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Do Professional Athletes Know How to Stop Choking?

Posted Jul 25 2010 6:48am

In professional sports, there is tremendous pressure to achieve.  Athletes want to be "Mr. Clutch"!  Athletes went to lead their team to victory.  Athletes want to continually elevate their performances to higher levels.  Athletes want to win, when victory or defeat is determined by what they do!

What is choking?  Choking is the failure to cope successfully with the pressures associated with professional sports, because of anxiety and panic.  Failure to "always" cope effectively with pressure in sports should be expected.  All professional athletes sometimes in their career will fail to achieve at the critical moment.  The critical moment is when what they do will determine the joy of victory or the agony of defeat.  Failure to successfully achieve is not choking.

Professional athletes need to set realistic expectations for themselves.  If a person wants to be a professional athlete, then they need to expect and accept that they sometimes will fail.  After all isn't winning and losing the nature of the game.  Isn't playing well and playing poorly to be expected?

Choking is when professional performance deteriorates, because of anxiety, fear and panic.  Choking is associated with prolonged failure to achieve at a level commensurate with one's ability, because of anxiety, fear and panic.  When focused attempts to achieve result in continuing poor performance or deteriorating performance, choking is present.  Anxiety, fear and panic can completely destroy confidence and prevent successful achievement.  When this occurs, professional athletes are in a state of choking.

There is a lot that can be done to control and manage choking.  Some athletes seek psychiatric treatment and counseling for their anxiety. I recommend mental fitness training for successfully coping with choking.  Mental fitness training is just as important as physical training for successful performance and managing of the pressures associated with professional sports.

Often times, professional athletes are given wonderful advice such as in Patrick Cohn's article, How to Avoid Choking in Baseball.   Although professional advice may be correct and valid, it is only effective when an athlete's default mindset for coping with choking is changed.  The mind's default position for coping with choking can only be changed through hard work or mental fitness or mental toughness training.

Athletes need to know: 

  • Advice from their friends, fellow players and coaches usually is ineffective in reducing anxiety induced choking and sometimes can increase choking!
  • Attempts to consciously stop choking can actually increase choking!
  • It is important to change one's mindset in order to effectively manage choking!
  • Mental fitness and mental toughness are the result of one's thinking and not automatically associated with professional skills.
  • Mental fitness and mental toughness training can make an athlete stronger than the anxiety associated with choking!

If you or someone you know is struggling with anxiety associated with their performance, suggest to them that they get mental fitness training or contact me for further information.

Remember, We Live with the Performances Created by Our Choices!

Dr. Hal

Life and Mental Fitness Coach

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