All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Dale W Callahan

Advisory Committee Members

Dale W Callahan

Leon Jololian

Dalton S Nelson

Claire M Mowling

Emil Jovanov

Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name by School

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) School of Engineering


Choking under pressure is a phenomenon understood as underperformance or suboptimal performance in a particular task or an action that occurs due to the presence of pressure situations. The phenomenon is feared by many people, especially athletes. Choking has been heavily addressed and studied in psychology and behavioral science research. Research works addressing the phenomenon have also been occasionally published in scientific literature; however, a structural approach to objectively measure, analyze, identify, and define its determinants is absent. Therefore, this dissertation study attempts to add to the existing choking research by proposing a novel approach for choking identification, analyzing domain specific variables in order to discover their potential relationships to choking, and proposing a choking under pressure detection model. This study is designed for the specific domain of college tennis. In order to analyze, identify, and detect choking in college tennis, domain specific variables of heartrate, swing speed, footwork performance, and game statistics are introduced. The variables are selected based upon the knowledge and domain expertise of tennis coaches familiar with American college tennis coaching. Measurements and observations of the proposed variables were collected with three wearable sensors and a video camera. The study data were collected with 15 participating college tennis athletes completing a total of 60 arranged tennis sessions, 15 practice sessions and 45 tennis matches. For the choking identification process, a target variable called the choking moment was introduced. The identification of choking moments took place at the time of the analyzed tennis matches or afterwards through viewing the video recordings of the matches. The identifications were completed by six observing college tennis coaches familiar with the playing habits of the participating players. The data analysis procedures were designed based on the fundamentals of the expert system concept, namely the knowledge base. The knowledge base model was formed as a set of if, else, and then statements which were used to examine the collected data. The results revealed that the introduced variables show specific data patterns that appear to be linked to the identified choking moments. From the introduced variables, swing speed and game statistic parameters appear to present useful and practical variables for the proposed choking detection model. Heartrate and footwork performance variables also show specific data patterns potentially linked to the identified choking moments. However, these data pattern relationships are not strong enough to claim the heartrate and footwork performance variables to be practical parameters for the choking detection model on their own. Therefore, the heartrate and footwork performance parameters cannot be used for choking detection on their own, yet they can be used for improvements of the choking detection mechanism. Therefore, this dissertation study is believed to contribute to the existing choking research by proposing an objective structural approach to identify and detect a subjective phenomenon of choking under pressure in the college tennis domain based upon newly introduced domain specific variables.

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