Why Athletes Choke: Part I

Choking is without a doubt one of the biggest frustrations among athletes and one of the greatest mysteries among parents and coaches. Today we look to answer the question: Why do many athletes perform at a higher level in practice than in competition? Often when athletes compete they tend to tense up, their heart rate increases, and end up making more mistakes than usual. This downward spiral then continues with little to no improvement throughout the athlete's career. Parents and organizations invest 10's of thousands of dollars and hours into their training with top coaches who get them to play like superstars in training but not when it counts. This is where SPMI services come in, the solution to bridging the gap for talented players who lack a professionally skilled mentality to perform to their full potential under pressure.

The first component that we will analyze today is the performance/expectation line graph. This graph was created from over 100 case studies of different athletes in various sports (Tennis, Golf, Basketball, Baseball, Soccer, Volleyball, Racing, Martial arts, figure skating, hockey, track, and more) and their early to late stages of working with SPMI. What you will see is how athletes performances are completely dictated by their mindset and their direction of focus. In the graph you will notice that the blue line represents athletes performance levels.The higher the line, the better the athlete's performance and the lower the line the worse the athletes performance. The green line represents athletes’ expectations. The lower the line, the lower the expectations, and of course, the higher the line, the higher athletes expectations.

In the first bubble you'll see that it says More Control. When athletes focus on low expectations they feel a sense of more control. As a result, athletes feel calmer physically and perform at a higher level. "I want to have fun", "I want to enjoy my time on the court". These are 2 examples of low expectations that many SPMI athletes have stated after having great performances in their competitions the day before. Now, don't get this confused with goals. Athletes still are encouraged to have big goals and to dream. This helps improve motivation and drive when directed carefully. However, expectations are goals that athletes bring with them just before, during, and just after the game or competition. In these moments, it's critical to make sure that they are very controllable.

Examples of high expectations that are less controllable are: "I want to make sure that my coach sees me play well", "I need to have a great game today", "I want to stay in the lineup", "I have do well today so that I can start for my team." "My parents will buy me the latest iPhone if I do well." Although these expectations are achievable, they often require a lot more things to go their way and often pertain to areas that are outside of the athletes control, such as the coach's approval or their teammates or their opponent's level to their expectations. As you can see in the graph, expectations that focus on less control often result in the athlete feeling tense.

In the next article we will look at part II of the different case studies to see what other types of expectations effect athlete performance and enjoyment of the sport. In the meantime, if you would like to get started on bridging the performance gap or know someone who is serious about their sport contact SPMI today and start reaping the benefits. SPMI is a service that helps athletes reach their full potential in sports, school, and life.