Friday, September 23, 2011

The Simpleist Things

A big part of coaching is providing your golfers with the tools needed to face the situations that come up in a competitive round of golf.  If you are a basketball coach and you see a player have a major momentum change, you can either call a time out or substitute for that player to make sure he remains in a positive state and stays focused on his game plan.  Golfers don't have that luxury.  There is no one to watch over your state of mind but you.  There are no time outs or substitutions.  Instead, it is up to you to recognize when you need to change your focus or state of being.  Once you recognize it, you then have to make the change and finally, it is up to you to commit to the proper state and maintain it throughout your round.

Here is how you can help yourself maintain a great competitive mindset throughout a round of golf, no matter what challenges you face.  The first step is to decide what mindset helps you play your best.  Every player is different.  Here are some examples of mindsets that my players have adopted and used successfully.
1.  Have fun!  This type of player recognizes that she needs to keep things light and "play" the game.  When coaching these players, we stay in the moment and never offer analysis or feedback during a round. 
2.  Visualize!  This type of players recognizes the process of seeing the shot before hitting the shot.  It is important for her to use her eyes and stay very involved with what she wants the ball to do.  When coaching this player, always focus on what the ball will do and not in what the player will do.
3.  Fairways and Greens!  This is a player who likes to keep it simple.  She focuses on game plan and takes it one hole at a time.  When coaching this player, it is important to talk about what is at hand and not jump into the past or future.

Next, understand that you will face both positive and negative challenges that will threaten your momentum, your confidence, your patience and your temper.  Influences, such as the pace of play or a talkative partner could also disrupt the "perfect" state of mind for competition, so problems can come in many forms.  Decide in advance how you will handle these challenges.  Your plan doesn't have to be complicated or too specific, but it does need to be memorable and unique to you.  Here are some examples of scripted actions you can use during a competitive round and written in first hand.
1.  I play my best when I have some bounce in my step like Tigger.  No matter what happens today, I am going to maintain a bounce in my step, keep my head up and my shoulders back!

2.  I play my best when I stay in the moment.  If anything happens to shake me up today, I am going to look at the blueness of the sky or the greenness of the grass and become absorbed by the colors and the moment at hand.  Only then will I continue with my round.
3.  I play my best when I stay calm and think of fairways and greens.  I am going to take slow, deep breaths prior to hitting shots and I will read my yardage book on each hole to connect with my game plan.  If things aren't going well, I will count my steps rhythmically walking up the fairway to get that calming and rhythmic feeling before I get to the ball.  If things are going well, I might need to do the same to keep myself from getting too excited.

4.  I am going to focus on my pre shot routine today.  I am going to be deeply into it and use it to visualize and commit to the shot at hand.  It will be a source of strength for me today.
5.  No matter what happens today, I am going to be totally into the shot at hand. If I go under par, I am going to work to go further under par. If I make a mistake, I will work to be completely into the next shot.  I am committed to the shot at hand today.

The important thing for deciding on your actions is to have an understanding of what happens when things go wrong.  If you get down on yourself or beat yourself up in your mind, you need to plan on how to do the opposite before it happens.  If your body language reflects anger, frustration or impatience, you need to figure out how your body language looks when it is helpful and adopt it at all times.  If you know that you get ahead of yourself, you need to commit to your game plan.  This is a very individual plan and your coach's job is to help you form it, support it and remind you of it during your round.  Your job is remember that your day will be one of "action" and you won't be a victim of circumstances.  Victims rarely win golf tournaments. 

Another key to deciding how you want to act is keeping track of what you do when you play well.  If you keep a journal, you can write down what is happening on a great day.  Don't ever be worried about writing down silly or seemingly unimportant things.  I have seen players win tournaments using an action such as counting airplanes between shots or seeing how many birds they could recognize in a day.  The importance for them was in relaxing between shots and finding a way to do it.  Better yet, they competed with a teammate for how many airplanes they noticed throughout the day.  Now they are accounting for their thoughts between shots, they are competing to make it more fun and they are accountable for it at the end of the day.  That is an example of a great strategy!

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