Stress is not always negative. In fact, most champion athletes channel their stress and "nervous energy" into gold medal performances. Too little stress causes athletes not to be motivated. On the other hand, too much stress inhibits performance. Some coaches make the mistake of assuming a high level of stress = high performance levels. They believe stress will psych up their players, when this is rarely the case. The secret to success here is to know how much stress is necessary for each team member to perform at an optimal level.
Knowing when to push hard and when to back off is the key to controlling your athletes' stress levels.
Example: In a volleyball game, the score in the 5th set is 14-13 and your team is about to serve. The other team calls time out. You tell your server, "Whatever you do, don't serve the ball out." The players are already under extreme pressure. This will only add unnecessary stress. Instead say, "Let's serve the ball in and wait for them to make the mistake."
- Assess the athletes' stress levels prior to making comments. If they show visible signs of being upset, pressure statements will only push them "over the edge" with a negative stress reaction likely to follow.
- If an athlete is under stress, don't tell him "relax", "calm down", or "don't let it bother you." This will likely serve to increase stress because most athletes don't know how to control their own stress levels.