Performance under Pressure on the Court: Evidence from Professional Volleyball
31 Pages Posted: 18 Jan 2019
Date Written: December 20, 2018
This study analyzes how psychological pressure affects performance. It refers to the discussion on differences between choking, i.e., an acute performance decline under pressure and under- performance under pressure. When performance outcomes are not defined binary even slight performance decrements can have huge consequences for future career. To study the conse- quences of psychological pressure on performance, we employ data on the serving performance of 213 professional volleyball athletes in 226 matches. We do not find any evidence for the existence of severe performance decrements under pressure (i.e. choking). However, athletes serve less effectively under pressure, i.e., they serve less direct points and less good serves. In consequence, we find that these subtler performance changes of serving players negatively af- fect overall team performance. Thus, we show that even if choking in the sense of an acute failure does not occur, performance decrements harming team production exist. This might be explained by single team members trying to avoid being held responsible for failure. Strength- ening group cohesion to reduce psychological pressure on single group members might be a fruitful strategy to cope with similar problems in other working environments.
Keywords: performance; psychological pressure; choking; underperformance; volleyball
JEL Classification: D91, J24, L830
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation