The inexplicable collapse of a tennis phenom
By Tom Perrotta, The Atlantic
"... I asked Sian Beilock, a psychologist at the University of Chicago and the author of the forthcoming book Choke, how world-class athletes like Ivanovic, who have spent thousands of hours perfecting a skill, could flail so helplessly. Her answer was deceptively simple: they’re thinking too much. To hit a 120-mph serve, a player must allow the body to do what it has been trained to do. Thinking mid-serve causes “paralysis by analysis,” an attack on performance by the prefrontal cortex, which, in an attempt to control closely synchronized neural activities and muscle twitches, instead sabotages them. “We all know how to shuffle down the stairs,” Beilock told me. “But if I ask you to think about how your knee is bending while you do it, there’s a good...