“To me what separates really good players from great players – executive well under pressure.  The biggest game.  The biggest stage.  That’s what playing quarterback is all about.”T0m Brady

This weekend is Rivalry Weekend in college football.  This weekend will establish legacies and create memories that last generations.  Eight of the top ten teams will be playing on the road.  #2 Miami has already lost to Pitt.  Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema was ridiculously fired after losing to Missouri while walking off the field.  Nebraska fired Mike Riley after a blowout loss to Iowa.  At least they waited 24 hours.  Regardless, the stakes in rivalry games are high and the environments are pressure-packed.

Whether you lead a church, non-profit, business, or athletic organization, you can learn much from this weekend about dealing with pressure.

The following are 17 Things The Best Leaders Know About Performing Under Pressure.  The majority of these quotes came from ESPN’s NFL Matchup and College Gameday programs.

  1. To Successfully Perform Under Pressure Know What Is At Stake– In an ESPN interview Alabama head coach Nick Saban said, “Everybody knows what’s at stake.”  CBS’s Rick Neuheisel added, “These are 365 day games.  You’re going to wear this for the rest of the year.”
  2. To Successfully Perform Under Pressure Focus On Execution – Saban added, “The biggest challenge in a game like this is to get the players to focus on execution.”
  3. To Successfully Perform Under Pressure Keep It Simple – Former Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush said in the November 23rd The Herd With Colin Cowherd podcast, “When you get in big games, you have to keep it simple.”  Louis Riddick added on the ESPN NFL Matchup show referring to the Chicago Bears sacking quarterbacks, “They do it with a simplistic type of approach… They only blitz occasionally but when they do they are efficient with it.”
  4. To Successfully Perform Under Pressure You Need Alignment, Assignment, And Execution – Riddick said regarding the New England Patriots improved pass defense, “It’s because of Alignment, Assignment and Execution (technique, fundamentals) on the back end.”
  5. To Successfully Perform Under Pressure Get Others In Position To Be Successful First – Matchup analyst Greg Cosell said, “It’s so critical for quarterbacks on 3rd down (to) wining before the ball is snapped… Recognize and react before the ball is snapped.  You win before the ball is snapped.  You get your team in the right position.”
  6. To Successfully Perform Under Pressure Focus On Design (Systems and Structure) And Identification (Identify Opportunities) – Riddick said of New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees,He has the #1 completion percentage and 3rd best quarterback rating in the Red Zone.  Why? #1. Because of route design by (head coach) Sean Payton… It’s about identifying the open receiver quickly because you don’t have much time.”
  7. To Successfully Perform Under Pressure Stay Poised – Talking about Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Hundley, Riddick noted, “That’s something he’s struggled with at UCLA, blitz recognition and staying poised in the pocket.”
  8. To Successfully Perform Under Pressure Play To Win – ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit said, “In a rivalry game where you have everything to lose, play to win and play with an edge or you’re going to get upset.”  He also added that Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield “needs to keep that edge.”
  9. To Successfully Perform Under Pressure Limit Mistakes – South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp said, “The two things we always talk about with our team in every game are turnovers and explosive plays.”  Ohio State wide receiver Terry McLaurin added, The margin for error is very minimal.”
  10. To Successfully Perform Under Pressure Stay In The Moment – Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said, “Every week is playoff football.  So you better not be looking ahead to anything else.  This is the biggest game of the year.”
  11. To Successfully Perform Under Pressure You Need To Be At Your Best – Desmond Howard said, “When you see that (rivalry) opponent it brings out the best in you.”
  12. To Successfully Perform Under Pressure You Must Be Willing To Change – Fox Sports Joe Klatt made this observation about Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer, “In big environments in big games he has relied on his quarterback to run the football.”  Klatt feels Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett must pass more.
  13. To Successfully Perform Under Pressure Results Matter – Heading into today’s game, Michigan is 1-6 against Top 10 teams under Jim Harbaugh.
  14. To Successfully Perform Under Pressure Give Relentless Effort – Howard said, “The most important thing – relentless effort for four quarters.”
  15. To Successfully Perform Under Pressure It Is The Small Things – Howard said, “When you play an Alabama defense, it’s the small things.”
  16. To Successfully Perform Under Pressure Your Best Players Need To Step Up – Herbstreit said, “In big games your best players have to step up.”
  17. Performing Under Pressure Tells You A Lot About Yourself – Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said, “We will find out a lot about our team today.”
  18. Performing Under Pressure Means You Have Earned The Right To Do Something That Matters – Coach Saban said just before the start of the game, “I’m proud of this team for giving themselves an opportunity but we’ve got to be able to finish.”
  19. To Successfully Perform Under Pressure You Must Channel Your Emotions – Coach Saban added, “You’ve got to channel your emotions in the right direction.”

What is one thing you learned from the lessons above which will help you deal with pressure better?


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