By Laura McKenzie, MHK
We’ve all been there; somehow, the stars align and you and a few friends manage to have a day off, a beautiful, sunny day with a light, refreshing breeze. You secure a tee time and can’t wait to get out on the course. And then it happens. You step up to the tee, line up your drive, take a deep breath, and wind up and let ’er rip. You yell at the ball as it if can not only hear you, but that it will listen and comply; “get up, get up, right, riiiiiight!” Ugh. You miss the fairway….by a lot. It’s going to be a long day.
Golf could go down in history as one of the most intricate sports of all time. A game of inches, there is nothing more frustrating than coming up short on an easy putt or landing one in the bunker, except perhaps, trying to figure out why.
Now I’m sure that the mental stamina involved in golf isn’t news to most of you, but what might surprise you is the idea that mental skills, such as distraction control, refocusing, and visualization (to name a few) not only can be trained but they need to be trained just as much as (and in some cases more than) physical skills.
As a Mental Performance Consultant, one of the most common concerns athletes come to me with is consistency; how can I perform at my best all the time? A tough question with any number of possible answers. I’ll leave the physical components to the Pros, but from a mental perspective, it has been my experience that inconsistency is often rooted in self-awareness, or lack thereof. You might know that you’re not a morning person, or that your favourite food is pizza, but that won’t help you on the course (unless maybe you only play in the afternoon and there’s a pizza waiting for you at the 18th hole). I’m talking about really knowing yourself; what are your goals? What are your strengths and weaknesses? What are you thinking and saying to yourself when things are going well? What about when things aren’t going so well? How do those thoughts affect your performance? What are some obstacles or challenges you face and what resources do you have to overcome them? Be honest.
It may seem simple, but when done thoroughly and thoughtfully, it can be quite challenging. Answering some of these questions in writing is often one of the best strategies used to build self-awareness; reflect, write it down, and come back to review it again later. Disclaimer: analyzing your own behaviour and thought processes can sometimes be uncomfortable – you might learn something about yourself that you didn’t want to know – but the fact of the matter is, you can’t change the not-so-good stuff, or keep doing the really good stuff, if you don’t know what that stuff is.
A few strategies for building self-awareness:
- Plan ahead; set a goal based on your strengths and weaknesses – how would you like to perform? What do you need to do (physically and mentally) in order to perform that way?
- Ask for feedback; coaches and peers can be great resources for information
- Review video of yourself; take a look at your body language, what were you thinking in those moments and was it helpful or harmful? How did you react physically and mentally?
- Keep a small notebook in your golf bag; write down thoughts and behaviours as they happen so you don’t forget later
- Take some time to reflect on performances; what went well and not-so-well? What parts were you happy with and which ones would you like to change for next time? How can you implement those changes? And write it down. Keep a log or journal so you can revisit it later.
I encourage a lot of my clients to implement these strategies in to their training, often one or two at a time so as to not become overwhelmed. It comes down to personal preference and what works best for you. The development of self-awareness, like your ability to drive the ball or read the slope of the green, takes time, training, and effort but let me tell you, it’s well worth it.