Jack Stallings is Associate Professor, Department of Health and
Kinesiology, and (until his retirement in 1999) was also Head
Baseball Coach at Georgia Southern University (1975-1999) He
held the same positions previously at Wake Forest University
(1958-1968) & Florida State University (1969-1975)
Coach Stallings coached into his third decade at Georgia Southern
as the third-winningest active coach in Division I baseball.
Stallings' overall record was 1,229-767-5, with 829-552-5 in 21
seasons at GSU. He currently serves on the American Baseball Coaches
Association Board of Directors and is a member of the Hall of Fame.
The Ability to Play Well Under Pressure is One of the Most Desired
Qualities for any Athlete in any Sport, and a player who can perform
extremely well in practice but cannot duplicate that performance in a
game will not be successful and will, in fact, be a very frustrated
The first step in dealing with pressure is to recognize and accept
the fact that pressure is being created. To deal effectively with
pressure, we must acknowledge it exists and then learn how to handle
it properly and effectively.
Pressure is created not by the game situation but by how we look at
it and how we handle it.. it is not it or they making us tense, it
We create pressure by how we think or act, not by the situation we
are in at the moment.
The difference in playing a routine game in the middle of the season
or the final game in the College World Series is not the game itself,
because the game is always the same, but in the mental attitude of
The difference in playing a game in the backyard, home park, or in
Omaha at the College World Series is not in the playing field but
in the mind of the player...this is why a consistent approach to
every game is the key!
Every game should be important and should be approached by the coach
and every player on the team as if this game is the only one the team
has a chance to win because it is the only one it is playing!
To place any more importance on one game is to get out of the
consistent preparation and consistent performance so vitally
needed to be a consistent athlete who can perform properly under
Perhaps the most harmful three words in baseball are: "This is it!"
as in, This is it, fellows. ..it is do or die for us, it is now or
never, we have got to win this game or there is no tomorrow!"
For a coach or a team to put more emphasis on any one game is to
put added pressure on the players and this usually hurts rather
than helps performance.
The objective under pressure should not be to play super because
that is an unreasonable goal; the objective of an athlete should
be to play normally under pressure.
A former coach used to say, "When the game is on the line, all I
want is for each player to just do his job." If each player will
do his job normally in a pressure situation, the team will perform
well and will be successful a good percentage ot the time. Coming
through under pressure is a percentage action. If a hitter is
averaging .333 and gets a hit one time in three clutch situations,
he is performing well in the clutch...normal performance under
pressure is the goal, not super performance.
All too often an athlete gets the reputation as a "great clutch
player" because of one or two performances that got a lot of media
attention, but the truth of the matter is most of the time a "great
clutch performer" is one who performs normally under pressure.
Normal performance is possible in pressure situations because of
proper concentration; in a pressure situation, the athlete must
train himself to concentrate on the task at hand rather than allow
his concentration to center on the situation.. .the time left in
the game, the score, the people in the stands, or "what will happen
if I fail?"
An athlete who cannot control his emotions in a pressure situation
is the one who cannot control his concentration!
An athlete who is busy concentrating properly on the task at hand
will be so busy concentrating on doing his job that he does not
think of the situation!
By proper concentration, you control the situation rather than the
situation controlling you, so the player should focus on performance,
not outcome! CONCENTRATION IS THE PROPER SOLUTION.
Gimmicks used in pressure situations, in order not to be nervous,
realistically do not get to the root of the problem; like a coat of
paint over rust, it may cover up the problem for a while, but it
does not solve it.
However, gimmicks can be useful to help an athlete relax and "free
the mind" from the pressure of the moment.
A former great relief pitcher used to back off the mound for a
moment and think of fishing in a lake high in the mountains of
Colorado.. .the peace and tranquility of the area would help his
mind and body relax, and he could hear the buzz of insects and
the soft calling of a bird overhead... he would take a few deep
breaths to further relax, and go back up on the mound ready to
POISE IS A SKILL AND CAN BE LEARNED, just like any other athletic
skill can be learned. Coaches can teach athletes how to play well
in pressure situations, and athletes can practice it just like
they practice throwing a curve ball or tagging a base.
Proper performance under pressure is a HABIT and can be learned
by being put into pressure situations and habitually concentrating
on the proper task... it takes practice and effort, but it can be
Discipline and poise in practice become discipline and poise in the
final moments of a game!!
Coach Stallings Web Page