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Title: Choking in sport : the case of elite golfers
Author: Hill, Denise M.
Awarding Body: University of Gloucestershire
Current Institution: University of Gloucestershire
Date of Award: 2010
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The aim of this thesis was to examine choking in sport through the case of elite golfers. Specifically, the programme of work intended to: a) re-examine choking in sport in order to re-visit the definition of choking and generate characteristics that could be used to identify chokers; b) explore choking in sport qualitatively in order to gain a detailed understanding of its antecedents, mechanisms, intervening variables and consequences, and generate an intervention which alleviates choking; c) implement and evaluate an evidence-based intervention designed to alleviate choking in sport. The purpose of Study 1 was to re-examine choking in sport, which was achieved through a focus group discussion and individual semi-structured interviews with four experts in applied sport psychology. The participants constructed an operational definition of choking in sport and generated characteristics which they perceived could be used to identify chokers. The findings of the study revealed that choking occurred as a result of a stress process and attentional disturbances, which would lead to a significant drop in performance. It was ascertained that the type of sport and individual differences such as low self-confidence and poor mental toughness could moderate choking, and should be considered by practitioners who work with athletes who choke. Study 2 explored choking in sport qualitatively, in order to gain a comprehensive understanding of its antecedents, mechanisms, influencing variables and consequences. Semi-structured interviews were used to examine the experiences of six elite golfers, who, according to the characteristics of Study 1, choked under pressure regularly. Their experiences were compared to those of five elite golfers who excelled under pressure, and four elite golf coaches who had worked with both 'chokers' and those who excelled. The study revealed that the antecedent of choking was pressure, caused by a range of stressors including evaluation apprehension and expectations, and that the mechanism of choking was distraction. The key influencing variables were recognised as perfectionism and self-confidence, with the consequence of choking found to be a significant drop in performance which could have a detrimental impact on the athlete's future performances and well-being. The findings indicated that the prevention of choking may be achieved by enhancing the athlete's self-confidence, focus, anxiety management and perceived control, and that process goals, cognitive restructuring, imagery, simulated training and a pre/post-shot routine could be used to achieve this. An action research approach was adopted within Study 3 to examine the impact of an intervention designed to alleviate choking, that had been informed by the findings of Studies 1 and 2. The intervention was employed by two elite golfers who choked under pressure, and was evaluated over a ten month season through a range of qualitative methods. These included formal interviews, informal conversations direct observation, participant observation and reflective diaries. The data revealed that the intervention has successfully enhanced the athletes' self-confidence, focus, anxiety management and perceived control, and as a result had effectively prevented or alleviated choking. A pre-shot routine, holistic feel to the golf swing, simulated practice and a reflective diary were identified as particularly valuable psychological strategies for athletes who choke. In contrast, perfectionism and self-handicapping were considered to reduce their impact This information should be of significance for practitioners who wish to prevent their athletes from choking.
Supervisor: Matthews, Nic Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: BF Psychology ; GV557 Sports ; GV861 Ball games: Baseball, football, golf, etc.