Under Pressure


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Everyone experiences pressure at on time or another in their lives. Many athletes  deal with an increased pressure to perform well in their sport. No one wants to be the player on the team who chokes during the biggest game of the year. And maybe, now, no one has to.

 In Germany, Dr, Juergen Beckmann has been researching a way to reduce the pressure athletes feel and prevent them from choking. Beckmann is the chair of sport psychology at the Technical University of Munich. He has been observing athletes in a few different sports such as soccer and badminton. To relieve pressure, Beckmann has the athletes hold and squeeze a ball in their left hand. The reason for this is that the right hemisphere of your brain controls the movements of the left side of your body. It is also responsible for our automatic movements that athletes rely on. By using your left hand, it is thought to activate the right side of the brain so that athletes can rely on what they have learned how to do rather than overthinking what they have to do. This would relieve the pressure athletes feel, and hopefully prevent them from making mistakes.

So next time you have a big game, give this a try.

5 Comments

I found this pretty interesting. My sister is an athlete, a great one at that, and she plays with a lot of other very talented girls. But, as humans, we are prone to choke every once in a while. There are definitely various factors that feed into why we stumble. I went ahead and checked out some studies done on the idea. The need to do better often makes athletes crumble, as evidenced in this article (http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/releases/why-do-some-athletes-choke-under-pressure.html). Athletes who know they need to do well are more focused on their body and getting everything perfect rather than just relaxing and doing what comes naturally, because that ultimately provides the better results. The article points out that relaxing is also something that doesn't just happen. I also found this very interesting study (http://mentalhealth.about.com/library/sci/0102/blchoke0102.htm) in which golfers were split into three different groups to train under different conditions: one group practiced normally, the second practiced while completing a second task, and the third trained with a video camera angled at themselves. A low-pressure putting test proved every group equally successful, but the high-pressure test showed that the first two groups saw worse results, while the third group which watched their own movements actually saw better results. All in all, it appears that awareness of a person's body and focus on the target can result in constant success.

I feel like this was a good topic to write about because it can be so easily relatable to most students and athletes when trying to balance out their academic, social, and family lives here at school. I sometimes find it hard balancing out the stressful pressures of today's society. I researched some healthy ways on Study Gs to cope with stress:
1. Remove yourself from the stressful situation - obviously a solution, giving yourself a break will help everyone, especially yourself, relax
2. Don't sweat the small stuff - becoming overly worked up and putting too much pressure on yourself can cause extreme anxiety
3. Get enough sleep - lack of sleep just aggravates stress
4. Avoid self-medication - alcohol and drugs overall just mask stress and when sobering up, can make you feel even worse
5. Try to "use" stress - if you cannot come up with a remedy or even remove yourself from the situation, try and use that stress in a productive way

So if I hold a stress ball in my hand for an entire soccer game I won't choke and will be in clutch form? I haven't tried it but I feel like claiming It wouldn't make you choke is a stretch.. Even being able or allowed to hold a ball the whole game is a stretch. In soccer you aren't allowed to wear a wrist band or earrings so you would never be allowed to hold a ball the whole game and in other sports you need both hands anyways so holding a ball is simply out of the question. This really serves no purpose whatsoever.. if this were to be effective and feasible it would need to be in the form of something that couldn't be visible or interfere with the hands. Something like a pill?!

This is cool and very relevant because this can be applied to more than just sports scenarios. A part of me wants to believe that a placebo effect has something to do with it, however. Either way, if it helps then by all means go for it. Since the left side of the brain deals with things like reading and mathematics would it then make sense to stimulate your right hand while reading or doing a math problem? Pretty cool how the brain works in general.

The point is to hold the stress ball before you go on the field. It won't prevent you from making mistakes, but the theory is that by squeezing it in your left hand you get you right hemisphere working stronger than the left. By using your right hemisphere you are less likely to overthink your moves which can be a downfall for many. If you miss a shot, you are more likely to keep thinking about what you did wrong. By using the stress ball technique, you are relying on basic movement skills that will allow you to play the game freely rather than thinking out all of your actions.

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