Don’t choke! Why we buckle under pressure

Thats right don’t chock. Heres an article that prompted my think below.

Don’t choke! Why we buckle under pressure

Not sure if the connection to sport can be made as easily as they have, but I agree different situations require different skills and different ways to perform need different approaches in terms attention and focus. What I would like to see happen is a better understanding of our capacity to focus under various situations.
From the article…

They compared “monitoring pressure” — being watched by others, whether it’s a teacher, audience, or video camera — to “outcome pressure” — seeking a high test score, prize money, scholarship, or title — to lower-key situations.

“Pressure hurts performance if it leads you to pay attention in a way that is bad for the particular task you’re doing,” says Marci DeCaro

From what I can see this is a great example of some of the great research out there that can assist athletes and people in business, the arts and science. However we need to be careful when connection and links are made that are less clear from the research. This article still shows how quickly assumptions can be made about the sport based on a study or studies that were done on computers and with college students.

Years ago I was coached to focus on the process rather than the outcome. This had obvious benefits and one was the ideas of reducing stress or anxiety. It was from James Tomkins and the other two coaches involved in my last year at school. Paul McGann and Lawrie Malcom were great with James in reinforcing this message. Process equals outcome. Focus on the process and the outcome will take care of itself. Year later with the Oarsome Foursome this was the same message within the crew.

My thinking is that I would add a range of areas or definitions relating to pressure. Perceived pressure in the areas like, monitoring, outcome, skill, relationship, time, money, stakes, cost, parental, expectations etc… It appears important that we see the elements of inner and outer pressures. AND what of practice people?

That’s it the other thing with all of the above is the forgotten need to practice under these situations. Surely this helps us perform better and with out know more from the research I would suspect they have over looked why as athletes we train and prepare for years to ensure we don’t fall foul of these pressure. So if you don’t want to chock simply spending many hours refining and learning in the situations will help you thrive in a pressure cooker situation.

Back to how I was coached, it was a great message and they guys used it greatly in our preparation for the 1996 games race. Since I have learned that process does equal outcome but I find these days less in a performance situation gets me stressed. I enjoy thinking about how I row even while I am racing. I enjoy considering the outcome and get excited but what is possible and what it will take. So all the above is situational and experiential which changes with the accumulation of moments over time. What does this all mean? I like to think with an activity like rowing I am better prepared and capable of performing in more situations and this has come from doing it more but doing it with attention and focus towards learning.

Learn how to thrive under pressure rather than worry about not chocking I say.

One thought on “Don’t choke! Why we buckle under pressure

  1. Thre is a very good (and readable) book on this that I read 30 years ago called "The Inner Game of Tennis" by Tim Gallwey. It talks about the voices that we use (mostly inside our heads) and how quietening those voices is an essential part of skills based games. He went on to write similar books on golf and skiiing – which I think were cashing in on a good idea by trying to broaden the underlying market. We worth trying to find a copy.

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