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SCL1003: Choking in Elite Sport Assessment

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Added on: 2023-03-03 08:32:21
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1. Define the problem

Choking is defined as an “acute and considerable decrease in skill execution and performance when self-expected standards are normally achievable, which is the result of increased anxiety and under perceived pressure” (Mesagno & Hill, 2013, p. 273). Choking does not simply describe sub-optimal sporting performance (Hill et al., 2010; Mesagno & Hill, 2013), it is a “significant, even unusual, performance decrement in response to the pressure of needing to perform well in situations with a high degree of perceived importance” (Vealey et al., 2014, p. 157).

2. Why is it important to address the problem?

Choking is considered a problem as the consequences are often negative (Hill et al., 2019). In the short-term, players may experience a “collapse in performance standards, limited attention/emotional control and negative affect” (Hill et al., 2019, p. 12). Choking is of particular concern as its effects can be long-term and extend beyond the incident itself; including a loss of self-confidence, withdrawal from the sport, lower well-being and in some cases, lower self-worth and a loss of identity in athletes (Hill et al., 2019). A “single incidence of failing under pressure can result in a dramatic decline in performance afterwards” (Vealey et al., 2014, p. 159). The psychological impact of choking is destructive and typically significant enough to affect the outcome of the competition or worse, end an entire career within the sport (Hill et al., 2019).

3. What are the main contributing factors causing the problem?

Factors that cause a shift in attention to irrelevant-cues which result in choking include:

  • Distraction (Gropel & Mesagno, 2019)
    Internal distraction (e.g. ‘Am I going to win?’) or external distraction (e.g. Loud crowds) which causes the athlete’s attention to shift to task-irrelevant cues as a result of increased anxiety.
  • Self-focus (Gröpel & Mesagno, 2019)
    The over-thinking through each component of a movement (Gröpel & Mesagno, 2019; Land & Tenenbaum, 2012) as opposed to naturally approaching the movement that “training has rendered basic” (Papineau, 2015, p. 307). This can be damaging to performance as it disrupts the “automaticity of well-learned skills” (Land & Tenenbaum, 2012, p. 304).
  • Presence of an audience (Hill et al., 2013)
    The presence of coaches, media, scouts or fans can increase pressure to perform well which can heighten anxiety and lead to choking.
  • Hussey et al. (2020) identifies that high trait anxiety and self-consciousness can make an athlete more susceptible to choking. Athletes with these characteristics are predisposed to becoming self-focused through fear of negative evaluation. This hinders their ability to regulate their attentional resources.

Nideffer (1992) proposes the below diagram to explain external and internal factors that lead to choking.

Figure 1. The process of choking from R.Nideffer 1992, Theory of Attentional and Personal Style versus Test of Attentional and Interpersonal Style, p.10.

4. What can be done to address the problem?

Given the set of influencing factors cited above, here are some key recommendations:

  • Practising under pressure encompasses practicing under mild anxiety conditions such as being videotaped or with a crowd (Oudejans & Pijpers, 2010). Simulating pressure situations helps the athlete to practice staying focused on the task of performing (Gröpel & Mesagno, 2019).
  • To avoid distraction, athletes may include the use of a personalised pre-performance routine including deep breathing, cue words or a countdown to performance (Gröpel & Mesagno, 2019). These techniques help to reduce the tendency to dwell on negative/irrelevant thoughts (Cotterill, 2011), improve concentration and increase relevant task-focused attention (Mesagno et al., 2008).
  • Hussey et al. (2020) supports the practice of mindfulness to reduce anxiety and self-consciousness. Improved mindfulness levels promote greater awareness and acceptance of pressure which can help decrease the negative effects of pressure and stressful performances.
  • Mesagno et al. (2009) contends that music during performance can help prevent choking as it decreases self-awareness, enables the athlete to reduce the explicit monitoring of execution and reduces general distractibility.

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  • Uploaded By : Katthy Wills
  • Posted on : March 03rd, 2023
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