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Mind Games, Ep. 2: “Choke”

Episode two discusses the concept of 'choking' in athletics; what causes it to occur, why it's such a big deal, and what athletes can do to prevent it. (Northern Review illustration/ Grant Pepper)

This spring, Northern Review sports editor Grant Pepper spoke with sport psychologists and Ohio Northern athletes to try to explain some of the most unexplainable phenomena in sports. This podcast series, ‘Mind Games,’ takes a deep dive into the mental side of athletics -- because in reality, in almost every sport, most of the game is played above the shoulders.

This episode breaks down the concept of ‘choking,’ which is highly glamorized in sports culture today. While the first episode of this series discussed the idea being ‘clutch,’ this one describes the exact opposite: what happens when that shot at the buzzer doesn’t fall, or that last-second kick sails wide right.

Last season, Ohio Northern kicker Chase Watson came up big time and time again. He went 3-for-4 on field goals and 30/30 on extra points, which led the OAC in percentage for those who kicked 30 extra points or more (only eight kickers did).

But the one field goal he missed last season still sticks with him today.

With nine seconds remaining in the fourth quarter of ONU's game at John Carroll last October, Watson had a chance to win it. The game was tied at 13 and he had a 24-yard field goal, which was closer than both of his successful attempts earlier that day. All he had to do was put it through the uprights and Northern would walk away with the victory.

Instead, he pulled it. As he describes in this podcast, he began to overthink the kick and it cost him. In this rare instance, Watson might say that he ‘choked.’

In this episode, Watson, as well as sport psychologist Dr. Steve Graef (Ohio State University), discuss what causes choking to occur and how to prevent it. They also discuss why it’s a big deal to fans and sports media, and ultimately, why it always will be.

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