Article Contents

  • 1. Possible applied indicators that you may struggle under pressure
  • 2. Psychological research predictors of choking
  • 3. Conclusion

As a sport psychology consultant, one of the most common requests I receive is how to perform well when it counts the most. Many athletes tell me that they get nervous when under pressure and that they performance poorly (or experience choking under pressure) when it matters the most. Of course, no one likes to hear the dreaded phrase, “You CHOKED,” especially after throwing the front 11 perfectly but then throwing the last shot poorly. This is one example where the pressure of the situation may have gotten to you and affected your shot execution.

There are a number of situations where athletes experience pressure that ranges from small to large. Examples include the following:

  • Making a spare to beat your friends in a pot game;
  • Striking out in the 10th frame to win a game or series for your team;
  • Throwing the first strike in the 10th to win a tournament in a close match play game;
  • Striking out to win the semi-final match of the 2015 USBC Masters in order to get to the final match and have a chance at a three-peat title.

In any of those situations, any normal person would feel some pressure and get nervous. This nervousness may possibly lead to poor performance on any one of those shots. Are you one of those people that might be susceptible to getting nervous in these situations? Do you ever find yourself throwing terrible shots as a result of these nerves? If so, read this article and the follow-up article (Part 2, coming soon) carefully and hopefully you may learn something about yourself and how to deal with this pressure.

In this two-part article series on choking under pressure, I will first outline possible bowling-specific situations that might help you identify if you might struggle with performing under pressure. I will then explain more about the research-based psychological predictors of choking under pressure. In my next article, I will then provide possible ways to deal with choking that have ...

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Chris Mesagno

About Chris Mesagno

Dr. Chris Mesagno is a senior lecturer in Exercise and Sport Psychology at Federation University Australia and received his Ph.D. from Victoria University (Australia), specializing in Sport Psychology and Motor Learning. Dr. Chris is a competitive bowler of 30 years, he was a member and assistant coach of the University of Florida bowling team from 1998-2001, and he is both a Tenpin Bowling Australia Level 1 Certified Coach and a USBC Bronze Level Coach.