Solutions for athletic stress focus of upcoming lecture

Jesus IIIundainThe impact of stress on athletes will be the topic of an upcoming faculty lecture at Linfield College.

Jesús Ilundáin-Agurruza, associate professor of philosophy, will present “From Clumsy Failure to Skillful Fluency: An East-West Analysis and Solution to Sport’s Choking Effect” Wednesday, Feb. 19, at 7 p.m. in 201 Riley Hall at Linfield.

Underperformance under stress is common in many activities such as the arts and academic performance, but examples are particularly evident in sport’s “choking” effect – a failure to perform to levels already achieved when the person tries to be at his or her best.

Rory McIlroy “disintegrated” at the 2011 U.S. Masters, while Greg Norman epically lost in 1996. On the other end of the spectrum, Mark Spitz and Michael Phelps thrived under media pressure to deliver record-breaking performances at the Olympics. The first set of scenarios showcases athletes failing under pressure. The second presents superb performers who excel when “on the spot.”

As a way to supplement current psychological and cognitive theoretical research, Ilundáin-Agurruza will discuss an alternative philosophical account to combat choking. It diagnoses the process, and contrasts it with cases of superior performances analyzed under “skillful fluency.” The solution is derived from Japanese do — arts of self-cultivation, such as the way of archery or the way of tea — which encourage an integration of body-mind and intellect-emotion that indirectly achieves skillful fluency and avoids choking.

“The efficacy of this method was truly vetted in life and death duels where anxiety would result in a deadly outcome,” said Ilundáin-Agurruza. “This may lend a helping and calming hand to those of us who get the jitters when we are about to putt, do a few intense laps or speak in public.”

Ilundáin-Agurruza has been a member of the Linfield faculty since 2006. He holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, an M.A. in philosophy from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, an M.S. in sociology of sport from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and a B.S. in philosophy from the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh.

The lecture is free and open to the public. The Linfield College faculty lecture series offers one presentation each month by a member of the Linfield faculty. For more information, call 503-883-2409.