Choking In Pressure Situations Has Nothing To Do With Guts

An article by posted on December 11, 2010

When I read that Dave Hudgens had a blog called Swing Away, you just know I had to drop by a take a look.

I was thrilled beyond belief when I came across this one post entitled, ”Becoming A Crunch Time Player“.

In it Hudgens goes into the age old debate about how some players are clutch (O-Dog, Epstein), while others simply choke (Wright and countless others) under pressure.

I love his take on it, and maybe his thoughts on the matter can debunk some of the myths. 

What is a pressure situation?  In baseball a pressure situation can be any possible turning point in a game, or perhaps any time a player feels an urgency or a necessity to perform in the “right now” as if the game was on the line.  Pressure situations rarely announce themselves.  Pressure situations can be the bottom of the 9th in the final game of the World Series, or a clutch at-bat in the first inning of a Little League game.

Nobody wants to choke in a pressure situation, but the greatest athletes and the greatest competitors have all choked at some point in their lives and/or careers.  When athletes choke, people say they have no guts, no courage, and they view the “chokers” as not mentally tough.  But, athletes who choke deserve a pat on the back because of their GREAT DESIRE.  Desire creates pressure.  No desire = no pressure; it is that simple.

Choking-up is trying too hard; it has nothing to do with guts.  Athletes who are said to be chokers compete as hard as they can… to the point of self-destruction; they go “over the edge” to the point of losing their emotional control and self-discipline.  Great desire and competitiveness are attributes that every elite athlete must have, but strong emotions can easily take control, which is when choking occurs.

Another thing about chocking and being clutch is that it can turn on a dime. You may perform great under pressure one season, and fail miserably the next. Some forget how good David Wright was in pressure situations in the first four years of his career.

Something else that always bugs me about being clutch or un-clutch is that everyone seems to think this is exclusively a hitter’s trait and rarely do you hear someone say that the pitcher was very clutch when a better strikes out in a key situation. Give the guy on the mound some credit!

Basically, in my opinion, it still comes down to the laws of averages. At any given time in a key situation a batter will still fail in more than 70% of his at-bats. That’s just baseball, pure and simple. It’s always been that way.

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