Georgia Ridler, Sport Psychologist with SportPsychQLD discusses how athletes choking under stress is a culmination of thinking errors. When athletes can’t bounce back, it’s because their focus turns to what went wrong, what they did wrong and past mistakes and failures. When their memory and cognition get hijacked by stress responses, they lose focus on what they did and needed to do in order to get where they are.
This is one of the most common responses to stress: the brain gets hijacked by the more reactive, risk-awareness and stress prone parts of the brain, such as the amygdala. Many neural networks in the brain work in a complementary way, so as stress responses are turned on, more rational, analytical parts of the brain, such as the pre-frontal cortex gets turned down.
In other words, they lose focus on what works and instead focus on what isn’t working. One key skill that all athletes need to learn is self-reflection – regularly reflecting on what works. Typically, when we perform well, we just continue performing well. We don’t ask ourselves, “What is working here” so that we can repeat it. Instead, we hope that it will continue.
To listen to the athletes choking under stress interview, click on the play button below: