This study used qualitative methods to explore the stressors, appraisal mechanism, emotional response, and effective/ineffective coping strategies experienced by elite rugby union referees during pressurized performances. Participants included seven male rugby union referees from the United Kingdom (Mage = 27.85, SD = 4.56) who had been officiating as full-time professionals for between 1 and 16 years (M = 4.85, SD = 5.42). Data revealed that the referees encountered a number of stressors, which were appraised initially as a ‘threat’, and elicited negatively-toned emotions. The referees were able to maintain performance standards under pressure by adopting proactive, problem- and emotion-focused coping strategies which managed effectively the stressors and their emotions. However, the use of avoidance-coping, reactive control, and informal impression management were perceived as ineffective coping strategies, and associated with poor performance and choking. Recommendations are offered to inform the psychological skills training of rugby union referees.
Denise M. Hill, Nic Matthews, and Ruth Senior
Denise M. Hill, Sheldon Hanton, Nic Matthews, and Scott Fleming
The study examined the effect of an evidence-based intervention on choking in golf. It is informed by the work of Hill, Hanton, Matthews and Fleming (2010a) that explored the experiences of elite golfers who either choked or excelled under pressure. The perceptions of elite golf coaches who worked with both ‘chokers’ and those who excelled, were also considered. It revealed that choking may be alleviated through the use of process goals, cognitive restructuring, imagery, simulated training and a pre/postshot routine. The present study incorporated each strategy into an intervention that was introduced to two professional golfers (aged 22) who choked under pressure regularly. Through an action research framework the impact of the intervention was evaluated over a ten month period via qualitative methods. The results indicated the intervention alleviated the participants’ choking episodes and so provides information that can be of use to practitioners working with golfers who choke.
Denise M. Hill, Matthew Cheesbrough, Paul Gorczynski, and Nic Matthews
Through an empirical phenomenological methodology, the study examined the short- and long-term consequences of choking in sport. Eleven intermediate golfers (10 male, 1 female; age 23–50 years, M = 34.6, SD = 8.9) with handicaps of 6–18 (M = 10.91, SD = 3.98) completed phenomenological interviews that explored the perceived psychological impact of their choking episode(s). While the reported short-term consequences were negative (i.e., collapse in performance standards, limited attention/emotional control, and negative affect), most participants thought the long-term impact of choking was constructive, for it encouraged adversity-related growth. However, a small number of golfers identified the long-term consequences as highly destructive, including a loss of self-confidence, withdrawal from the sport, and, in 1 case, lowered self-worth. The findings of the study extend the choking literature by informing strategies that can be used to encourage constructive, rather than destructive, consequences from any choking episode that athletes may experience.