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Why we choke

22. May 2017

Pachyderms never choke. If they did, you’d need a Skycrane helicopter, high grade nylon straps, then permits galore from the county to fly an animal over 10,000 pounds near population centers before you could even get in position to try a Heimlich maneuver. Natural selection stepped in and the all-grass-gulpers died off decades before Neil Armstrong took his one giant leap. Today rhinos are among the daintiest of herbivores

Humans choke for two reasons

  1. Bacon and Biscuits smell so good the mouth/throat interface ratio is exceeded and next thing you know someone is doing a Smurf colored dance in the corner.
  2. The shame of adolescence casts a long dark shadow. People would rather be labeled a choker than admit they can’t do something

In sports you see it all the time, someone goes oops and Hester Prynne isn’t the only one with a bright red C dangling about her neck. Choking has become a synonym for pathetic loser.

So why does this happen?

Somewhere between what you know and what you want to do the brain train goes off the tracks and a doofus is born. Read the colored words below. It is easy right? Now look at the words and say the color they are written in.

Hello Doofus! Did you choke? Hardly. Your brain went with what it does most often: read. You know how to achieve both goals, you just want/need/like/are programmed to do one more than the other. When your body responds to the wrong part of the brain, silly or smelly things happen. You can faint or vacate your lower digestive tract.

Back to Rhinos.... Because they don’t think about much more than eating, making new rhinos and charging about, whatever they think about, they do and it works out. People overanalyze things. Under pressure they want to do it RIGHT more than they want to DO it. This leads to balls hit into the net in tight games or stepping into the kitchen on a volley at 10-11-2.

When you feel enough pressure or are scared the Fight or Flight Reflex takes over. When this happens the most primitive part of your brain takes control. It is designed to keep you alive. It doesn’t care about dinking, overheads or hitting a yellow ball with a paddle. As a result all the skill and time you spent practicing evaporates and your arms swing wildly and the ball goes hither and yawn.

How can you stop this from happening to you?

The most obvious way is remembering Henny Youngman’s sage wisdom. “I told my doctor I broke my leg in two places.... he told me to stay out of those places.” You could just stop playing pickleball and take up juggling chainsaws. Although the pressure there is even more intense.

The other way is getting used to playing under pressure.

If you can brush your teeth, you can brush your teeth in the dark too. All it takes is doing something you do in a slightly different way. When warming up, play a game to three points, spot the other team one and let them serve first. This gives your mind a chance to see being behind is not a life or death situation and your rational mind will not be eclipsed by the Fight or Flight Reflex.

Fun fact, the collective noun for rhinos is a Crash of Rhinoceros, talk about pressure, who coined that phrase?

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