes who exhibit vital self-regulatory processes while competing enable an athlete to regulate physiological and psychological states to help guide sport behaviors and decision-making that lead to goal achievement. Without effective coping skills during training or competition, athletes tend to feel affected by pressure and often underperform.

Literature surrounding positive sport psychology has become very numerous and crowded, which can result in reading misleading and unhelpful techniques and practices set out by practitioners and coaches. This study set out to examine the influence of coping interventions on performance under pressure, and critique existing literature leading to best practice future intervention research. 

Related Article: Competitive Anxiety & Its Effect On Heart Rate In Swimmers

The Study

A systematic review was used to review findings from studies that focus on coping interventions used under performance pressure. Following the preferred reporting items for systemic reviews and meta-analyses (PRISMA) guidelines, five databases were searched for results. 23 peer review papers met the inclusion criteria. Papers were included that assessed quality, performed well on research objectives, research design, and statistical procedures. The review identified intervention studies that used different techniques to improve the ability to perform under pressure.

The techniques were as follows:

  1. Education focus
  2. Consultancy sessions
  3. Simulation training
  4. Emotion regulation strategies 

The Results

Studies found that replicated competition, such as studies that simulate the feeling of being under pressure, produced the most consistent improvements to performance compared with a control group. However, researchers found that simulation studies and pressure interventions had limitations in their design, execution, and evaluation sections of their studies. Future research should highlight the approach used to generate meaningful performance pressures and assess the consequences of that pressure.


Cognitive behavioral approaches to address pressure were most often observed, and behaviors associated with this approach were relaxation and re-appraisal techniques such as positive self-talk. These techniques combat unhelpful aspects of physiological and psychological stress responses such as nausea and excessive tension.

Related Article: 4 Ways To Control Competition Anxiety

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Devonport, T., Friesen, A., Kent, S., Lane, A., & Nicholls, W. (2018). “The Effects of

Coping Interventions on Ability to Perform Under Pressure.” Journal of Sports

Science and Medicine, 17, 40-55.

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