Tag Archives: the mental game of archery

A Review of “Choose to Be a Winner” by Jens Fudge

We are finally getting more than just a scant supply of resources on the mental game of archery. One such new source I encountered just before I published my book, “A Guide to the Mental Game of Archery,” is “Choose to Be a Winner” by Jens Fudge of Denmark.

I loved the tone of the book. The voice in my ear was that of a friendly coach/shooting partner who had, by all means, “been there and done that.” I am a little jealous of that tone.

And there is novelty in the contents. I read ideas and approaches I had seen nowhere else before, so something new is always welcome.

An especially strong segment of the book was the one on visualizations. Jens reminded me of uses archers can put visualizations that I hadn’t been focused upon of late. (I wish I had read this section before I published my book, but all authors have to be careful to attribute ownership to ideas and exercise and it is oh, so hard to not steal the good stuff. Oh, I am going to “steal the good stuff” when it comes to my coaching, but if I publish someone else’s work, it reduces their sales and is therefore unfair.)

What this book provides quite a good bit of are actionable exercises. And, trust me, I have been looking for years for mental exercises to help archers and this book has more than a few of those. As a tease here is one: Speed Visualizing. To do this you visualize one of your arrows, in detail. Then you visualize shooting it dead center into a target, then you repeat with a second arrow, and a third. (Mentally put yourself through the process; feel the building muscle tension, everything.) Now, speed up those three shots, reducing it to the three hitting dead center: bam, bam, bam. All three should take less than one second now. Then see if you can get this “video” burned into your mind. Practice it during breaks in your day. Then, when you reach important points in a competition, and you are in need of a boost in self-confidence, run the video several times in quick succession.

I will reinforce over and over that these techniques work for some but rarely all archers. You can only find out if any of them work for you is to try them, sincerely and vigorously try them. The hard part is coming up with things to try and Coach Fudge has supplied you with a basket full.

I am recommending this book, highly, to all archers and coaches who want to get deeper into the mental game. It is a bit pricy (see price below), but what price do you put upon winning?

Contents

1 What This Book is About
2 About the Author
3 Training Planning – Competition Planning
4 Training Journal
5 Mental Training
6 Visualization
7 The Inner Conversation
8 Mental Energy
9 Focus
10 Self-Confidence
11 Mental Competition Preparation
12 The Reviewers
13 Additional Resources

173 pages (including a number of blank pages, I assume for taking notes)

$37.79 (Amazon US), no suggested list price

Available in English and Danish (It would probably be nice to get it into French and German, too, but translations are tricky things, so we are just throwing the idea out there to potential archer-translators.)

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Archery—Ahead of the Game?

I have recently been working hammer and tongs on “A Guide to the Mental Game of Archery,” a book I have been working on for over ten years (off and on). And in Science News (January 26th) I read the article “How mindfulness-based training can give elite athletes a mental edge” by Ashley Yeager, in which she reports:

There’s also been an explosion of research into elite athletes’ mental health in the last few years, says sports and clinical psychologist Carolina Lundqvist of Linköping University in Sweden, citing a 2020 analysis in International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology. The research points to two promising psychological tools.

One is mindfulness — paying attention to, or staying in, the present moment without judgment. Another is acceptance and commitment therapy, or ACT. In conjunction with mindfulness, the therapy trains a person to accept difficult thoughts or feelings rather than actively work to get rid of them. Studies have shown that these tools can improve athletic performance — and, importantly, lead to a richer life off the ice or the court.

I had already written on acceptance and mindfulness in my book. I had heard it advocated for quite some time that we needed to accept bad shots calmly, that everyone shoots bad shots, that we need to be wary of expectations (usually our own) as they can lead to disappointment while we are shooting, which can lead to other things, none of which are good for your score.

I and others have recommended exploring mindfulness, which the author perfectly described as “paying attention to, or staying in, the present moment without judgment” even though as archers we need to trim the things we fill our minds with severely and judgment is part of every post shot routine, e.g. “was that a good shot or a bad shot?” This is necessary to adjust one’s shooting routine if something came up that wasn’t part of the plan on that last shot (wind, damaged arrow, etc.). This always involves comparing a judgment of the quality of the effort and the outcome of the effort . . . for every danged shot. But those judgments need to be calm and somewhat detached.

I have been whining a lot about how many of our sport’s beliefs aren’t backed up by much of anything scientific, so it is good to see scientists paying attention to what athletes need to perform at a high level. It is also gratifying that coaches (others, not me, I was just following their suggestions) had identified some of the tools needed before the studies were done.

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Coaching Tips from Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh is a 93-year old Vietnamese Buddhist monk who has been one of the most influential spiritual leaders on earth for the past fifty years.

Below are some of his teachings that apply to archers (actually they apply to all people, but this is showing how they apply to archers).

  1. The most precious gift we can offer anyone is our attention. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.” (Thich Nhat Hanh)

For coaches coaching an individual sport, you do not have to divide your attention up amongst many team members. Attending to your students, one by one, allows you to give this gift. Of course, if you are constantly interrupted, or let your phone interrupt you, of your mind wanders, or . . . you will send the exact opposite message. There are communication techniques that can be used by coaches to strengthen your relationships with your archer-athletes. One is called “mirroring.” when an archer indicates they have an idea, the first thing to do is to repeat it back to them and asking, “Did I get that right?” In this manner you are saying: I paid attention to you; I heard what you said. Then, rather than dismiss their idea out of hand (even if it deserves to be), asking your student to think it through and analyze whether they think it will work at least shows them how to do this for themselves when they are on their own. And, from time to time, you can offer: “I don’t think that will work, but do you want to draw it to see for yourself?” And, then have them try it. You may find out you were wrong or they may find out you were right. Obviously you don’t want to designate a large amount of practice time to ideas you do not think will work, but on occasion, it may be very helpful to both of you.

  1. To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself. When you are born a lotus flower, be a beautiful lotus flower, don’t try to be a magnolia flower. If you crave acceptance and recognition and try to change yourself to fit what other people want you to be, you will suffer all your life. True happiness and true power lie in understanding yourself, accepting yourself, having confidence in yourself.” (Thich Nhat Hanh)

We have often said that archery is an exploration of ourselves, a journey into self. Knowing ourselves, as archers, and trusting ourselves, as archers, is key to competitive success, for example. We find out many things about ourselves from our participation in archery. And we, as coaches, offer tidbits of wisdom, such as “Shoot your shot.” This is not because your shot is special or better than anyone else’s, but it is the one that you know best. Our current culture may promote narcissism but archery certainly does not.

  1. The best way to take care of the future is to take care of the present moment.” (Thich Nhat Hanh)

Is there anything about a repetitive sport, like archery, that this is not pertinent to? We are constantly asking our students to perform in “the now,” and avoid speculation on the future or dwelling on the mistakes in our past.

  1. Your breathing should flow gracefully, like a river, like a watersnake crossing the water, and not like a chain of rugged mountains or the gallop of a horse…Each time we find ourselves dispersed and find it difficult to gain control of ourselves by different means, the method of watching the breath should always be used.” (Thich Nhat Hanh)

Focusing on our breathing is still the most potent tool and archer has to re-establish calm during tense, competitive moments.

Interestingly, all of these things apply to our daily lives, which I think is what Thich Nhat Hanh was referring to. Do you think he might have learned these things through archery?

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My Battle with Perfection

When you shoot Compound Freestyle, also known as the Compound Unlimited style (and by many other names . . . I especially like the French label: arc à poulie, basically “bow with pully”), indoors your goal is a perfect score. In indoor leagues we varied between shooting NFAA 300 Rounds (60 arrows, 5-4-3 scoring) and the Vegas Round (30 arrows, 10-9-8-etc. scoring).

I started out in archery shooting a compound bow with my fingers on the string. I only switched to a release aid when I got tendonitis. “Release shooters” were supposed to shoot perfect or near perfect scores indoors, so this was my goal. For some reason, I struggled with the multi-colored Vegas target. I never broke 290/300 on that round, but on the NFAA Round I made steady progress. I moved up from the 260’s to the 270’s, then 280’s and 290’s. I hit a plateau, however, at around 296/300.

I shot score after score at 296 ± 2. This lasted for more than one season. I realized at the time that while shooting I had thoughts like “This first one had better be in or the rest of the round is a waste of time.” and when I finally dropped a point, I realized that I had lost mental focus during the end, thinking about scoring or worse, thinking about work, rather than thinking about executing.

Then one league night, I grabbed the wrong bow case and ended up with my outdoor bow at the league session. Instead of somewhat larger aluminum arrows my outdoor rig had Easton ACCs. Well, no sense in whining about it, I shot my outdoor setup. And I shot a 300/300 NFAA round with 42Xs, a new PB in X-count. (So much for shooting fat shafts because of, you know, the advantage.) After one regularly shot 300/300 rounds, the next goal was an X-count of 60. Note The NFAA X-ring is almost the same size as the Vegas 10-ring.

Thinking that I finally had broken through whatever was preventing me from scoring regular 300s, I shot the next league, with my indoor bow, and shot . . . 286/300. I had mistaken someone who had shot one perfect score with someone who always shot perfect scores. I certainly hadn’t brought my A-game that night.

What I Learned
It is clear that archery is a sport in which one, in short order, can approach a score that is “near perfect” in a number of rounds. (Not the York Round shot with a self bow! I didn’t break 100 on my first try . . . out of  1296 (using traditional 9-7-5-3-1 scoring).) It is easy to make the transition from “points made” to “points lost” in one’s thinking and when one is chasing “no points lost” odd thoughts crop up from “sighters” through to the final end. (I cannot clearly remember what was going through my head on the final three ends of that 300/300 round I shot, but it wasn’t pleasant.)

By extension, I now teach students that seeking perfection is a bad idea. We do not want to “shoot perfectly.” We do want perfect scores, though. A perfect score is an outcome from sticking to your shot routine and focusing on each and every shot the same way. In other words, a perfect score is not the summation of X perfect shots. It is the summation of X shots that were “good enough.” My perfect score had more than a few 5s and Xs that were shot “outside-in” (I kept the target face and examined it carefully).

And, if you want to be an archer who shoots perfect rounds almost all of the time, you have to shoot a lot of those scores, to get the mental cobwebs swept out. You want to prove to yourself that shooting those perfect scores is “just like me” and the only way to do that is to shoot a lot of them. And the only way to shoot even one of them is to attend to your shot sequence while focusing on what is happening now. Thoughts of what might happen are not helpful, not helpful at all.

Photos of the target face can be easier to evaluate than the faces themselves.

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Negative Cancels Positive

Regular followers of this blog know that I search for usable slants on coaching from golf educator sites. (There are more of them and they have been doing it longer, and it is similar enough, etc.) In so doing I ran across this quote from one of my favorite golfers:

Winners see what they want, losers see what they don’t want. Don’t let the game eat you; you eat the game.” (Moe Norman)

I like Moe Norman, now deceased, a lot because he basically coached himself to become the greatest golfer Canada ever produced. The stories of his skill are almost beyond counting (and some beyond belief).

In any case, allow me to unpack his quote. The word “see” refers to visualizations of the shots golfers want to pull off. So, they “see” the next shot in their imagination, then they do it, just having “seen” it. (I argue these are like a visual recipe for our subconscious minds to follow.) Moe’s main point is that “winners” see what they want to have happen, while “losers” see what they fear will happen. This is why so many golfers trying to hit a shot over a pond end up with their ball in the pond because what was dominating their thinking was “Don’t hit it in the water; don’t hit it in the water” which is a subconscious recipe for . . . hitting the ball in the water.

He recommends that you not allow the game to “eat you (up)” and that you instead should be the eater. This is a somewhat colorful metaphor for not letting the golf course dictate to you what to think, that you be in charge and dictate your own thoughts, thinking only about what you want to have happen, not what you fear might happen.

With respect to archery, we are in a repetition sport that is even more repetitious than golf. In golf, it is hit the ball and walk up to it and hit it again, whereas in archery we stand on one spot and shoot two, three, four, five, or even six arrows before we have to walk up and find them. In order to get the desired level of consistency/repeatability, we endeavor to repeat each shot, just like the previous one (assuming that were successful). To pull this off we create a shot sequence that we train in so we do the same actions, in the same order and, if we can pull it off, with the same timing/tempo. Part of that sequence is what I call the marker for the end of the pre-shot routine and that is a visualization of you making a shot, from your point of view, seeing the shot fly through the air to land dead center in the X. This is a very positive visualization, one that equates to success. Immediately upon the completion of the visualization, the shots starts with you raising your bow and just a few seconds later, your arrow hits the target.

It sounds perfect, but . . . I am here to tell you that “negative cancels positive.” If you are anxious about your shot for any reason, say it is score related—you are shooting a personal best score and then some and want it to continue—the fear of missing can creep into your thoughts. You can see each arrow score as being on the track to that new personal best or being off track, so in the back of your head your are entertaining the negative effects of an arrow that doesn’t score as well as you wish. You, in effect, are thinking “Don’t hit it in the water; don’t hit it in the water.” And, often as not, your arrow scores deteriorate and your opportunity for a new personal best score is gone.

This scenario is typical of what is used to explain performance “comfort zones” and why we as a rule, never think about score if we can avoid it. Nothing good can come from thinking about your score or anyone else’s . . . well unless you are practicing performing under pressure. I am reminded of an archery camp I attended in which they pulled off a simulated tournament to give us the experience of competing in a USAA target tournament (I had not at that point, so the exercise was most welcome). As luck would have it I ended up in a shoot-off with another archer: “one arrow closest to the center” determined who went on. The other guy was chosen to shoot first and while he was doing that, I settled myself thinking “I don’t care what he shot, I will just ‘shoot my shot’ and let the chips fall where they may.” When I looked up the coach was walking toward me with a Cheshire Cat grin on his face, looked me in the eye and said, very loudly “He shot a 6!” A voice in my head immediately said “I only need a 7 to win!” Have you ever shot to score a 7? No? Neither had I. I had to compose myself for several seconds to clear my mind and just take a “normal” shot. I knew better but couldn’t control my thoughts.

So, what to do, what to do?

I still can’t control my thoughts but I have a processes for “shooing away” those negative thoughts. If you have one of those mid-shot, a let-down is in order. Whatever does control my thoughts knows that if we do not stay positive, we don’t get to shoot. This is the same way we control lines of acting out teenagers on a shooting line. Anyone acts up, no one gets to shoot. (It works, even with those considered incorrigible by the schools they attend.)

I have no idea what the actual control mechanism is, or even if there is one. (There is a good argument for unbidden thoughts being a survival mechanism too valuable to shut off.)

We also have to be aware enough to notice when negative thoughts are starting to hold court. If we do notice this, it is time to stop, take a deep breath or two, and refocus upon what our actual goals are for the day, rather than a goal that just happened to pop up. (New PB! New PB!)

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Why Do We Listen to Those Little Voices in Our Head?

We all have them. Little voices in our head that seem to be voiced by someone else, often sounding quite critical of something we just did. We even have a meme, exemplified by an image of two “devils/demons/angels” sitting on our shoulders, one mouthing good things, the other bad things.

This “voice” for archers is a problem. As I have said often enough—never say bad things about yourself, that is what friends and family are for. But, whenever we shoot a poorly scoring shot, we have thoughts along the lines of “Argh, what an idiot!” and “Here we go again!” Why do we listen to these voices, which clearly aren’t being helpful?

I am going to argue that often enough it is because we can’t get good feedback about important things from anyone near us. How many people know you well enough that you could say “He/she seems to know me better than I know myself?” If you are lucky enough to have one of those people in your life right now, how much credit do you place on their opinions of you? Do you take them seriously? I would.

When it comes to your archery, is there a coach or mentor whose opinion you have such great trust in? If not (and “not” is the norm, I believe) what other options do you have but to coach yourself and that includes listening to the little voices in your head.

Back when I was teaching I often said “you can’t buy good feedback.” I meant by that is you can’t pay someone to give you that. In order to get good personal feedback, you must have a fairly deep relationship with that person. You have to know them, know them well and they have to know you, know you well. Trusting a coach, say, because they have a great reputation or an archer because of a championship pedigree really just gets their foot in the door. It takes time together, time on task, for such a relationship to form. This is why many great archers forgo their coaches and shoot with a training/shooting partner for a while. Each member of this duo provides feedback to the other (when asked, only when asked!). And, those “partners” didn’t just meet each other, they have a relationship already.

So, if you still have those little voices chiming in, you will have to have the discipline to analyze them and discard those which are unhelpful. Is that “Here we go again!” just a statement of fear or frustration regarding a poor shot. (Often this is how we protect our egos, by softening the blow of a poor overall performance by predicting it!)

Are the voices in your head stand-ins for critical parents/“friends” who aren’t there to berate you in person? Take some time to understand where those little voices come from. Over time, they will diminish in frequency and energy, or you may just train them to be actually helpful.

The lesson for coaches? Always, always, always treat your students as if they will become very serious students (don’t treat them like they already are, however). If they do become serious students and they do want consistent, frequent coaching they may just choose you for that because you know them so well. And, all of the time you sent together previously will have helped to create the relationship that will be crucial to the success of the team.

An Aside If you do not get chosen (and this is hard for me), be happy that they found someone better than you to coach them.

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How We Control Our Subconscious Actions

The Golf Channel has been having a days long orgasm after Tiger Wood’s comeback was crowned with a major tournament win last weekend. In the post-Masters press conference Tiger was asked whether any of his father’s advice came into mind during his performance and his answer was “Sure, putt to the picture.” By this he meant once the green was “read” for a putt one visualized the path the ball would make rolling to the hole and with that “picture” in mind, Tiger would then try to “putt to the picture” or, in other words, make a putt that looked just like the picture.

In target archery we use the same technique. Just before the bow raise (the point I suggest is the beginning of the actual shot, the previous bits being a “pre-shot routine”), we visualize a perfect shot as powerfully as we can, then we execute. The visualization is basically a plan sent to our subconscious mind to execute. Consciously we abide in what I call “Watcher Mode,” that is we are merely watching/feeling/sensing what is happening and we take no action nor give any directions unless something goes against the plan (a wind kicks up, our bow makes a strange noise, the arrow falls off of the rest, etc.) while the shot is being made.

Shooting a target round is a dance between our conscious and subconscious minds, each coming to the fore from time to time to perform actions for which it is more suited than the other. An archer who is in the wrong mind at any time will suffer the consequences.

The sooner you can introduce these concepts to your archers, the quicker they will find themselves no longer losing their mind shooting arrows.

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Being Driven Crazy by Psychology

There is a burgeoning field of scientific endeavor which is the study of the acquisition of expertise. I am trying to write a book on the mental game of archery and since there is too much material for one person to study first hand, one needs to do a lot of reading to find out what others say, hence my interest in this subject. Anything that helps us understand how to make expertise more attainable, makes us better coaches.

A promising viewpoint on the attainment of expertise is Ericsson’s work on what is called “deliberate practice.” Ericsson’s claim is that undirected practice has minimal benefits, the main one being making us more physically fit to perform the task at hand … maybe. But if you want to improve the quality of a performance, highly focused practice  is necessary, with the focus on a specific aspect you wish to improve, using directed drills/exercises to that end.

The mainstream press, though, has asked the omnibus question: Is practice all you need to develop expertise? And lately they have brought up a number of topics researchers claim have a role. One of these is “working memory.” Working memory is a hot topic in psychology right now which is why people are trying it out for a leading role in … you name it. (Such is science: when topics are “hot” a whole bunch of scientists jump on that bandwagon. This is probably a manifestation of scientists looking for a place to work in which results are easier to get, not unlike gold prospectors.) Working memory is how much information you can cram into your mind and hold it there while you are working; this is definitely “short-term memory.”

Working memory is now claimed to play a role in sight reading of music and any number of other performance-related fields. Apparently the people making these claims haven’t looked at a performance critically. For example, studies show that in order for a musician to play from music they are reading, they have to “read ahead” several notes ahead of where they are playing. It was discovered (by the simple expedient of covering up the music and exposing it at rates the scientists could control), that professional musicians read ahead farther than amateurs. But to the researcher’s surprise, the difference was very small. When reading music and playing, there is an optimum read ahead distance: if you are too close to the playing time, musicians stumble. They apparently do not have enough time to translate the symbols into actions. If they get too far ahead of playing, they also stumble because they tend to forget what they had read before they are supposed to be playing it. So, working memory does play a role in sight reading music (reading as you are playing) but the part working memory plays is as part of a chain of events. Obviously if you do not have enough of working memory, you will struggle at this task. Other studies show that “experts” have more working memory than amateurs in this arena. So, the question I have is: does working memory get improved through practice? If so, then the question (Is practice all you need …) is too broad.

Yet, huge claims are being made regarding the role of this bit or that bit when it comes to practice. How any one of us is to make any sense of the current state of research is beyond me (literally). There seem to be some reasonable conclusions one can come to with regard to practice that have low chances of contradiction later.

  • So, should archers practice? Yes. Practice is a route to better performance. But, how effective the practice is is dependent on how smart you practice. So, practice as focused as you can.
  • Is there a way to project the amount of practice needed to meet a goal? No. Longer practice sessions do not seem to be as effective as more frequent shorter ones. (What “longer” and “shorter” are is ill-defined.) If you want to perform consistently, you must develop to the point you can shoot larger numbers of arrows in a session than required for performance.
  • It also seems that the best physical practice for a performance is the performance itself. So, if you are a pianist, play the piano. If you are an archer, shoot arrows.
  • In order to tell what works and what does not, you must … keep … records of your performance. Memory alone just doesn’t work as there is too many details to remember. (What material is your bowstring made from? How long is it … exactly? How many twists are in it? How many strands? How long is the center serving? And that is just the bowstring. Note: all of that information is necessary to make a replacement bowstring.)

My feeling is the question “Is practice all you need to develop expertise?” as discussed in the mainstream press, supports the meme that there are natural “talents” for particular activities: a talent for math, a talent for the violin, a talent for baseball. This is not only unsupportable by any science (the existent of sport- or activity-specific “talents” has no evidence supporting it) but is a toxic concept; even if it were true, there is no benefit from believing it.

Performers who believe in “talent” tend to quit easier when they encounter difficulties, believing they “just don’t have a talent for math (or whatever).” They also shy away from greater challenges because they have no idea how far their “talent” can take them and they don’t want to test something they don’t understand. Plus, since this talent-thing is responsible for their ability, why practice? These reactions to the belief in the concept of talent have been documented and seem to make sense.

If you don’t believe in “talent” then the outcome is determined by how much you learn and how hard you practice. If your performance isn’t good enough, you either need to work harder or smarter (better: both). This nonbelief in talent has this benefit in that we can now see the effect of deliberate practice upon skills developed and it is quite positive.

 

 

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More on the Mental Game of Archery

Regular readers of my scribblings will know that I raid golf instruction for ideas regarding archery. And my last post was on the Mental Game of Archery involved some golf stuff. Well, here is some more: a post by mental game (golf) guru David Mackenzie of Canada. As you read, see if you find anything that applies to archery. (If you don’t end up with “all of it” you need to look closer. Steve)

* * *

The 7 Habits of Highly Successful Golfers
September 25, 2013
David MacKenzie
http://www.golfstateofmind

In my opinion, the top players in the world share 7 things in common beyond having a good golf swing. Here, they are.

  1. THEY PRACTICE IN THE RIGHT WAY

Life is short. So why anyone would want to spend hundreds of hours trying to improve in the wrong way is crazy. Beating ball after ball at the same target at the driving range and coming away thinking you’ve mastered the game only takes you backwards. How many golfers wish they could take their range game to the course? 99% of them. The other 1% (the elite), practice in a way that is challenging and simulates course conditions. Hitting a bucket of balls to the same target over and over is easy and it’s nothing like playing on the course. The top players make every second count when practicing, so they’re working all areas of the game to the max. The first thing to do in trying to get better at golf is to think about the way you practice, and change your routine. I’ve worked with many players of all abilities and one of the major factors in success is the way you practice. Make practice hard and as much like the golf course as possible.

  1. THEY ARE ABLE TO STAY IN THE PRESENT

Staying in the present means that you give whatever you are doing your complete, undivided attention with no distractions of the past or future. In golf, this means you’re not thinking about your score, how your playing partners might be judging your performance, why you think you just sliced that tee shot or 3 putted the last hole. All your energy is on the process of hitting shot at hand and then enjoying the walk in between.

It’s easy to see how counter-productive it is not to be in the present – just think back to your last round where you started playing well and then thought about shooting your best score (into the future), only for your game to unravel. The same thing happens when you start to think about bad shots you hit (in the past). Being solely in the present is easier said than done I know (like everything else it takes practice), but there are good techniques to prevent these tension causing shifts in thinking. I’ve got plenty of techniques for getting better at staying in the present and relaxing in between shots in my Ultimate Mental Game Training System (2016 Edition).

  1. THEY CONTINUALLY WORK ON THE FUNDAMENTALS

Good players understand the importance of the fundamentals as it’s the foundation for a good golf swing. How you grip the club, how far you stand from the ball, how good your posture is, how good your ball position is and how well you align to the target are all way more important than just trying to swing the club correctly. The fundamentals need to be worked on continuously as it’s easy to get into bad habits, even for Tour players. It’s always worth a check up from your local pro to make sure you have these right. Alignment is the one that requires the most maintenance. You could argue that a consistent tempo is also “fundamental” to a good swing.

  1. THEY PLAY WITH VISUALIZATION AND FEEL, NOT SWING MECHANICS

The eyes are probably the golfer’s most important asset. Once they commit to a target, the top players imagine exactly how the shot will look, even what the ball’s going to do when it lands. How clearly you define your target and your shot shape before playing each shot will have a huge impact on how well you execute it. It quietens your mind and allows your subconscious play the shot, as opposed to conscious control with technical thoughts, which just doesn’t work as well.

  1. THEY WORK ON A HIGHLY REPEATABLE PRE AND POST-SHOT ROUTINE

The top players in the world all go through the exact same routine before (and after) every shot, even down to the number of practice swings and looks at the target. The routine acts to prepare you as best as possible for the shot, and going through the same sequence right up until you swing, means there’s no time for negative thoughts to creep in. Focusing on your routine also distracts you from the importance of the shot you are about to play – it makes every shot feel the same regardless of the situation. Your mind stays quiet.

  1. THEY KNOW HOW TO CALM THEMSELVES DOWN WHEN THE PRESSURE IS ON.

I’ve worked with enough players to know that the good ones know powerful techniques to calm themselves down to prevent nerves turning into panic and negatively affecting performance. They are very self-aware and know how guide their minds away from negative thoughts and towards positive ones. They use nerves to their advantage. There are many ways to do this such as breathing techniques or having special thoughts/places to go in your head in between shots. This could be looking up at the sky or the trees, anything to switch off your golf brain so you’re not thinking about your score or swing. I recently heard of a player that would try to solve math problems in his head when it all got too much out there! So there are countless ways to do it.

  1. THEY KNOW THE POWER OF ACCEPTANCE AND MOVING ON

Being able to accept every shot whatever the outcome should become a key part of your game. The optimal state for golf would be to become emotionally indifferent to good and bad shots. Most Tour pros have acceptance built into the routine and they tell themselves that although they have a positive intention for the shot, if it doesn’t go where they want it to, it’s better to accept it and move on, than get disappointed or frustrated. Try verbalizing this in your head before your next shot. Also, try making a deep breath or the action of putting the club back in the bag your signal that the shot is over and it’s time to get back into the present. There’s plenty of time to analyze your round when it’s over!

Ingrain these things and make them a habit!

 

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Thinking While Shooting

Occasionally I run into a student who has been thinking his way through every shot. It is always shocking when I discover this as I don’t look for it. I have been doing some writing about this topic lately and while doing so ran across this tidbit:
In a 2013 survey, 28 PGA Tour golf professionals we’re asked about what their favorite swing thought was.danger-sign-b

“Here’re the results:
•  18 pro’s said they didn’t think about anything at all during their swing.
•  10 who did have a swing thought said it was to focus on a spot a few inches in front of the ball, to encourage swinging through, instead of hitting at the ball or they focused on the desired shape of their shot.
•  None of them said they had any technical thoughts about their swing.”

From Darrell Klassen’s Cut the Crap Golf Blog

I also recall baseball great Yogi Berra being asked what he thought about while hitting and his answer was (approximately) “If I had to think while hittin’ I couldn’t hit nothin’!”

If you have students who are talking themselves through their shots (mentally), you need to find ways to discourage that practice. It is a real barrier to better performances.

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