Have you ever heard of the „1 degree error“? The slovenian colleague Tomaz Mencinger has calculated on his blog how much the direction of the ball flight changes with a one degree deviation within the contact ball-racket. He calculated this using the simplest of mathematical methods, not including additional factors such as the deviation of the racket position, such as air flow, the condition of the ball, and the tension of the string and neglecting vertical and horizontal deviation of the club position. But he gives us an idea.
He comes to the conclusion that with this minimal deviation in the racket position one misses the aimed target in the playing field by up to 41 cm. Of course, this explains why it is better to play the ball in the middle of the field in pressure situations. Actually mundane knowledge of a successful tactic on the tennis court.
It gets exciting when we consider what neurobiological research tells us about the “choking under pressure” phenomenon or the observation about “paralysis through analysis”.
The use of our prefrontal cortex, the gray matter of the brain, determines the initiation of many actions, the control of learned motor skills such as writing, playing musical instruments and tying shoelaces, and the control of complex intellectual processes, such as language, thinking, concentration, problem solving and planning ahead, that is conscious thinking about currently required action. The more we think about the specific task, for example turning a „penalty kick“ on the tennis court or on the soccer field, the more the motor action slows down. The consequence: The ball does not go into the empty field or the shot on the goal not into the corner cleared by the goalkeeper. Thinking slows down the process of movement and leads to errors in the movement excecution.
Sports scientist Wolfgang Schöllhorn has pointed out this exciting connection between concentrating on one’s own body awareness and the „choking under pressure“ phenomenon: When the frontal lobe is active, when we think about our movements, not only the access to the automated movement sequences is blocked, but the movement becomes even slower! A motor action that the players otherwise master “as if in sleep” deviates from what is expected. More about this in my article in TennisSport 1/2019. That explains the causes and consequences of a 1 degree deviation.
More about Choking under pressure and the strategies minimalize the one-or-more-degree-errors in the following article.
Since we want to take a strictly evidence-based perspective on this blog, I would be happy if you find a mistake in reasoning or a distortion of perception in the theses formulated here. Perhaps you even know of studies that support the theses formulated here.