"Choking In Competition"

greenspun.com : LUSENET : APA Division 47 Exercise and Sport Psychology : One Thread

I am a competitive equestrian -- in training I excel at jumping horses. I am told I have a lot of talent. Several people at the barn ask me to ride their horses and help them through problems. However, when the competition season begins I start to "choke." I try visualization and have read several books on sports psychology. I don't think it is a confidence issue - I just seem to fail to perform the way i do everyday when I am not competing. It has become very frustrating -- thanks for any advice!

-- Thomas Brennan (tommyb907@aol.com), May 11, 2000


Thomas, It is difficult to give you advice with so little information. There are a couple of common reasons why people "choke" or perform below expectations. One is related to your own expectations of how you will perform - if you are aware that you often perform below your best you may focus on this fact in competition - your thoughts become negative - "I must not mess up" rather than "I will jump well". Try to listen to your own self talk before competition, if it is a bit negative - bring it back to a focus on performing your skills perfectly. The second common problem that leads to "choking" is being outcome focused. By this I mean thinking about the results of your performance rather than the actual performance itself. So if in competition you are thinking about the score you will get or the place you will finish you may lose your focus. Try and always keep a task focus, thinking about how you will approach the fence and what you need to do to get the horse in position.

One final problem is thinking too much. Athletes often overthink in sport. You train for hours to make the skills routine and automatic, it is very important that you relax and let the skills happen by themselves - if you try and make it happen often you will interfere with the well learned skill.

If this is a persistent problem - consult a local sports psych!

cheers adam hall

-- Adam Hall (a.hall2@pgrad.unimelb.edu.au), May 30, 2000.

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