Choke (sports)

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In sports, a "choke" is the failure of an athlete or an athletic team to win a game or tournament when the player or team had been strongly favored to win or had squandered a large lead in the late stages of the event. Someone who chokes may be known as a "choker" or, more derisively, as a "choke artist." Choking in sport can be considered a form of analysis paralysis.

Choking[edit]

Choking under pressure decreases the standard level of athletic performance, of an athlete when they may be at their peak performance.[1] Symptoms of choking may include, tightening up of the muscles, an increase level of anxiety and a decrease in self-confidence. Choking can leave an athlete feeling embarrassed or frustrated.

Causes[edit]

Choking is caused when an athlete becomes distracted, their thoughts become negative or unproductive and when they worry about things they cannot control. Anxiety is built up from negative self-talk and doubt which leads to choking.[2]

Explicit Monitoring Theory[edit]

The explicit monitoring theory provides an explanation for athlete’s under-performance at the precise moment they need to be at their best. Sian Beilock and Tom Carr suggest that “pressure raises self-consciousness and anxiety about performing correctly, which increases the attention paid to skill processes and their step-by-step control. Attention to execution at this step-by-step level is thought to disrupt well-learned or proceduralized performances.”[3]

Distraction Theory[edit]

Distraction theory was first suggested by Wine [4] to explain under-performance in performance pressure situations. Distraction theorists argue that pressure creates a dual task situation which draws attention away from the task at hand. Attention is then focused towards irrelevant stimuli such as worries, social expectations, and anxiety [5] Wine first tested his hypothesis with academic tests but it has since been applied to athletics.

Research has found that distraction theory is supported in situations where working memory is used to analyze and make decisions quickly.[6] Short term memory is used to maintain relevant stimuli and block irrelevant information as it relates to the task at hand.[7]

Self-Focus Theory[edit]

Predicts, a decrease in performance is due to attention being shifted to movement execution. Any combination of factors that increase the importance of performing is considered performance pressure. Baumeister’s self-focus theory suggests responding to performance pressure can lead to an increase in self-consciousness which then results in choking.[8] There is more focus on the motor components of performance, consciously controlling movements with step-by-step control.[9]

Processing Efficiency Theory (PET)[edit]

Anxiety causes a shift in an athlete’s attention towards thought of performance consequences and failure.[10] An increase in worry decreases attention resources. According to PET athletes put extra effort into their performance when under pressure, to eliminate negative performance. Eysenck and Calvo found processing efficiency is effected by negative anxiety more than performance effectiveness. Efficiency being the relationship between the quality of task performance and the effort spent in task performance.[11]

Attentional Control Theory (ACT)[edit]

Eysenck and Calvo developed ACT an extension to PET, hypothesizing an individual shifts attention to irrelevant stimuli. Stress and pressure cause an increase in the stimulus-driven system and a decrease in the goal-directed system. Disruption of balance between these two systems causes the individual to respond to salient stimuli rather than focusing on current goals.[12] ACT identifies the basic central executive functions inhibition and shifting, which are affected by anxiety. Inhibition is the ability to minimize distractions caused from irrelevant stimuli.[13] Shifting requires adapting to changes in attentional control. Shifting back and forth between mental sets due to task demands.[14]

Attentional Threshold Model[edit]

According to the attentional threshold model, a performance decrement is caused by exceeded threshold of attentional capacity. This model combines both the self-focus models and the distraction models. The combination of worry and self-focus together causes a decrease in performance. Attentional Threshold Model suggests that choking is a complex process involving cognitive, emotional and attentional factors.[15]

Contributing Factors[edit]

Factors of choking may include, individual responsibility, expectations, poor preparation, self-confidence, physical/mental errors, important games/moments and opponent’s actions.

Fear of Negative Evaluation[edit]

FNE is a psychological characteristic that increases anxiety under high pressure. Creates apprehension about others evaluations or expectations of oneself.[16] FNE is similar to motive to avoid failure (MaF). The need to avoid negative evaluation from others, avoid mistakes and avoid negative comparison to other players.[17]

Presence of an audience[edit]

The presence of parents, coaches, media or scouts can increase pressure leading to choking. An athlete wants to perform their best while being observed and trying not to make any mistakes increases the amount of pressure they are under.[18]

Self-Confidence[edit]

Being over-confident can cause negativity to take over quickly. Not expecting something negative to happen can cause a choke. Having low self-confidence leads to more mistakes, because you do not think you can do anything.[19]

A study done by Wang, Marchant, Morris and Gibbs (2004) found poor performance associated with high self-conscious individuals. An individual with high self-consciousness focuses their attention to thoughts relating to the task (ie, “did I step right?”) and to outside concerns (ie, “will people laugh if I mess up?”). Individuals with low self-consciousness can direct their attention outward or inward because self-concerns do not dominate their thinking.[20]

How to prevent choking[edit]

Having control over the situation and control over the anxiety will prevent choking. Keeping a calm mind and being in the right frame of mind before, during and after performance is key.[21]

Several processes to help control emotion and focus: [22]

  • Stay present - think about what needs to happen at that very moment. Not about what has happened or what might happen.
  • Control breathing and energy - provides a sense of control. Slowing down breathing and reducing muscle tension will allow the athlete to regain control of performance.
  • Let go of negative thoughts - move on without reacting to the negative thoughts.

Cognitive Strategies:

The use of imagery to picture previous successes will maintain composure and generate specific emotions. Close your eyes and breath easy while using menal imagery to visualize yourself performing well. Self-talk is used to stimulate a more positive perception towards the anxiety and pressure. For example "I played well in the last quarter of the game". positive self-statements can also be used with relaxation training to prevent choking. The cognitive strategy self-analysis writing down your emotions and reactions in a game-by-game journal will help one become aware of the emotions present. Self-analysis will provide awareness on how to act towards stimuli.[23]

Pre Performance Routine (PPR)

Engaging in a sequence of task-relevant thoughts and actions prior to performance. PPR helps minimize attention to irrelevant info and redirects attention to task-relevant cues.[24] (ex: going to the batting cages before a game or completely the same stretch sequence before performance)

What to consider when establishing a routine:[25]

  • It will take time to establish itself
  • Have consistent behavior
  • Make sure it is task specific
  • Your routine is individual to you

Practicing under high levels of anxiety:

Training under high levels of anxiety provides acclimatization to anxiety. A study done by Oudejans and Pijpers (2010) found practicing under high levels of anxiety decreases processing efficiency as a result of inhibiting distractions from irrelevant information. During practice more efficient coping strategies used to deal with pressure are developed.[26]

Choking and Individual Zone of Optimal Functioning[edit]

According to IZOF introduced by Yuri L. Hanin, an individual’s best performance is when their anxiety level is in a certain zone of optimal state of anxiety or affect. Too much or too little anxiety can lead to performance decrement. Determining athletes’ optimal prestart state anxiety level leads to achieving and maintaining that level throughout the performance.[27]

Choking can occur if the athlete is outside their anxiety zone. IZOF helps identify an athletes anxiety zone creating a balance between arousal and somatic anxiety. Low arousal can lead to broad attention taking in irrelevant and relevant cues. High arousal can create low attention causing important cues being missed.[28]

For example a lacrosse goalie with low arousal may focus more on whether or not a college scout is watching them, rather than focusing on the opponent who is about to score on them. A lacrosse goalie with high arousal may focus more on the opponents stick position instead of the opponents body position, causing them to step in the wrong direction.

Examples of choking in sports[edit]

Golf[edit]

In 1996, Greg Norman led the US Masters by 6 strokes going into the final day only to shoot a final day 78 and lose by five strokes to Nick Faldo.[citation needed]

Ice Hockey[edit]

Four NHL teams have taken a 3–0 series lead in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, only to lose 4–3 in the best-of-seven series: the 1942 Detroit Red Wings, 1975 Pittsburgh Penguins, 2010 Boston Bruins, and 2014 San Jose Sharks.[citation needed]

The 2012–2013 season showed the Toronto Maple Leafs "choking" in game 7 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs to the Boston Bruins. The Leafs allowed the Boston Bruins to come back from a 3 goal deficit in the last few minutes of the game. Boston would go on to win in overtime.[citation needed]

On February 20, 2014, at the Winter Olympic games in Sochi, Russia, in the Women's Gold medal game between Team USA and Team Canada, the US was up 2–0 in the third period with only 3:30 minutes left in the game. The Canadian team rallied and scored, bringing the game to 2–1. The US had an opportunity to score into the empty net but hit the goal post instead. Then Canada tied the score in the third period with 55 seconds left and won the game in sudden death overtime.[29]

Cricket[edit]

The South African national Cricket team has gained a reputation as a frequent choker at global cricket tournaments conducted by the International Cricket Council. Despite being consistently one of the best-performing nations in all forms of cricket since its return from isolation, the Proteas have never progressed beyond the semi-final stage at a World Cup, nor won a game during the knock-out stage of the tournament.[30][not in citation given] This reputation arises largely from two events:

  • In the 1999 Super Six Stage, Herschelle Gibbs dropped eventual centurion Steve Waugh after which Australia went on to win the match,[31] then a shambolic run-out involving Allan Donald and Lance Klusener in the semi-final also against Australia ended South Africa's second innings with the scores tied. Australia progressed on the basis of its superior run rate through the tournament.
  • In the Proteas' final game of Cricket World Cup 2003's group stage (which was effectively a knock-out match, as they had to win to progress to the super six), South Africa tied the rain-affected game against Sri Lanka which they could have won, after they misinterpreted the Duckworth-Lewis rain rule tables shortly before the match was called off.

In addition to surrendering commanding positions in the above matches, South Africa suffered upset losses against the West Indies in 1996 and New Zealand in 2011.[32] South Africa's win in the 1998 ICC KnockOut Trophy remains their only international tournament victory to date.

The English national Cricket team, despite being consistently among the top half dozen ranked teams in international cricket, have only won one global tournament so far, the 2010 ICC World Twenty20, and are noted for having thrown away winning positions in several high-profile games, including:

  • In the 2004 ICC Champions Trophy final, England had put themselves into a dominant position by reducing the West Indies to 147/8 chasing a target of 218, but failed to prevent tail-enders Courtney Browne and Ian Bradshaw from putting together an unlikely partnership of 71 to win.
  • In the 2013 Champions Trophy final against India, England batted second and got into a position of needing just 20 runs off the last 16 balls, with six wickets in hand, but lost four wickets in the space of eight balls and lost the match by five runs.[33]

American football[edit]

Use of the term "choke" in this context is most frequently encountered in the United States, and appears to be of relatively recent origin, not becoming reasonably widespread until well into the 1960s.[citation needed]

In a Wild Card playoff matchup between the Buffalo Bills and the Houston Oilers On January 3, 1993, the Oilers blew a 32-point lead to lose in overtime, the largest in a playoff game in NFL history. This game is known to this day as The Comeback, or locally in Houston as The Choke.[34]

Baseball[edit]

Prior to 2014, the University of Mississippi (aka "Ole Miss Rebels") baseball team had gone 0–6 in NCAA Super Regional games, at home, after winning the first game in their three most-recent best-of-three series.[35] For example, during the 2012 NCAA baseball regionals, the Rebels were 2–0 and one win from advancing to the Super Regionals, but lost two straight games to TCU and failed to advance. In reference to the University of Mississippi baseball team's then 41-year absence from the College World Series, rival fanbases [36] coined OMAHA as an acronym for "Ole Miss At Home Again". However, after defeating The University of Louisiana at Lafayette in the 2014 Super Regional, Ole Miss finally advanced to the College World Series for the first time in 42 years, winning two games and advancing to the semi-finals.[37] Ironically, as Ole Miss returned to Omaha in 2014, the school's second-most important rival, the Mississippi State Bulldogs, failed to capitalize on a 2–0 start in the Lafayette Regional, choking away the opportunity to hold serve with the Rebels.[38][39][40]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Oudejans, Raoul R.D.; Kuijpers, Wilma; Kooijman, Chris C.; Bakker, Frank C. (January 2011). "Thoughts and attention of athletes under pressure: skill-focus or performance worries?". Anxiety, Stress & Coping 24 (1): 59–73. 
  2. ^ "Understanding Pressure: Stop the Choking". Winning Edge Sports Psychology. Winning Edge Psychological Services, LLC. 
  3. ^ Beilock, S. L., & Carr, T. H. (2001). On the fragility of skilled performance: What governs choking under pressure?. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 130(4), 701–725. doi:10.1037/0096-3445.130.4.701
  4. ^ Wine, J. (1971). Test anxiety and direction of attention. Psychological Bulletin, 76, 92–104.
  5. ^ Beilock, S. L., & Carr, T. H. (2001). On the fragility of skilled performance: What governs choking under pressure?. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 130(4), 701–725. doi:10.1037/0096-3445.130.4.701
  6. ^ Beilock, S. H. (2005). When High-Powered People Fail. Psychological Science (Wiley-Blackwell), 16(2), 101–105.
  7. ^ Miyake, A., & Shah, P. (1999). Models of working memory: Mechanisms of active maintenance and executive control. New York: University Press.
  8. ^ Baumeister, Roy. F (1984). "Choking under pressure: Self-consciousness and paradoxical effects of incentives on skillful performance". Personality and Social Psychology 46 (3): 610–620. 
  9. ^ Schucker, Linda; Hagemann, Norbert; Strauss, Bernd (2013). "Attentional Processess and Choking Under Pressure". Perceptual and Motor Skills 116: 671–689. 
  10. ^ Oudejans, Raoul R.D.; Kuijpers, Wilma; Kooijman, Chris C.; Bakker, Frank C. (January 2011). "Thoughts and attention of athletes under pressure: skill-focus or performance worries?". Anxiety, Stress & Coping 24 (1): 59–73. 
  11. ^ Eysenck, Michael; Derakshan, Nazanin; Rita, Santos; Calvo, Manuel (2007). "Anxiety and cognitive performance: attentional control theroy". Emotion 7 (2): 336–353. 
  12. ^ Cox, Richard (2012). Sport Psychology Concepts and Applications (Seventh ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill. pp. 142–143. ISBN 978-0-07-802247-0. 
  13. ^ Coombes, Stephen; Higgins, Torrie; Gamble, Kelly; Cauraugh, James; Janelle, Christopher (2009). "Attentional control theory: Anxiety, emotion and motor planning". Journal of Anxiety Disorders 23 (8): 1072–1079. 
  14. ^ Eysenck, Michael; Derakshan, Nazanin; Santos, Rita; Calvo, Manuel (2007). "Anxiety and cognitive performance: attentional control theory". Emotion 7 (2): 336–353. 
  15. ^ Cox, Richard (2012). Sport Psychology Concepts and Applications (Seventh ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill. p. 143. ISBN 978-0-07-802247-0. 
  16. ^ Mesagno, C; Harvey, J. T; Janelle, C. M (2012). "Choking under pressure: The role of fear of negative evaluation". Psychology of Sport and Exercise 12 (1): 60–68. 
  17. ^ Hill, Denise; Shaw, Gareth (2013). "A qualitative examination of choking under pressure in team sport". Psychology of Sport and Exercise 14: 103–110. 
  18. ^ Hill, Denise; Shaw, Gareth (2013). "A qualitative examination of choking under pressure in team sport". Psychology of Sport and Exercise 14: 103–110. 
  19. ^ Hill, Denise; Shaw, Gareth (2013). "A qualitative examination of choking under pressure in team sport". Psychology of Sport and Exercise 14: 103–110. 
  20. ^ Wang, J; Marchant, D; Moriris, T; Gibbs, P (2004). "Self-consciousness and trait anxiety as predictors of choking in sport". Science and Medicine in Sport 7 (2): 174–185. 
  21. ^ Hammond, Claudia. "Sports: Why we choke under pressure". BBC. 
  22. ^ "Understanding Pressure: Stop the Choking". Winning Edge Sports Psychology. Winning Edge Psychological Services, LLC. 
  23. ^ Jones, marc (2003). "Controlling Emotions in Sport". The Sport Psychologist 17: 471–486. 
  24. ^ Mesagno, Christopher; Mullane-Grant, Thomas (2010). "A Comparison of Different Pre-Performance Routines as Possible Choking Interventions". Applied Sport Psychology 23 (3): 343–360. 
  25. ^ Kelly, Adam. "How to develop an effective Pre Performance Routine". The Sport In Mind. 
  26. ^ Oudejans, Raoul; Pijpers, Rob (2010). "Training with mild anxiety may prevent choking under higher levels of anxiety". Psychology of Sport and Exercise 11 (1): 44–50. 
  27. ^ Robazza, Claudio; Pellizzari, Melinda; Hanin, Yuri (2004). "Emotion self-regulation and athletic performance: An application of the IZOF model". Psychology of Sport and Exercise 5: 379–404. 
  28. ^ "Effects of Psychological Factors". Fitness testing and training. Loughborough College. 
  29. ^ Kiszla, Mark (2014-02-20). "Kiszla: U.S. women's hockey loss a noble Olympic choke at Sochi". Denver Post. 
  30. ^ Sarkar, Pritha (25 March 2011). "Cricket – New Zealand beat South Africa to reach World Cup semis". Reuters. Retrieved 26 March 2011. 
  31. ^ Bull, Andy (2011-06-14). "'You've just dropped the World Cup' – Australia v South Africa 12 years on". The Guardian. Retrieved 2013-08-07. 
  32. ^ Bull, Andy (March 25, 2011). "Deja vu all over again as South Africa choke and exit the World Cup". Guardian.co.uk (London). Retrieved June 13, 2011. 
  33. ^ Alter, Jamie (23 June 2013). "India lift Champions Trophy after England choke in 20-over final". IBN. Retrieved 23 June 2013. 
  34. ^ Seminara, Dave (January 1, 2013). "The Greatest Rally, or the Biggest Fade?". The New York Times. Archived from the original on January 3.  Check date values in: |archivedate= (help)
  35. ^ 1 second ago. "NCAA Super Regional Game 3 Postgame Notes". OLE MISS Official Athletic Site. Retrieved 2013-08-07. 
  36. ^ http://www.secfanatics.com/vbulletin/showthread.php?t=46212
  37. ^ http://insideolemisssports.com/2014/06/21/final-virginia-4-ole-miss-1/
  38. ^ http://msn.foxsports.com/south/story/ole-miss-advances-but-denied-clash-with-mississippi-state-060314
  39. ^ "The Ole Miss Rebels: The Buffalo Bills of NCAA Baseball". Red Cup Rebellion. Retrieved 2013-08-07. 
  40. ^ "College Baseball: USM Going To Omaha; Ole Miss At Home Again | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS". Jackson Free Press. 2009-06-08. Retrieved 2013-08-07.