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performing under pressure v's choking under pressure

performing under pressure v's choking under pressure

Results of my research on optimal performance and subjective experiences of choking in International competing bodyboarders and surfers including a world champion (with some supporting academic research) 

Optimal Performance

 1. Fun and letting go

 Athletes reported having better and their best performances when they just had fun and let go, it may have been post-competition or in a competition.

 2. Breathing 

Breathing was reported as the most accessible and utilized tool in critical situations and in particular in outstanding performance. 

3. Positive thinking/ Imagery

Athletes reported using positive self-talk or visualization or a combination of both to help their performance 

4. Desire to succeed 

Athletes who had the most consistent and outstanding performances reported a strong motivation/ desire to win.

5. Social support

When athletes felt the social support of at least one person (coach, team members, parent, friend, partner) this was crucial to performance and progression 

6. Adverse circumstances 

 Adverse/challenging personal circumstances were sometimes a stronger motivator to perform optimally and created a strong desire to perform.  

7. Deliberate Practise

 Increased hours spent engaging in practice lead to increased confidence and feeling of preparedness 

Subjective experiences of choking

1. Adverse circumstances

As well as being a motivator for optimal performance adverse circumstances can also be an inhibitor and lead to choking and underperforming under pressure

2. Lack of perceived support 

Athletes who felt unsupported by resources, organizations, other athletes, coaches, and indeed equipment reported more underperformance 

3. Perceived uncontrollable circumstances (internally or externally)

Those who had difficulty regulating emotions (perceived uncontrollable) under pressure and perceived outside circumstances as uncontrollable were more likely to choke under pressure 

4. Communication issues  

Communication issues with coaches or others, lack of clarity, and lack of perceived support lead to dysregulation in emotions and underperformance.

5. Lack of experience 

Consistently athletes reported more choking instances and underperformance with lack of experience and earlier stages of competition. 


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