Optimising and Stabilising Performance in Football. Psychological interventions to stabilise performance in standard situations in soccer.
In modern football games are frequently decided through standard situations like a free kick, a corner, or a penalty shot. Because players are aware of the decisive role of their performance in these situations, they experience pressure which can result in failure, i.e. they choke under pressure. In a series of experimental studies an embodiment technique was successfully employed to eliminate choking in football penalty shooting as well as other sports (Beckmann, Gröpel & Ehrlenspiel, 2013). This embodiment technique consists of contracting the left hand before shooting (dynamic hand grip). A penalty shootout with 2 teams competing against each other in front of 300 spectators generated significant pressure (checked with the test anxiety inventory state WAI-S). Players penalty shooting performance in the experimental conditions with left hand clenching was unaffected by the induced pressure (identical to base line performance) whereas the players in the condition with right hand clenching showed impaired performance under pressure compared to their baseline performance (Exp. 1, n=30 professional football players; Anova interaction effect: p < .05, f=.44). The neurophysiological mechanisms underlying the effects of this embodiment technique were clarified in an EEG study (Cross-Villasana et al., 2015). Current research addresses the effects of integrating the embodiment technique into a more encompassing pre-shot routine for standard situations, as well as a specification of conditions for optimal technique application (such as required duration of hand contraction; Gröpel & Beckmann, in press).