Improve performance under pressure by squeezing a ball or clenching the non-dominant hand before competition to activate specific motor regions of the brain, according to Jürgen Beckmann and his research team, who studied experienced soccer players, tae kwon do experts and badminton players.
The Journal of Experimental Psychology: General reported that right-handed athletes who squeezed a ball in their left hand before competing were less like to “choke under pressure” than right-handed players who squeeze a ball in their right hand.
Beckmann and collaborators Peter Gröpel and Felix Ehrlenspiel noted that when athletes don’t perform well “under pressure,” they may be focusing on their own movements rather than relying on automatic motor skills developed through repeated practice – or “muscle memory.”
They explained, “Rumination can interfere with concentration and performance on motor tasks … Many movements…can be impaired by attempts at consciously controlling them. This technique can be helpful for many situations and tasks.”
Other applications include business situations like presentations or negotiations, or helping elderly people improve balance by clenching a ball before walking or climbing stairs.
Iris Hung the National University of Singapore found additional applications: Avoiding the temptation of sugary snacks in a cafeteria, enduring physical pain, and disturbing information.
Hendrie Weisinger, whose best-seller Nobody’s Perfect was the first of 8 books, integrates this finding with other research-based recommendations to manage performance pressure with “Nerves of Steel.” His new book is scheduled for release by Random House in 2013.
-*How do you maintain performance when experiencing pressure?