Stress & Croquet - Are You A Master Or Monster?

by Dr. Wayne Fisk - Mallet

Stress & Croquet - Are You A Master Or Monster?
The Mallet - Fall 1992
Dr. Wayne Fisk

(Editor's Note: Wayne Fisk, Ph. D., of Psychological Associates in Detroit, has competed in Croquet Can, and other high level tournaments. He has studied stress, and how it can help or hurt our enjoyment of croquet.)

How would you like to play a game of croquet? What a laugh! For too many of us, croquet has long lost that play-like quality. It has become a roller coaster sport with highs and lows, filled with chills, spills, and thrills. Has it become too serious of a sport/game? Croquet is a martial arts version of golf, chess, and billiards, bringing with it steep emotional stakes in the form of stress.

Croquet can be an extremely competitive, frustrating, and tension filled game. It can bring out your best and your worst character traits. Many people who are infected with the croquet virus are high-achieving, competent folk with perfectionist tendencies. This sets the stage for engaging in a volatile game with people that don't take losing kindly. They are used to success in life and "by Jove" they will have the same at croquet. The high mental stress and pressure that comes with croquet can either assist or hinder your play.

As stress increases, our performance increases proportionately. This relationship continues until an inversion occurs, the so-called "Inverted U". Stress peaks our performance, then it breaks us down so that we become incapable of the simplest shots. Why is it that some croquet competitors at tournaments fall apart when the pressure rises too steeply for them?

It's a paradox that when we play croquet for fun and enjoyment the results will be predictably rewarding. The wickets seem easy and wide. However, when we have to win for that trophy or to beat a dreaded rival, the hoops get tighter, and we get the "Yips". Big amounts of stress tend to turn our brains into jelly, and we inevitably lose. We feel fatigued, weakened, and relieved that it's over. When this occurs, we have been beaten mentally, and we have probably beaten ourselves.

Managing stress can help our performance, by keeping us sharp. Here are some things to do to keep near your peak of performance:

  1. Say to yourself, "I'm imperfect and it's O.K.", when you miss a shot or call a terrible strategy. You must forgive yourself immediately. This approach will help to prevent the last mistake from beating you.
  2. Seek out excellence not perfection! Perfectionists will invariably find a point of diminishing returns, and as a result self-destruct at crucial times. Excellence seekers are more flexible and are able to learn from their mistakes.
  3. Strive for continued improvement, not perfection.
  4. Learn from mistakes! Welcome to life. It's called wisdom. How do you learn? Keep a croquet journal entitled, "What I learned from my mistakes". Your opponents in effect become your teachers.
  5. Stop trying so darned hard to win. RELAX! If croquet has become an ego-trip or another pressure cooker sport for you, it is guaranteed that your stress inversion threshold will be reached on a regular basis.

Croquet development is proportional to the demands made on you. The learning curve responds accordingly. Little demand-little development. You must remain highly motivated and persistent at practice and skill development.

As you reach intermediate and advanced levels of croquet, you must increase the demand factor. Hence, you will have to practice entering the zone of progressive overload. You must consistently ask a little more of yourself than you are comfortable with, a little more than you are capable of dealing with easily.

In order to accomplish this, you must develop a tolerance for failure. When you enter this pivotal zone, you will experience many small failures. You will have to practice near your performance peak and a little bit beyond.

Realistic expectations, persistence, and progressive overload will slowly but surely lead to enhanced croquet development. It is much more satisfying to become a croquet master than a croquet monster.

- Dr. Wayne Fisk

Editor's Note ( Rumors that Dr. Fisk consults with Stress Crete Ltd. are being investigated.)