Ways to Deal with Nervousness: "Choke Proof Technique"

Last week, I wrote about how simply training more can help prevent choking in games. Today, I will write about another strategy for dealing with nervousness: using "choke proof technique."

As we have all experienced, when athletes are nervous, they often “choke” and make mistakes. One aspect of choking involves bad technique. Often, when athletes choke, their good technique falls apart and this contributes to errors.

To solve all of this, athletes can play with peak performance. They can get in the zone. They can play focused, calm, relaxed, and fearless. Choking doesn’t happen when you're in the zone. However, it’s not always possible to enter the zone. It is very elusive. Sometimes, you will get nervous and it feels like there is nothing you can do to get rid of the nerves. In this case, you can practice what I call “choke proof technique.” This means to execute certain techniques to combat the symptoms of choking. When athletes choke, it usually causes their technique to decelerate, hesitate, and become more compact. As your unconscious mind is telling you to decelerate, hesitate, or become more compact, you need to consciously tell yourself the opposite. When you are nervous and think you’re about to choke, try to maintain normal acceleration, timing, and proper technique.

Here is one example of "choke proof technique". When tennis players choke on second serves, they often serve the ball into the net. However, if you purposely lean more into the serve and jump further into the court, your momentum will cancel out the deceleration caused by choking, and your serve will go in more.

Obviously it is better to not consciously think about your technique at all and trust your instincts and play entirely in the zone. However, like I said, this isn’t always possible. You need to know the times when your nerves become unbearable and it is better to try “choke proof technique”. This is sort of a compromise. By accepting your nerves and trying “choke proof technique”, you hurt your chances of entering the zone, but you are also preventing yourself from completely choking. It is not peak performance, but it is not poor performance either.

Another benefit of "choke proof technique" is that it gives athletes confidence. After you execute despite being nervous, you feel proud. Know that it is still possible to execute decently when you're very nervous.

Next week I will write about another way to deal with nervousness: using high percentage strategy.