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Improve your performance

The Pressure Principle: How to handle stress and harness energy, by Dr Dave Alred

Reviewed by John Joe McGinley

It is not often you come across a book that could improve your golf swing and your business performance but The Pressure Principle from renowned elite performance coach Dr Dave Alred MBE certainly fits the bill. 

With a successful track record of working with such stars as Jonny Wilkinson, golfer Padraig Harrington, the British Lions and a quartet of English Premier League football sides, it is no surprise that Dr Alred’s the latest book leans heavily on this sporting experience. But it would be wrong to say that this book is only for the sporty among us, as it looks at how any of us can handle pressure more effectively. 

Dr Alred has taken his many years of working with the sporting elite as a high-performance coach and devised what he calls the concept of the “pressure principle”. He describes eight elements of pressure which, if handled better, can allow you to deal with the stress of pressure and perform at your best. 

Each of these areas – he calls them “the stands of pressure” – make up the chapters in the book:

• How to master anxiety

• The power of language 

• Managing learning 

• The need for a balanced mind

• Effective behaviour

• Managing expectations under pressure

• Dealing with sensory shutdown when under pressure

• Thinking correctly under pressure

Each chapter links in to the next, as a journey of understanding, dealing and adapting to pressure is undertaken. My only minor criticism would be that the book is text-heavy and could have done with more impactful and varied visual elements.

You do not have to be a sports fan to enjoy this book, but it does help as each element unfolds with an allegory or two from the author’s experience of working with sportsmen and women. However, the anecdotes do enhance the reader’s enjoyment and as the chapters unfold we can see how relevant they actually are. 

My personal favourite story comes at the end, with probably my strongest takeaway from the book: the concept of “T-cup”; no not curing your putting yips, but “thinking correctly under pressure”.  

During the 1999 Australian tour Jonny Wilkinson’s kicking was erratic.

Dr Alred spotted an elderly couple watching practice. The husband was engrossed in the action but his wife, nicknamed Doris in the book, was reading her magazine, oblivious to it all. Wilkinson was challenged to not only put the ball over the posts, but to knock the magazine away from her. This he duly did after only two attempts. When under pressure from then on, Wilkinson would “T-cup” and aim for a Doris!

If you ever feel under pressure in life and business, I would urge you to read this book; every chapter has something to reflect on and take away, which is all you can ask for in a self-improvement book.