Recently, cognitive science and performance expert, Sian Beilock sent me a copy of her new book, “Choke.”

People choke all the time, in sports and life. Below are some anti-choke techniques that Beilock recommends.

1. Distract yourself—Sing a song or even thinking about your pinky toe as Jack Nicklaus was rumored to do can help prevent the prefrontal cortex from regulating too closely movement that should run outside awareness.

2. Don’t slow down—Don’t give yourself too much time to think and to control your highly practiced putt, free throw, or penalty kick. Just do it.

3. Practice under stress—Practicing under the exact conditions you will face in a do-or-die situation is exactly what is needed to perform your best when the stress is on. Get used to the pressure so competition is not something you fear. Also, by understanding when pressure happens, you can create situations that will maximize the stress in your opponents.

4. Don’t dwell—Take that past performance and change how you think about it. See your failures as a chance to learn how to perform better in the future.

5. Focus on the outcome, not the mechanics—Focusing on the goal, where the ball will land in the net, helps cue your practiced motor programs to run flawlessly.

6. Find a key word—A one-word mantra (such as smooth during a golf stroke) can keep you focused on the end result rather than the step-by-step processes of performance.

7. Focus on the positive—Don’t be helpless. If you focus on the negative this can make you feel out of control and increase the likelihood that you will not work as hard to obtain future performance goals.

8. Cure the yips by changing your grip—An alteration in your performance technique reprograms the circuits you need to execute your shot, hopefully clearing your brain and body of the motor hiccup.

Thank you, Sian.

Ed Tseng
Director of Mental Conditioning
Monroe Sports Center

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