Pressure: Expanding How We View Psychological Pressure in Sport

Date of Award


Document Type

Undergraduate Capstone Project

Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Graduate School of Professional Psychology

First Advisor

Steve Portenga

Second Advisor

Julia Cawthra


Psychological pressure, Athletes, Performance, Identity, Control, Expectations, Coping, Perception, Experience


Objective: The purpose of this study was to obtain a more complete understanding of how psychological pressure is experienced by collegiate and professional athletes. Design: The present study employs a qualitative research design. A phenomenological approach was taken in order to gain insight to the perceptual experience of psychological pressure. Method: Participants (N = 5) were asked to describe their objective and subjective experience of psychological pressure. All responses were accumulated through individual interviews, recorded, and transcribed by each author individually. The data were analyzed through discussion and justifications until saturation was achieved. The authors identified five themes that constitute the experience of psychological pressure by elite athletes. Results: The five themes that were identified are: perception of control, effects of pressure, threats to identity, expectations create pressure, and coping with pressure. The theme “perception of control” was justified by comments that magnified the participant level of control when under psychological pressure. The theme “effects of pressure” was justified by experiences concerning somatic and cognitive experiences. The theme “threats to identity” was summoned by comments concerning the participants’ self-validation pre and post athletic events. The theme “expectations create pressure” was justified with various comments concerning a participant's perception of internal and external standards. The theme “coping with pressure” is more closely related to the protocols of how to handle pressure and less with the phenomenon of the experience of psychological pressure. Conclusions: Researchers conclude that psychological pressure is a much broader concept than currently considered in the field of sport psychology. For future research, different procedures of measuring psychological pressure may be developed.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. Permanently suppressed.


23 pages

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