Controlling Yourself When Choking Under Pressure
All baseball and softball players feel the pressure of competition at some point in their career.
The word “choke” for baseball players can stop them in their tracks. Players never want to admit to others that they choked.
PGA Tour player Bob Tway said, “It’s how you handle it. Some people handle it better. Everyone is choking, if they don’t say they are choking they are lying.”
What does it mean to choke?
Choking is a response to pressure and starts with worry about what others think. Your mind gets sidetracked from the real task. The mind races with thoughts of negative outcomes or screwing up a big lead.
“What if we blow a three run lead?” the pitcher says to himself.
Then anxiety sets in… Your mouth gets dry, your hands sweat, your breathing becomes faster, and you feel like someone is strangling you.
If you feel like choking when under pressure, here are some suggestions to control yourself.
Many players take a defensive approach to their game when they’re under pressure. Instead of trying to not strike out and embarrass yourself, challenge yourself to see the ball well.
Take a positive approach. Be aggressive instead of avoiding mistakes.
If you try to avoid striking out, most likely you will focus more on striking out than hitting a solid ball.
Play Like You Don’t Care
When you care too much about winning, you try too hard to make it happen. PGA Tour star Bob Tway said,
“You need to play golf like you don’t care, but if you work at something your whole life, it’s hard not to care. But that is the way you need to play golf. You need to sit on the first tee and not care, just let the ball go. That’s how you play your greatest golf.”
The same concept applies to baseball.
Tame the Demons from the Past
Memories from the past can also haunt you. Past memories of failure pop into your head when faced with a challenging situation. If you don’t stay grounded in the present, those memories of the past will haunt you. Use the past only if it’s to your advantage.
Be Your Own Coach
What you say to yourself can have a big effect on how you feel and behave. Positive self-talk can be one of your most powerful assets on the field. Your self-talk should always be encouraging and supportive, just like a good coach. You don’t want to tell yourself, “You will never get a hit if you keep playing like this!”
Most fear relates to outcomes such as striking out. The fear causes you to get ahead of yourself rather than focus on the task. Focus on what you can control, which is execution and staying in the present. For example, your task is to focus on your set up and seeing the ball well. Focus on that. Don’t think about what will happen if you strike out.
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