“YOU LIKE THAT!” Do some High Stakes Performers respond differently to overarousal? By Lorie Hood

Kirk Cousins is a High Stakes Performer. There I said it.

I have been watching Cousins and his performance for a long time. He is what I call a disparate High Stakes Performer (dHSP) meaning that his development has been qualitatively different that of most High Stakes Performers (HSP). So what is different about Kirk Cousins? He has had a more difficult time training and un-training his reptilian brain than many QB’s his age. The good news? If he remains healthy and takes advantage of the latest science on training and un-training (what I call “training around”) his reptilian brain, he will only get better (and better, and better).

So, why has Cousins had more difficulty maintaining an optimal level of arousal? Most likely because his line between optimal arousal and over arousal is very thin. And why is his line between optimal-arousal and over-arousal so thin?  There could be myriad reasons, however, the reasons aren’t as important as the difference it necessitates in his training. Getting to his reptilian brain and engaging it differently will be the key to Cousins meeting his potential.

The current research in neurobiology, psychology and human performance shows that the shape of a specific individual’s arousal-performance curve depends on intervening variables. This is much more nuanced than the long-standing (yet still very relevant) model published over a century ago (Yerkes and Dodson 1908). Some of the “intervening variables” that has been identified in the trauma and human performance research literature impact how quickly an individual responds to stress (becomes aroused), how high their arousal peaks and how slowly it returns to normal. This has huge implications on training and performance.

Who are the other QB’s who have likely struggled with this same issue? They are Dan Marino, Tony Romo, Boomer Esiason, Joe Montana, Steve McNair, and Ken Stabler. Who are those who may have benefited from paying closer attention to their optimal level of arousal and training their reptilian brains differently? They are Kurt Warner, Daunte Culpepper, Chad PenningtonJeff Garcia, Ben Roethlisberger, and Matt Ryan.

Interestingly, a number of these quarterbacks were not immediate starters in the NFL however, once they did become starters they improved quickly. Perhaps the psychological benefit of becoming a starting QB and the support that came with it leveled their arousal curve and allowed them to play more often within their optimal level of arousal.


Diamond, D. M. (2005). Cognitive, Endocrine and Mechanistic Perspectives on Non-Linear Relationships Between Arousal and Brain Function. Nonlinearity in Biology, Toxicology, Medicine, 3(1), 1–7. http://doi.org/10.2201/nonlin.003.01.001

How Long Does It Take Great Quarterbacks To Break out?



If You Really Listen: A message from a critically ill child – By Lorie Hood


If you really listen you can hear me. If you look beyond what your eyes are telling you and what you think I need, you can see me. I know it’s hard because I know how much you love me. I know how much you need me but you see, right now, I need you.

I need you to remember that there is a me. Yes, I came through you and in this world you and I are connected but I am not you.

Don’t lose me. Don’t lose me in your pain and fear. Don’t let me become another expression of your needs or perceived failures. Try, please try.

Try to see past the blinking lights and monitors; the therapists and nurses. Try to see me. I am looking for you and I am trying to help you see me. I am not just this body with its secretions to be suctioned and lungs that need to be thumped and forced to cough. I am not just my cancer that may or may not come back. I am not just the child on whom you calculate odds so you can plan your life or your grief. I am here and I am trying so hard to communicate with you.

Look at me. Look at ME. Not my body, not my hand or mouth or other part that needs attention. Look into my eyes and let me look back. I need to look back. I need see that you see me.

Listen with your eyes. Listen with everything. Listen carefully with all of your senses. I am trying to communicate all the time. I am forcing myself to stay awake despite being so sleepy. I am forcing myself to stay awake just so I can catch your eye but when I do, it’s only for a second and you flit away to attend to another body part of mine or monitor or to discuss me or my progress with someone else.

Please listen. Please see me. I miss you and I feel so alone.