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Categories > Coaches > How to Coach

Performing under pressure

Psychologist John Neal gets technical in explaining brain function and the biology of performing under pressure.

Video Transcription

When I first qualified, I worked as an exercise physiologist and as a scientist life was fairly easy. There was cause and effect. I then requalified as a sports psychologist and as a little bit disturbed because a lot of the work was less accurate. It was a lot about thinking so about eight years ago. I started studying more of Neuroscience and what Neuroscience has brought to psychology is accuracy. So I thought it'd be very helpful for you as coaches to think about how your brain works. Think back to caveman days and what we were required to do hunt and fight and as a result of that we developed a part of the brain called The Reptilian Brain which sits at the top of the spinal column this part of the brain works very very quickly. It increases our ventilation rate. It makes us close down our peripheral vision and hearing it what it does really is enables us to fight and stay alive as we evolve the brain got a little bit bigger and we developed a limbic system or an emotional cortex and that emotional cortex. It's between the reptile brain and the upper cortex. That's the big thinking part of our brain which enables us to do something very special decision making now this upper cortex is the part of our brain that enables us to make choices between what we have learnt and what we predict in the future and sometimes you may even see coaches going from left to right as their cognitive brain slowly tries. Work out. What's the best course of action in the planning stage in the thinking stage off the field we tend to use a lot of our APA cortex, but what we've discovered through Neuroscience is that when we perceive ourselves to be under a degree of pressure the blood goes away from the upper cortex and into the fast-moving Reptilian Brain the fast-moving Reptilian Brain is critical to our survival as a species. It's less important though when we try to think correctly under pressure. We often call it mind blindness and you may find sometimes as a coach when you come off the field you think why didn't I do it? Why couldn't I remember the strategy? Why didn't I give the right message and it's a physiological response to pressure that causes a shutdown in our upper cortex and a transference of blood to the fast moving parts of our brain one of the key things as a coach you need to start thinking about is how do I think correctly under pressure and some of that will be down to the way in which you manage your own physiology? It's really important that you grasp this concept because when you perceive yourself to be under pressure, you will get upper cognitive shutdown. And what we need to do is get the upper cognitive part of your brain working because that's where all the planning Stone that's all the strategies John and most importantly that's where you make the best decisions.