Investigating the Use of Choking Intervention Strategies With Choking-Susceptible Athletes

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Mesagno, Christopher (2006) Investigating the Use of Choking Intervention Strategies With Choking-Susceptible Athletes. PhD thesis, Victoria University.


Based on recently proposed definitions (e.g., Hall, 2004; Wang 2002), choking is defined as a critical deterioration in the execution of habitual processes as a result of an elevation in anxiety levels under perceived pressure. The self-focus model of choking (Baumeister, 1984; Beilock & Carr, 2001; Masters, 1992), distraction model of choking (Nideffer, 1992), and recently an integrated model of choking (Wang, 2002) have been proposed to explain choking. Predictors of choking are also relevant in terms of identifying choking-susceptible athletes. Thus, applied sport psychology techniques are important for assisting athletes in countering choking effects. The three interconnected studies in this dissertation were designed to further develop applied sport psychology techniques to predict and alleviate choking. The primary purpose of Study 1 was to investigate whether choking and nonchoking behaviour can be predicted using a battery of psychological inventories. Forty-six experienced netball players completed three psychological inventories and categorised as either choking-susceptible (CS) or choking-resistant (CR). Eight purposively sampled participants then completed a total of 180 netball shots each in a series of single-case A1- B-A2 designs, with the B phase as 'high-pressure' and the A phases as 'low-pressure'. Participants were interviewed upon completion of the netball shooting to investigate cognitions related to choking and non-choking behaviour. Results from Study 1 indicated that established psychological inventories, measuring trait anxiety (A-trait), self-consciousness (S-C), and coping styles, were accurate predictors of non-choking behaviour with the 4 CR athletes. The psychological inventories, however, were less accurate predictors of choking behaviour with the 4 CS athletes (predicting two out of four instances of choking). The 50% success rate is perhaps iii understandable given that even highly CS athletes are likely to experience choking infrequently. Using inductive content analysis, each participant's interview was analysed individually and a cross-case analysis was also included for the CS participants. The interview results indicated that the 2 CS participants who performed poorly under pressure used approach coping strategies, such as information seeking, to manage the pressure situation. Conversely, CR participants typically used avoidance coping strategies, such as blocking out the audience/camera, to cope with the pressure. Overall, the interview results corroborated the findings that the manipulated 'high-pressure' in the B phase resulted in increases in state anxiety (A-state). Furthermore, the interview added valuable detail about how participants responded in the A1-B-A2 phases that generally fitted with the responses from the initial battery of questionnaires. A key finding in Study 1 was that all participants differed substantially in their capacity to absorb competitive pressure and similarly their coping repertoire ranged greatly. Drawing on principles of Nideffer's (1992) distraction model and the qualitative results of Study 1, as foundations, Study 2 was designed to investigate whether a pre-shot routine (PSR) reduced choking effects. Five CS participants were purposively sampled (using the same inventories and selection criteria as Study 1), from 87 participants, to complete ten-pin bowling deliveries in a single-case A1-B1-A2-B2 design with the A phases as 'low-pressure,' and the B phases as 'high-pressure.' Five experienced tenpin bowlers completed at least 180 ten-pin bowling deliveries in a single-case A1-B1-A2-B2 design with the A phases as 'low-pressure,' and the B phases as 'high-pressure.' Three of these participants completed an additional 60 deliveries (totalling 240 deliveries) because they experienced a decrease in performance (i.e., experienced choking) in the B1 phase iv and were instructed to use the planned intervention (i.e., the PSR) prior to the B2 phase. The 3 participants that utilised the PSR improved accuracy in the B2 phase. The interviews, conducted after the 240 deliveries, indicated that choking effects were partially due to an increase in S-A and, in this regard, were similar to the results of Study 1. An increase in S-A coincided with increases in distraction or conscious processing of execution, and thus, provided qualitative support for both the self-focus model and the distraction model of choking. Participants also explained that performance improvements were a result of the PSR minimising S-A during the B2 phase. The reduction in S-A permitted other positive psychological outcomes to occur, including a decrease in the perception of pressure, decreased negative self-talk, increased concentration, and increased confidence. Thus, the PSR produced adaptive and relevant, task-focused attention. In Study 3, music was used as a dual-task intervention under pressure. Similar to Studies 1 and 2, I also re-examined cognitive processes and perceptions of pressure using in-depth interviews. Five purposively sampled CS participants (with selection criteria similar to those used in Studies 1 and 2), from 41 screened basketball players, performed basketball free throws in a single-case A1-B1-A2-B2 design similar to Study 2. Three participants showed evidence of choking by decreasing performance during the B1 phase. These participants were then instructed to listen to the lyrics of a song as an intervention prior to and during the B2 phase. These 3 participants either maintained or improved performance in the B2 phase. Similar to the qualitative results of Studies 1 and 2, participants explained that choking resulted from attention to the audience. Using the music intervention, in the B2 phase, resulted in decreased S-A, enabling participants to decrease explicit monitoring of execution and reducing general distractibility. The results of Study 3 extended the findings of Study 2 by identifying that specific interventions could facilitate performance or ameliorate choking. Based on the results of the three interconnected studies, and previous choking research, choking processes are relatively complex, and differ based on personality characteristics and coping strategies employed. Implications for theory, practitioners and future research on choking are also discussed.

Item type Thesis (PhD thesis)
Subjects Historical > RFCD Classification > 380000 Behavioural and Cognitive Sciences
Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > School of Sport and Exercise Science
Keywords choking; strategies; athletes; netball players; anxiety; self-consciousness; coping; basketball players; tenpin bowlers; music
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