Choking; a global phenomenon

DYLAN FOREMAN; Sports Writer: foremad@plu.edu

Sometimes in sports there is a moment when everything tightens up in your body, the airways constrict and suddenly an uncontrollable shake comes upon you like a plague. The feeling happens in a tense situation with a lot riding on the outcome of your performance. Imagine that situation is the iconic Masters golf tournament and you suddenly feel the tightness and shake with nearly 14 million people watching you. Scary right?

On April 10, Jordan Spieth, the favorite to have won this year’s Masters, had a five-shot lead with nine holes remaining in the match. All he had to do was hit for par and he would have been the back-to-back Masters champion. However, the phenomenon that is seen in sports all the time happened: choking.

Spieth ChokeThrough a bizarre string of shots that landed him in the water twice on one hole, Spieth quickly fell three shots behind the eventual winner Danny Willett and never recovered as he let the green jacket slip away from him.

This is not the first time choking has appeared in competition nor is it even close to being the last one. But, as someone who has fell victim to the pressure of close game on more than one occasion, each time stings as worst as the last.

Mentally, it consumes the mind with negative thoughts and overthinking. Physically, it diminishes the body’s natural response to perform at the highest capacity. Some of the most dominant athletes to date have suffered from choking and will continue to. The great ones however, have a short memory.

If anything, falling short is what athletes thrive on and is what makes them better.

The greatest competitor to date, Michael Jordan, is an excellent example of this. He said, “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

I am sure Jordan Spieth felt disgusted with himself and was in disbelief that he lost a five shot lead with nine holes remaining. With that being said, Jordan Spieth is a great competitor.

Spieth is one of the youngest, most talented players to enter professional golf. He would not be that successful if he was not able to mentally move past his meltdown.

My mother was a professional golf player and won numerous championships as an amateur. I know how frustrating the game of golf can be. It is the most mentally taxing sport on the planet and Spieth is the considered the best player to play it. He has what it takes to move past it. All great athletes have that innate ability.

It is all about whether someone has the will to put the “choking” experience past them and learn from it. Otherwise, it consumes people. Choking is not the problem. It is how someone reacts to it.

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