Can Nervousness Lead to Choking?
Are you an athlete who get overly nervous? Some athletes believe they cannot be successful when they feel nervous, but this might not be the case.
Nervous athletes feel like “this is who I am” and believe there is nothing they can do to control their nervousness.
So they enter competitions feeling excessively nervous, perform excessively tight and under perform. They then use that experience to support their belief that they will never be successful.
Many times we see elite athletes as super-human, immune from nervousness.
We think these elite athletes rise to the occasion, sink the winning shot, win the gold or perform flawlessly every time they enter the competitive arena.
This misconception traps many younger athletes who want to emulate their athletic super-heroes. These athletes tend to set the bar way too high thinking, “I need to be relaxed and in control in order to perform at a high level.”
Unfortunately, performing nerve-free doesn’t exist. Even the greatest athlete in the history of sport faced nerves. Being nervous doesn’t mean you are not mentally tough, it means you are human.
The key isn’t being nerve-free or comfortable all the time, but instead be able to perform when you feel uncomfortable.
For example, PGA golfer Rory McIlroy, at the age of 30, already has Hall of Fame credentials being a 15-time major winner. Yet, McIlroy admitted in a press interview that he experiences some degree of nervousness prior to every tournament.
McILROY: “I’m pretty truthful with you guys. Look, I was nervous on the first tee but not nervous because of [the expectation of hometown crowd]. Nervous because it’s an Open Championship. I usually get nervous on the first tee anyway, regardless of where it is.”
McIlroy went on further to identify the reason he gets nervous and a strategy to help him deal with his nervousness.
McILROY: “I think I was making [the Open] a little bit bigger in my head than it needed to be.”
One way athletes feel nervous is when they focus too much on the importance of a competition. When you make the event bigger than it is, it amplifies the pressure.
The strategy McIlroy uses is to treat each competition as “just another competition” no matter who you play, where you play or when you play. The second part of his strategy is to recognize that you have done it before and you can do it again.
McILROY: “I’m just treating this like any other Open Championship. I’ve played well here for the last few years. I’ve played well on this golf course. So I’ve just got to go out and hit the shots and stay in the present.”
This is easier said then done in the middle of the competition, but the lesson is that you can learn to cope with nervousness.
Adding this mental skill in your bag will make you a stronger and more successful athlete.
Read more about why athletes choke here.
Nervousness: Use it or Lose it
Rate the importance of your upcoming competition from 1 to 10.
If you rate the competition at the high end of the scale, find similarities to other competitions in the past that you haven’t rated so high.
Think of reasons you can perform at a high level in this upcoming competition.
Avoid thinking about the outcome and what they outcome might mean to you. A lot of fear is about how you think others will respond to your win or lose.
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What are our mental coaching students saying?
“I have spent hundreds to dollars on clubs, putters, etc. always looking for answers. But I knew this was not going to work because I have some internal issues I had to deal with on the golf course. Working with Dr. Cohn on mental game by far is the best investment I have made. I have some great tools to work on to see my mental game improve. I feel better now than I have ever have on the golf course and I thank you so much for helping me with the positive mental direction.”
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