Choke!

A new blog I’m going to be paying attention to: David Papineau’s More Important Than That. He’s a philosopher writing about sports. I’m really interested in philosophy and I’m interested in doing sports (sort of). And mostly uninterested in following sports. The result? I have been excluded from a huge swath of small talk topics for most of my life. Maybe this is why I hate small talk?

Anyway, Papineau’s first post is about Choking and The Yips, two kinds of mental failure during sports.

Here is how I see the territory.  Not Having Your Mind Right is a generic phenomenon, covering all cases where mental fragility undermines sporting performance.  Choking and The Yips are sub-species which do not exhaust the genus.  Choking is folding under pressure.  The Yips involve an unhealthy focus on the mechanics of your actions.  Choking and The Yips sometimes occur together, but they can also dissociate, in both directions.

I haven’t read anything by Papineau before, but he’s clearly a skilled writer about complicated topics. I thoroughly enjoyed one of the papers he linked up about choking. It’s well worth reading, and only 12 pages long: In the Zone. And be warned:

In general, it seems to be the more cerebral of performers who are most at risk. Unreflective players who never pause to analyse their technique need not fear the yips. At most danger are the thinkers and tinkerers, those who are curious about the nature of their skills.

And now, for the rest of the day, I’m going to have this song stuck in my head:

(Coincidentally also the song that invariably gets stuck in my head the 24 hours before a job interview.)

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