Thursday, June 27, 2013

Get Stronger

I bet you think this is a blog about muscles, but you're wrong.  It's a blog about  your mental game.  Let's come up with a plan to get stronger from the neck up!

Let's use the analogy of working to build muscles.  We are going to choose one or two exercises to focus on to get stronger.  We are going to slowly build our reps, our speed and our strength.  Remember, muscles grow because we work them and stress them.  That is how we want to view our mental games.  Identify a weakness and work to master the skill to offset it.  When you feel strong in that skill, choose another skill to add to your mental game.  You don't have to do this by yourself.  You can find a coach, a guide, a mentor or someone who is successful doing what you want to do. Technique will be important to staying on track and building strength, as will determination and you should find someone to remind you of that and talk through your progress with you.

Okay, let's start.  What part of your mental game do you want to improve?  Here are some choices:

Commitment/Decision Making
Staying in the Present
Game Planning
Handling Pressure & Challenges

Let's choose the first, focus.  First of all, just saying focus isn't enough.  Where do you want your focus to be?  Good players can focus well, but often turn their focus on the wrong things.  That is as detrimental as no focus.   What is it you want to focus on?  An example would be targets.

Goal:  I want to focus on my target on every shot.

How will you go about reaching this goal?  Here are the steps.  Remember to keep it simple and quick so you can do it easily under pressure.

1.  On each hole, think of your game plan.
2.  Choose an appropriate target for the shot.
3.  Visualize the shot going to your target.
4.  Commit and execute the shot.

If you shoot 75 tomorrow, you will have had 75 opportunities to focus on your target.  In order to build your strength in this area, keep track of how many times you actually did it.  Along with your score, keep a tally for each shot you did all four of the things listed above.  Ask yourself, "Did I stick to my game plan?  Did I choose a target?  Did I see the shot before I hit it?  Did I stay committed to the shot and execute the shot?   If you did those four things, give yourself a check mark after you hole out.  Be honest with yourself in your evaluation.  If your mind wandered to the water on the right during your pre-shot routine, did you refocus or just rush through the shot?  If you thought about  your takeaway mid swing instead of sticking with the picture of your target, don't give yourself the tally.  You can hit a bad shot and still get a tally mark if you stayed committed to your target until you hit the ball.  You can hit a good shot and lose a tally if you know you got by with a swing that wasn't focused where you wanted it.

As you continue to work on this one skill, you will see your strength grow.  You will create good habits and catch yourself when your mind wanders or focuses on things you don't want to think about.  You should see an increase in reps, just as you would in the weight room.  After every round, figure out the percentage of your success and work until you are consistently at or over 90%  Every once in awhile, you will finish your round and realize you got 100%.  Your scoring will be low on those days, but that isn't what will stand out to you.  Instead, you will be proud of the strength you gained on your focus. 

Over the next few days, we will talk about some of the other mental game skills listed above.  If you want to work on your mental game, start with just one and stick with it until you see real success.   I mentioned earlier that speed will come along with strength.  What I mean by that is, you will be quicker to recognize when you aren't in the state of mind you want to be in to play your best golf.  When that happens, simply go to the simple plan you drew up and focus on the steps involved.  Evaluate yourself anew with each shot and don't give up on your plan in the round.  Failure once or twice just means you need more time in the gym to gain strength.

I also talked about how a coach or guide could help you.  One of my current players got that type of mentorship from a former tour player who offered his advice.  The person you talk to doesn't necessarily need to be a golfer.  There are a lot of mentally tough people out there who can encourage you and give you guidance along the way.  The important thing for you to improve is that you recognize your needs, give yourself a plan, work to execute the plan over a period of time, evaluate your results and stick with it until you reach mastery.

Larry Mowry reached out to mentor a Mustang this past year and helped her with her mental game. 

Your brain isn't a muscle, but if you treat it like one, it takes the mystery out of the mental game.  Get started today!

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