Why Athletes Choke: Part II
The performance/expectation line graph was developed 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 third bubble that is revealed, you’ll see that it says Present. One characteristic of low expectations is that they often focus on the present. This present moment is critical to performance because expectations that are focused on the present moment give the athlete the most control of their performance. As a result, the athlete also feels more relaxed or less stressed in competition. The definition of anxiety supports this finding as anxiety is defined as a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. This reinforces the importance that athletes, parents, and coaches should center expectations on the present moment to give the athlete as much certainty as possible. Examples of present expectations from SPMI athletes are, "I want to always be moving my feet", "I want to focus on a smooth connection in my follow-through", "I want to visualize my target before every shot".
One of the most common mistakes of the athlete's support team is to encourage athletes that they can win while they are still competing, e.g. "You can win this if you just keep….". This positive praise by parents and coaches may seem like the right approach but in many cases encourages the athlete to shift their focus into the future where their is far less certainty often resulting in over thinking and nervousness.
When athletes focus on the past, not only do athletes have zero control of changing the mistake but it also may increase thoughts and feelings of worry. When the athlete becomes more worried their confidence takes a major blow, which ultimately effects their performance. Real examples of past thoughts which lead to poor performances are, "Why did you miss that?", "You just lost your chance", "You should've won that game". Parents and coaches often reinforce these same thoughts. One of the biggest mistakes that parents and coaches make is analyzing mistakes after their games or competitions. Remember, when mistakes are reinforced to the athlete it makes it very difficult for the athlete to let go of mistakes during competition, leading to their focus going back to the past.
In Part III, we will conclude the findings of why athletes choke. 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 premier mental toughness training company that helps athletes reach their full potential in sports and life.