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Putting

Putting, the part of the game with the simplest stroke mechanics but one of the most frustrating to score well on. Overtime, the expectation of making putts from all distances inside 20 feet with less than the desired result can cause a drop in confidence and eventually the yips. Part of the issue is that we are too hard on ourselves when most of the putt is out of our control.

Short game is one of the main areas where you can reduce your score. Count how many putts you take per round for 3 months and aim to find your miss patterns and improve them. The more you practice the luckier you will be.

There are 2 types of putting practice:

  • Target oriented
  • Stroke Mechanics

When practicing putting you should only ever work on either the target or the stroke mechanics.

You should only practice your putting for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, after that you can lose focus easily and physically the putting posture puts a strain on the body. The putting posture strength needs to be built up over time.

Target Oriented

This is purely just practicing hitting to a target.

I believe in straight line putting (every putt is a straight putt), as it has 2 advantages:

This takes the focus off the hole as the hole is never the target (it gets in the way) and it allows a consistent stroke with no manipulation of the hands. To find your authentic stroke, record yourself putting with your eyes closed.

Practice drills:

  • Putting to make putts

Set out 6 balls 3 feet around a hole using tees to mark the distance. Treat each putt as if it were in a competition. Rehearse your pre-shot routine, read the putt, set up to the ball, and make the putt. When you have made all 6 putts 5 times without missing one you are finished. If you miss one you must start again – this brings pressure and focus into the practice.

  • Practicing distance control

There are several drills for this. One would be to take 5 tees and put one down to mark your starting point. Every pace (3 feet) put down another tee so by the end you have markers from 3-12 paces. If the putting green is longer you can use the fringe as another final point. Take 4 balls and practice rolling each ball to a stop at the distance of the first tee. Do this for 3 rounds then move onto the next tee. Keep a record of your groupings (photo) to see the improvement over the weeks. This practice builds feel on 2 keys of putting – Pace and distance control with some pressure if you are recording results.

  • Start line

One of the keys of putting, having read the green and picked your start line, you must have the confidence to be able to roll the ball on the chosen line. Put a tee down as your starting point and place a coin 3 to 4 foot away. The objective is to be able to roll the ball over the coin. Set a target of 10 balls in a row that roll over the coin, if you miss you start again. This again requires practice of your pre shot routine, set up and incorporates pressure to the practice.

You can practice the above on side slopes to make it more challenging and always step away before hitting the next ball to practice the routine.

Stroke Mechanics

Stroke mechanics practice is vital for consistency in set up, consistency of strike, putter face control and confidence in execution.

Practice Drills:

  • Putting Posture

Practice getting into the correct position each time is vital for consistency. Find a wall with a skirting board. Get into your putting posture placing your head against the wall and putter against the skirting board. This corrects your head position by placing your eyes over the ball and gives you the feeling of a quiet head movement – any swaying of the body will be felt straight away. Practice the putting stoke where the putter stays close to the skirting board on the back and through swing but do not hit the skirting board. This will highlight if you are swinging in a loop or too far on the inside or push to the outside through impact. Also check that your feet are set up square (equal distance away from the wall). To be in the bio-mechanically correct position for a straight back straight through swing, your thoracic and cervical spine should be parallel to the ground.

  • Aim

Aiming or pointing the putter is another key in putting. This requires control of the putter face to square it up at impact to the intended target line. Using the putting mirror alignment aid shows where the putter should be at set up. Using a ball with a line on it, pointing straight at the target will show if you are striking the ball square at impact. You will know when the ball is rolling end over end as it will show a continuous line. If the line is erratic there is side spin on the ball.

  • Swing tempo

The tempo of the swing is vital for distance control consistency. Practice a swing which has a smooth acceleration through impact. For long putts lengthen the back swing for better feel, control, and consistency of strike. You can use a metronome to experience a rhythmical tempo.

Putting Routine

Green reading starts as you approach the green, 80 yards away. Check to see if the front of the green is lower than the back and which side is higher (left side or right side). This will give a general indication as to what way the slope is running.

  • After marking the ball, walk around the ball going to the low side walking beside your intended line to the back of the hole, then walk back to the ball on the high side. This will give an indication if it is downhill/uphill and what way the slope is running. The putter is not allowed to touch the green near the intended line that the ball will be rolling on. Use your hand to remove any debris on the line.
  • After deciding on the line, you want the ball to roll on, place the ball down with the pre-marked line on it pointing in the direction of your start line (not the apex – highest point of break).
  • Standing in line (behind the ball) or parallel (side of the ball) to the start line, have a couple of practice swings while looking at the hole. This will give you an instinctual, intuitive feel for distance and if the stroke is long enough to hit the ball that required distance.
  • Set up to the ball and take a couple of looks at the hole. On the last look at the hole as your eyes return to the ball, start your back swing. This is putting by reaction. The longer you stand over the ball, the more you putt from memory which is less accurate then reacting to what you are looking at. A dart or basketball player look at the target and react to the distance, putting is the same.

There are many important parts of putting, pace, green reading, face control and putter path. The best approach is to be confident. Commit to the decision you have made and do not react if it misses. There are so many external variables that can cause a putt to miss. You must aim to do your best in the pre-shot routine and focus on rolling the ball. As soon as the ball leaves the club face, it is out of your control.

The variables

Putting is largely out of your control so we should not be so hard on ourselves once we have followed our pre-shot routine and committed to the decision.

The Green – The surface of the green, regardless of how well manicured, is full of high and low points which affect the direction the ball rolls. The ball jumps and bounces as it makes its way to the intended target. The type of grass can cause a ball to run quicker or slower depending on the direction it is growing. Small impediments can cause a ball to go offline which we may not have noticed before striking the ball.

The Ball – We assume that every ball is a perfectly balanced sphere with a dimple pattern but, very few golf balls are perfectly round or perfectly balanced. If you were to roll a ball on a perfectly flat surface (levelled snooker table), it can go offline due to the ball being weighted more on one side or due to the slight shape distortion of the ball.

The Wind – The wind can have a big influence on the ball, especially in high winds. With putting it can cause a ball to run out more than expected (downwind), pull up a lot shorter (into the wind) and move offline to the side (crosswind). The wind in some cases needs to be factored into the read of the putt as it can have such a big influence on how the ball is going to move. Which can sometimes counteract the effect of a side slope.

Debris – Debris like leaves, papers, seeds, muck etc can greatly affect how the ball will roll and can be seasonal like in autumn or always a possible issue like another player that dropped packaging from their mid round snack. All debris should be removed as to not affect the roll of the ball.

Bugs/Insects – Small insects and bugs should be looked out for as they can be the difference between success and a frustrating miss. The line you intend the ball to travel should be looked at and any little bugs or insects should be carefully moved as to not harm them or knock the ball off its line.

Rain – In Ireland, this is a common occurrence with the rain affecting both the ball and the green speed. Depending on the level, it can drastically reduce the speed of a putt and if the putter face is wet, it can reduce friction causing inconsistencies with strike.

The grip – There are so many types of grips that people have tried out over the years and you should be encouraged to try them out to see if one suits you better than the one you are currently using. Also, the Grip thickness that is on the putter itself plays a big roll in how the putter is released so it is very beneficial to take the time to find your release pattern and match the grip thickness that best matches your natural pattern.

The Putter – There are so many types of putters which release and swing differently. Some are high in forgiveness and alignment while others focus on feel. The putter head shape can cause you to aim left, right or centre of the intended target. Time should be taken to find out what combination of shape and shaft bend suits you visually so you know you will be set up online to your target. Other areas to consider are, swing weight, length, loft, offset, alignment, insert, grip thickness, counterbalance, and colours.

Ball alignment line – There was study carried out to determine which colour was most noticeable against the green grass on a white ball to use for alignment. The most noticeable colour was red. Try this colour out on your golf ball to see how it suits you. A point to note is that depending on your head position in relation to your start line, the line can look left or right of the target as you address the ball.

Training aids – There are a huge amount of training aids available to help with your putting weather it if for stroke mechanics, alignment, feel, distance control etc. If you feel you need help with this part of the game, to save yourself time, it is highly recommended to get a lesson so you know exactly what you need to work on and what training aids would be most beneficial to you. Using the wrong training aid can enhance the issue or create new bad habits when the issue could have been easily corrected.

Having taken all the above into consideration it is a miracle that any ball ever finds its intended target. The professionals play on near perfect greens, with green reading maps, highest quality balance checked golf balls, best conditions, have hours of practice with custom equipment and all the latest technology which gives them vital feedback of what is happening during their stroke and still they can miss what seems to be the simplest of putts. The psychology of putting is massive with numerous tools that can add joy back into the part of the game.

So, the next time you miss a 12-foot putt that you expected to make, think of all the external influences that can cause a putt to miss and ask yourself if you did all you could with what you could control. The pre-shot routine, commitment to your start line decision and a committed stroke with a neutral or positive attitude, if you did, then the outcome does not matter as most of the putt is subject to multiple external factors while rolling on an imperfect surface. Always aim to learn from each putt taken so the next time you are faced with a similar putt you will have more confidence and knowledge which increases your chances of making the next one.

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Course Management – Full

When playing golf, an area which can drastically lower your score is course management. During any given round there are 100’s of decisions to be made which contain multiple factors which need to be considered and adapted depending on the type of course, the conditions and how you are feeling on the day. The more decisions that you have already made prior to playing, the better chance you have of shooting a low score as you can put your focus on the task, the shot immediately in front of you. I will separate this into two sections, the preparation and on course, to give you a few ideas to think about and consider implementing into your game.

The preparation

Self-Preparation:

Physical Training – A fitness professional can create a conditioning program to help prepare your body for the hours of demanding stresses and strains caused by the miles of walking and 100’s of swings. A golf specific training program can help massively with endurance, strength, conditioning, stability, and flexibility which improves the bodies range of motion. Everyone wants to swing like the tour players but not everyone has the range of motion required to do so. This can be a big step to improving your golf swing. The golf coach and fitness instructor should work together to devise a weekly program for the players needs based off the players availability and goals.

Mental Training – The mental side of the game does not get the attention it should as all actions and behaviours are controlled by the way we think. The fastest way to improve on the course is a change of attitude. There are many techniques which can be used on and off the course which not only improves the players thinking but the skills and attributes are transferrable to everyday life. Mental strength is a massive part of a tour professionals training with some having their own sports psychologist and is something everyone should incorporate into their training. One of the most used techniques by all top professionals in every sport is visualisation.

Game Preparation:

Golf Bag – Check that you have no more than 14 clubs, tees, a ball marker, pitch-mark repairer, pencil, pencil sharpener, sharpie, same compression golf balls, a glove and spares, 2 towels, range finder and/or Gps, preferably a waterproof bag but depends on where you are playing, umbrella, rain gloves, winter mitts, hand warmers, any medication you might need, drinks, food/snacks, rain gear, cap/hat, sunglasses, a trolley (make sure the battery is charged), any luck items and anything else that you would specifically include as everyone is individual. The most important piece of clothing are your golf shoes as you can be wearing them for 4-7 hours each day so spare no expense for these. Be prepared for all conditions with everything ready the night before.

Know the course – This involves knowing the type of course you are going to play which includes a series of questions such as is it parkland, links or a mix, hard or soft conditions? Are the fairways cut tight and hard or long grass and soft? Is the rough thick or thin, short, or long? Is the course open to the elements or protected by tree cover? What is the course altitude and weather conditions? Are there large elevation changes or is it flat? Where is the carpark, clubhouse, changing rooms and sign in area? How far is the practice area from the clubhouse and first tee?

All these questions can influence how good a warmup you can have based on your arrival time, for example if you have good timings factored in from arrival to tee off you can be very prepared for the game ahead. Equipment choices can also be affected.  On a windy links with hard fairways, a 2 iron would be a better choice than a 5 wood and vice versa if it is a soft treelined parkland course. Your selection of wedges can be the difference between a good or great score with low bounce wedges preferred for links courses with hard fairways and greens over the high bounce option for parkland soft fairways and greens. The chipping/pitching technique may need to be adjusted based on the ground conditions. The ball also travels further at higher elevation with club yardages needing to be adjusted. The ball itself might spin too much if conditions are soft or not spin enough, so knowing the ball characteristics and how they will react is vital for shooting low.

Course analysis – This begins weeks/months before the competition and includes a shot-by-shot breakdown plan to identify specific yardage approach shots which you can practice, where to land the ball on each hole, the location of the high value trouble and strategies to maximise your chances of shooting the lowest score. An aerial image of the course can reveal safe areas to aim for and ones to avoid which helps with club selection from tee to green. Do you need to be able to work the ball, hit high and low shots, create a lot of spin, or allow for the ball to release on the greens? This can identify specialised shots which you currently might not be able to play with confidence but can learn in the time before the competition. You might find that you have multiple holes which require the same approach yardage. This gives you focused attention and an advantage as you can perfect the shot weeks or months prior to the competition and have confidence on the holes which require that exact distance.

Know your game – To give yourself the best chance of shooting the lowest score you need to know your game. Be honest with yourself when it comes to what your carry distances are and what the dispersion patterns are with each club? This is vital to playing to your strengths and giving yourself the best possible miss should you not have your A game on the day. You form your strategy based off your strengths which could be as simple as: regardless of the pin position, aim for the middle of the green or hitting your 3 wood off the tee when the hole demands a straight shot.

Competition day:

Start your day with a good breakfast which will provide energy for the next 3-4 hours. As everyone is different, this can take a lot of trial and error to see what combination of foods provides the desired result. (consulting a nutritionist is highly recommended). You are looking for a slow sustained release of energy that covers both the physical and mental to keep the body strong, blood pressure at a maintained level and clarity of mind. Know how long it takes to drive to the course and any alternative routes should there be a diversion in place on the day. Aim to arrive 1.5 hours before the tee time as this allows plenty of time for talking, catching up, signing in, stretching and your warmup. This ensures you are prepared to go from the first tee and takes the stress and doubt out of the game caused by rushing.

Getting ready :

The warmup The warmup is hugely important to prepare the body for the hours ahead while reducing the chance of injury. The golf swing puts a lot of torque on the body and can pull, strain, tear and rip if not properly warmed up. Have a routine which targets all the muscles used in the golf swing to be carried out prior to going to the range. A fitness instructor or golf specific fitness coach would be able to give you a bespoke warm up plan for your body type and usually does not require a lot of time. Ensure it contains, stability, flexibility, separation, myofascial tissue stretching, twists, turns, push, and pulls.

On the Range – its time to start dialling in your rhythm and tempo to see how you are performing on the day. Every day is different and is vitally important to see how you are moving and what shot type and shape you are producing on the day. Start with the shots that first develop touch and feel then the shots you had identified and practiced prior to the competition day that you would be using during the round. Chip around the green to ensure you have the correct wedges in the bag and short and long putts to get a feel for the green speed on the day.  Finish with the club that you will be using off the first tee to instil confidence off the first as you have just hit the shot a few minutes before. Devise a routine warm up that is timed so you know exactly how long you should spend at the range and on each section of the game.

Green reading maps Where possible, it is advantageous to get a green map book. This gives all the green information with slopes, yardages, green tilt, and distances to carry or to reach any bunkers, water, or run offs. This allows you to pick your approach shot based on your strengths, pin distances and the contours of the green. This gives you a huge advantage when putting as the slope percentages are shown every few feet and when used with a green reading system like Aimpoint, you can greatly increase your chances of making putts.

Playing:

Where all the preparation and hard work is put to the test. Playing to a game plan requires discipline, knowing your habits, thought processes, and controlling your emotions. Many seem to forget that it is a game, and the challenge should be enjoyed but many get lost in the frustration of trying to shoot low or caught up with the technical aspects of the swing.

On the course On the day, check how the course has been set up, the condition and how it is playing. Check the weather forecast for the next 6 hours, then select one of the game plans that you have prepared. You may know the people you are playing alongside, but the challenge is to not get distracted when playing, stick to your pre-shot routine and focus on the shot immediately in front of you. From time to time, you may come across people that will offer you advise, if you have put the work in during the course analysis, you will be prepared for the hole that you are playing so stick to your game plan as it was created at a time when there was no pressure or external influences with your strengths at the forefront.

Pace of play is particularly important but do not rush your pre-shot routine, time can be made up by walking to the ball quickly. It can help if you split the course up into 3hole segments. Focus on the best score you can make for the segment you are in, forgetting what holes are in front and behind you. Allow for any handicap adjustments based on the hole index. Find ways to distract yourself between shots or if you are waiting for extended periods of time due to slow play. Remember to keep the body loose and watch the self-talk if you do find yourself standing around.

Fuelling yourself – When you begin playing, you will need to sustain your energy levels from the breakfast, again this is trial and error as everyone is different, but you want to avoid the peeks and troughs which is caused when sugar is the source of energy. Find out if there is a food hut after 9 holes and what type of food they have. A chicken salad is perfect to get you through the final 9 holes (but burgers might suit you 😊!!). A hand full of almonds and water every 2-3 holes can be enough to keep you feeling full and energised throughout the round.

Self-management – the most important skill in golf is knowing how to manage yourself. Being aware of how you react under stress and pressure can be the difference of having a good round or a great round. When you are aware, you can manage your reactions, nerves, emotions and stay focused under the pressures of an interclub competition or the final day of a professional competition. Like the golf swing, this takes practice and a lot of effort, but this has the added benefit of being transferable into your everyday life. A sports psychologist can create an environment for you to experience pressure, your reactions, and the techniques which can be used to manage your reactions and gain control of emotions. Golfers should be putting as much time into their psychology as they do into the swing as both are intertwined. The day you play where you have a new personal record for 9 holes, you should review how you were thinking, what tension was present, what was your self-talk like, how quickly did you make decisions, how you reacted to miss hit shots etc. This is the mindset you should strive to be in every time you play, the challenge is how to “get in the zone” more often which starts with self-awareness.

Course strategy – Golf at all levels, can benefit greatly from the implementation of one or more strategies to help manage the ball around the course. Your local golf coach will be able to give you a few to try out to see which works best for you. On a short and tight course, a strategy can be as simple as not hitting driver or you are going to play a club short off the tee so you cannot make the fairway traps. There are many for all aspects of the game which can greatly improve your chances of shooting the lowest score possible.

Post round:

Stretching After the round it is important to prepare the body for recovery. A short post round stretching routine will keep the body from becoming stiff and can set you up for the following day if you are playing a multiple day competition. There are different levels of flexibility from normal day task range of motion, sport specific range of motion and end range of motion. The more flexible and supple you are the less likely you will suffer from injury. Routines from Yoga can help both the body and mind to relax after hours on the course. A good night sleep and rest enhances the body’s ability to repair quickly.

Recovery fuel The body needs Energy to recover so a good post game balanced meal is essential to replace the lost nutrients (proteins, Carbohydrates, and fats). A sports nutritionist would be able to provide a few tailored sports specific options to maximise your recovery in the shortest space of time. Hydration plays a massive part as our bodies are mainly water and post round intake can vary greatly depending on the climate you are playing in and how much you drank during play.

Post-game analysis One of the most important aspects of improvement is feedback. A self-review of how you played and what you noticed is key to improving and altering game plans and strategies to improve your score the next time you play. A good review will look at self-talk, shot decisions, discipline to stick to the chosen game plan or if the game plan needed adjusting on the day and why, commitment to each decision, identifying any doubt or negative speak and what caused it, confidence level for each shot, diligence in carrying out the pre-shot routine on every shot, How accurate your yardages were compared to rehearsal, were you distracted by playing partners and if so, why? how were your energy levels? Clarity of mind and any other aspect you feel you can benefit from.

Improvement at all levels can begin with an analysis of how many shots you played which were both in play and out of trouble in the areas of driving, approach shots, lay ups, pitching, chipping, bunkers and putting. If you review and aim to improve an area by just one shot each time you go out, you will become proficient in all areas and can focus your rehearsal games on bringing the area with the most room for improvement to that which is your strongest. Always remember to enjoy the game, people tend to get caught up in all the analytics and bad shots, but it is a game of recovery so challenge yourself to make the best recovery possible and above all else have fun.

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“Failure”

Before we get into the topic, I invite you to get a pen and note pad to write what thoughts came into your head when you first read the title. This can identify any underline beliefs, your relationship and the perspective you hold with failures. Any limiting beliefs can have a dramatic impact on decision making, personal growth and stop you from trying new things.

We are subjected to environments which celebrate success and downplay the abilities of those deemed to have failed. This becomes engrained from childhood, in some cases through experiences with the educational system, parenting, sports, social interaction, and our peers. The view becomes one that failure is a bad thing and to be avoided at all costs due to how it makes you feel and what you think others will be thinking about you. We really should be embracing failures as they have moulded us into the person we are today but a change of language can have a drastic change of perspective and behaviour.

If we look at perspective, simply, this is how you perceive an experience based on your viewpoint. When this is coupled with the egoic mind of always wanting to be correct, it can lead to a very judgemental attitude. To give you an idea of this, if you sit across the table from someone with the number six written on a page in between both of you and from your perspective engage in a conversation about what the number is in front of each of you. The ego will be wanting to be correct and win but this is a situation where there is no right answer as both are correct based on the individual’s perspective. We should be more open minded to other possibilities and adapt a non-judgemental attitude to all situations. A humbling saying is Just because you are correct, does not mean the other person is wrong.

If we breakdown what failure is, it is a lack of success for something you have attempted to do. There are many great quotes regarding ‘failure’ which gives an insight into how others view failures. The difference between successful people is that they have failed many more times than unsuccessful people have attempted. In the World Golfers Teachers Federation, we change our approach using an NLP presupposition – there is no such thing as failure, only feedback. This approach has 2 positive outcomes, Success or learning.

“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising every time we fail” – Confucius

“Fail early, fail often, but always fail forward” – John C, Maxwell

If we were to change how we view failure, we would open the door to many opportunities. With that in mind, if we replace the word’ Failure’ with ‘experiment’ it becomes more empowering as the judgement is replaced with the analysis of “what did I learn” in that experiment instead of “that didn’t work”. One of the best examples of this is Thomas Edison and the light bulb experiments.

“I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.”

Edison did not let others perceived failures deter him from the burning desire to solve the problem and create the light bulb.

Regardless of what it is you are looking to accomplish; this change of mindset can be applied to any task or goal. You must identify the reasoning behind the attempts in the first place, what is driving you to achieve success and what is your motivation? The type of motivation is what will be an assistance to success and be one that is either internal or external with Internal being weighted higher. Examples of external motivation are monetary rewards, praise from others and wanting to impress compared to the internal motivations, such as:  you love the challenge, you enjoy helping others and self-empowerment. Some of the attributes that this will bring forth in you are, commitment, creativity, diligence, honesty, persistence, excitement, focus and a growth mindset.

So, the next time you are going to take on a challenge with the possibility of “failing”, change the mindset to one of an experiment. Plan out what you want to do and how you want to do it, with a post analytical review to see what you learned, what could have be improved on and what you would do differently the next time you do it. Be persistent, diligent and immersed in the process and you will achieve your intended goal. As set out by Napoleon hill in “Think and grow rich”, when a want becomes a burning desire and is teamed with action, the only thing that will stand in your way is time”.

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Sports Psychology

Sports Psychology is the science that introduces the athlete to the awareness of the mind/body connection, as one without the other leads to underperformance when comparing to their true potential.  It delves into the psychological factors that affect performance and reviews how the athletes are currently performing and their perceptions surrounding their experiences when competing in their chosen sport.  It provides cognitive and behavioural strategies to help the athletes to cope, focus and reduce the stress of self-expected performance. 

Its origins date back as far as 1898 when psychologist, Norman Triplett, exclusively studied the performance of cyclists when performing as an individual compared to when in a group setting.  It was developed further in the 1920’s when the credited founder of sports psychology, psychologist Coleman Roberts Griffith, produced a number of books and articles across multiple sports and the first sports laboratory in Europe being founded by Carl Diem in Berlin. 

The main areas of focus where the Sports Psychologist excels at are in the areas of: 

1. Performance enhancement:  This is the in-depth look into the Athletes beliefs, values, thought patterns and the implementation of strategies such as Relaxation techniques, visualization and positive thinking which helps to overcome any mental blockages.   

2. Competitive support:  This involves experiencing different coping techniques for the athletes to use under the pressures of competition and high stress situations.  

3. Relationships:  Looks at strategies that optimise the relationships of each athlete.   

4. Motivation:  Helping to increase the athlete’s motivation levels to achieve their goals. 

5. Injury recovery:  Mental strategies can help the athlete to remain focused and positive when in a time of pain and self-doubt. 

The Sports Psychologist will optimise an athlete to perform at their true potential when faced with the stresses of the toughest competitions with a look at all aspects of their experience through each of the five headings.

Do you perform to your best when feeling the pressures of competition?  

If so, great, you have implemented self-managing techniques to reduce the shaky hands, distractions and self-pressures that we place on ourselves through expectation, but, if you do not perform well, you will now be aware of the mental side of performance and the dedication that the top athletes go through to prepare themselves to gain that edge over competitors. 

To give you an idea of what is involved, I will give you an example of someone who I have worked with and the process we went through.  Everybody that comes to me is treated as a blank canvas, regardless of their skill level and ability.  This takes away any perceived expectations that may have been formed through the initial conversation and also gives a base and process that pinpoints the key areas for improvement.  This will be golf related but the principles can be applied to all sports as the subject matter remains the same.  

A friend of mine who is a very good golfer had plateaued and was just frustrated with his golf game to the point that he was making excuses not to play.  We had a chat and it was evident from his use of language that there was no confidence or belief in his ability to achieve the goals he had set out.  There is a great quote from Henry Ford that highlights the power of thought. 

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.” ― Henry Ford. 

Henry knew the power of the mind and that the only thing that was standing in the way of him achieving his goals was time. 

The Player had set good goals but was lacking the self-motivation to achieve them and had no accountability along the way to help drive them.  Having played a lot of games with him before, I knew that they had a fixed mind-set, closed to other possibilities but one of the days there was a shift and he began asking questions on mental focus.  The one thing that you can change immediately and have a positive impact on your results is Attitude. 

We discussed the game from his perspective (Performance profile) and worked on a few strategies for mental focus, relaxation, beliefs and thought pattern awareness so he could notice the negative thoughts.  He brought up about not having the time to play full rounds with work and other commitments which is where we introduced IMAGERY – one of the most powerful preparation techniques that has been scientifically proven to increase performance by experiencing the arousals of the event beforehand.  

I asked him a question that questioned his beliefs.  This was from “play your best golf now”.  On your course, if you reviewed all your previous rounds, have you birdied every hole?  He said yes.  I then asked, so what is stopping you from birding them all during the one round?  The response received showed a lot of limiting beliefs which we could then work on strategies to overcome. 

We discussed what pressure actually was and worked on techniques to reduce its impact making it a positive thing.  Rather than being worried and focused on the results, I introduced a process-based approach.  We covered “Pin prick” aim which settles the mind, body, feelings and emotions, by being present and connected to the task.  Tension, pressure and outcome became a distant thought as the mind and heart connection was created.  The fear of losing was dissipated as we cannot grow if we have nothing to teach us, you either win or learn.  Losing can be a powerful tool when critically self-analysing how you performed in managing yourself.  This self-analysis will help guide you to the exact tools you need to implement in managing yourself during time of high stress. 

The end result was a winner’s attitude, joy and a resurrected love for the game, the scores he thought were unachievable are now being surpassed and the skills have had a lasting affect not only on his golf game but in everyday life as many of the skills are transferable.

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Goal Setting

Firstly, please bear with me as I attempt to breakdown this massive area into a “short” blog and hopefully give you some food for thought for using such a powerful tool on a daily basis for your Golf/life improvement. The power of this skill is that it is transferable to everyday life and breaks our habits.

While studying, life coaching, Sports psychology, Personal training and reading multiple books on the mind-sets of the most successful people, one of the main things they all have in common is the use of Goal setting. I am amazed at the amount of people who do not have specific goals that they are working towards but rather they do what they think they should be doing each week without any pre-set desired outcome. One of the main drawbacks of this approach is that motivation reduces when the visible progress becomes stagnant.

Imagine getting into your car with no planned destination and you just start driving. When do you know when to stop or even if you are going in the right direction? How long will it be before you lose motivation and end up back where you started? Compare this to when you have a specific destination with a specific pre-planned route. How much does your driving efficiency and decisiveness improve? Does your motivation increase the closer you get to the destination knowing you are nearly there? How much more likely are you to achieve success? This is the affect that goals can have in everyday life. Goal setting is a way to bring the future into the present but you have to know what it is you want.

Amongst a host of factors, one of the main reasons for people not implementing this approach is FEAR. The introduction of failure to any goal adds a self-inflicted pressure which affects the ego, beliefs and self-image that are engrained in our sub-conscious about ourselves. In Golf, a way some people experience where their attention goes is to tee off in front of a large crowd in a competition and notice if your attention stays in the present and focused on the task or do you start to think of multiple different outcomes you don’t want to happen as it would make you look bad or do you wonder what everyone is thinking as you stand over the ball?

The perspective on failure needs to change in order for a person to grow as failure is a key tool which can provide the greatest feedback. It can act as an indicator for us to know if what we are doing is working or not, allowing us to review, adapt and change our approach. A quote from John C. Maxwell who is a reconginsed leadership expert whose organisations have trained over 2 million leaders worldwide suggest that to have success in a long term goal you must embrace failure.

“Fail EARLY, Fail OFTEN, but always Fail FORWARD” John C. Maxwell

So let me set you a Challenge, keeping it very simple.

For the next 2 days I want you to think of everything you have to do or what knowledge or skill you would like to learn over the next 30 days and why you want to achieve it. Be specific in the goal, making it challenging but achievable.

Make the decision that you are going to do this. The decision is a commitment to yourself that you will be consistent and avoid excuses. Adopt an “I CAN DO” attitude. If you have decided not to do it, ask yourself why? We have engrained responses in our subconscious, driven by our programmed paradigm which often pose as a barrier to change.

Get a note pad and pen, one that you like the look of and have it beside your bed. Every morning, write 5/6 things you want to achieve that day and be realistic. Number 1, making your bed and start every morning with making your bed as this will be 1 daily item ticked off your list and will start and finish your day with success.

A second task is to choose a topic/skill that you want to know more about or get better at and set aside a minimum of 10 minutes undistracted each day for this. It can be 5 minutes x2, whichever is easiest. Why would this skill/topic improve you? Always go to sleep knowing at least 1 thing more than you did when you woke up that morning in this area.

The other 3 or 4 daily tasks are specific to what you want to achieve during the day. They can be small things like I will post that letter today, I will pick up a card for the party, I will do the food shopping or I will have my clothes laid out for the next day. Don’t judge if you did not get something completed that was out of your control, like getting a flat tyre on your way to pick up a card in a shop that closes in 10 minutes. If it was something that was in your control just review why it didn’t get done and how would you have done it differently to complete it.

This process is the start of change. It breaks the habits that has us running on auto pilot most days and moves us closer to what it is we actually want and like to do. Procrastination and distractions are some of the the main barriers to achieving goals. You will be amazed at how much you can achieve during the day when you have a specific plan you are working to.

After the 30 days, review your knowledge or skill level chosen for task 2. Notice any change in yourself or any improvement in skills or knowledge. Then look to set the next goals you want to achieve over the next 30 days.

“In order to grow we must challenge ourselves by putting ourselves into uncomfortable positions/situations. We notice what we notice and create the foundation to build upon. It is not a competition to be compared against others but a chance to improve on the person you were today. Always strive to do/experience/know/challenge/change at least 1 thing each day and you will forever grow” Peter Redmond

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Interference

If you have read some of the previous posts, you will have noted some references to both the conscious and unconscious/subconscious mind and the relevance they have in the learning process. The subconscious is responsible for about 90% of everything we do like controlling heartbeat, breathing, blood pressure, producing cells, digestion and millions of other processes that are happening on a daily basis. The conscious mind can control decision making, thoughts, actions and emotions with some cross over to the subconscious tasks like for example, breathing. You have been breathing naturally as you have been reading this (unconsciously) but you have the ability to influence this by holding your breath or speeding up or slowing this process down.

When playing Golf this relationship and ability for the conscious mind to control some unconscious actions can be both beneficial and detrimental to the ability to perform to the best of ones ability depending on how that person is thinking. When I started with the World Golfing Teachers Federation, my eyes were opened to this concept which was identified and written about by Tim Galloway, which was a motivator for me to learn more on how the brain works. Tim identified that every person is both a self 1 (conscious) and self 2 (subconscious/physical body). When the body is able to unconsciously carry out a task but the conscious mind makes a decision, has self doubt, try’s, controls a part of the action, this generally leads to under performance or choking, especially when pressure is added to the task. Any conscious thought that impacts on an unconscious action is referred to as “Interference”.

I have given some inner game experiences with almost instant improvements and some feedback comments of “I’ve never swing the club so easy and hit the ball so far”, “I hit that ball perfectly”, “it cant be this easy” and “this is like voodoo”. The experience consists of distracting the conscious mind from interfering with the body’s natural ability. Much like a free throw in basketball, they merely look at a specific point on the board and react to it. There is no conscious thought of, I have to get my hand close to my shoulder and as I raise my arm I have to contract my tricep and relax my bicep, timed with the release of the wrist and support of the fingers. You could not think of all that as the shot would have left your hand before you were finished. The Self 2 knows how to do the task better and faster than you can actually think of doing it. This is what we must tap into when playing golf and why most coaches will only allow 1 swing thought during a round.

The benefits of this approach is that we get to see what your authentic swing, tempo and timing looks like with no interfering thoughts impacting on your natural ability. At this point we can see how your body is moving during the swing which when complimented with a TPI (Titleist performance Institute) assessment which identifies any limitations you may have in Flexibility, stability and mobility, we can hone in on the specific areas which will maximize your swing potential based on how your body is naturally moving.

To give you an idea of this experience, take a glove, a tee and a ball marker out of your bag, place a bin or something that you can throw into about 6 feet away. Notice what you do when you throw each one into the bin, what were your interfering/movement controlling thoughts? did you think of mechanics, release point and positions of the arm? did you think about switching from over hand and underhand depending on the object? did you calculate the arc of the throw in order to clear the front lip? Or did you trust your natural ability, look at the target, let your subconscious make all the calculations based of the experience you have, trusted and committed to it?

When we can apply this concept to your golf game, shots become instinctive, trust and confidence increases, tension dissipates and commitment to each shot becomes your dominant habit. This comes back to “focus more” on what you can control of “ Focus More Care Less” and the scores will then look after themselves.

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Welcome

“Focus More, Care Less”

Peter Redmond

First of all you are very welcome to the start of what has been a very long awaited journey which, I am glad to say has finally commenced. So without any further delays, Let us begin.

Life throws a lot of distractions on our paths where inner goals are easily lost. It is how you reacted and the decisions you made in these situations that has molded you into who you are today. If you are happy then that is fantastic and forever may it last but if you are feeling stuck, make today the start of the change. Do 1 thing different each day that challenges you to break a daily habit. Do this and you will go to bed a different person than who you were when you woke up that morning and the start of growth has begun.

For myself, my passion was and is the Game of Golf. Golf, like many others, is a game that is viewed as being an external, physical sport but this is but a minor element of the game. Bobby Jones famously said “Golf is the closest game to the game we call life. You get the bad breaks from good shots and get good breaks from bad shots, but you have to play the ball where it lies”. In order to perform your best you must know yourself, your tendencies, how you react to pressure situations and how to manage yourself through them. You must have control of your emotions and thoughts in order to tame and distract the self-critic that expects perfection of ourselves and will tell you “that shot was crap” or “why did you play that shot, we are going to get a double bogey now”. You may have experienced it when lashing out after a shot, throwing a club, hitting the bag with the club, shouting out profanity’s or talking yourself down to a point of no confidence.

The skills and techniques that are used by the world’s best can change not just the performance on the course but in how you manage yourself, day to day off the course as well. This change of mindset and focus can have a life changing affect as every action begins with first, a thought, and then a decision.

My coaching is from an intrinsic, contextual and relational base which has increased performance without having to make swing changes. A process based approach rather than one of outcome, frees you up to focus on the shot immediately in front of you which makes up my quote of “focus more, care less”. Focus entirely on what you can control (yourself and shot you are faced with) and care less of the outcome (live in the moment regardless of result). The scores will look after themselves but when you try to control them or nurse the ball around, you will soon see them spiral out of control. You may have experienced this when you shoot 21 points on the front 9 and 14 on the back or you start with 14 and relax/stop caring and shoot 21 on the back 9. You cannot control the end result, but you can focus on doing your best with the little steps that get you there.

I will leave you with a question that highlights the difference in coaching methods for what is a very complex mobile, sequencing pattern.

How did you learn to walk?

Was it through in-depth instruction where you were told where each body part should be at a particular time during the movement (instructional) or was it through observing, trying and failing but each time your body was learning, to the point where you trusted your body to support you without the understanding of why it works? Natural movement (Intrinsic).

On your next round notice what you notice about yourself and how you are reacting and thinking. Awareness is the first step to playing better golf.

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Introduction

A bit about Myself and Proformance

My aim in setting up Proformance, is to provide local golfers with the professional coaching experience that the world’s best players have access to, covering all areas of performance. Coming from a Martial Arts background and now, a professional golfer, I noticed that the manner in which Coaching is currently being taught, is not the most efficient approach. The Focus, mental strength, natural intrinsic learning and environment were neither taught or lacked relatability/retention.

I come from a holistic approach and sought a body that was of the same mindset. The World Golfers Teachers Federation was of a similar approach where all the focus was client based and feedback is of paramount importance. There is no learning without feedback (experience and constructive).

Having a good knowledge of the body, the biomechanics of the swing lead me to TPI (Titleist Performance Institute). This has some great insights into how the body moves and how to coach around any limitations. I am currently level 2 Golf expert and studying level 2 Fitness. The USkids golf coaching has a focus on natural, intrinsic, games based coaching with emphasis on keeping it fun.

I have consulted with experts in their fields, who can offer clients the best possible experience for peak performance and I have teamed up with Simulatedsports.ie as a base for coaching using the state of the art facility based in Tallaght.

If you have any questions, please contact me via DM or info@proformance.com

Visualisation

Visualisation is one of the most powerful tools that we have which requires nothing but time and focus in a quiet and comfortable setting. In the current times when the courses are closed we can utilise this technique to help us prepare for when the courses are re-opened and the competitions are back up and running. It takes practice but it is utilised by some of the most successful athletes in their chosen field as it gives them an edge over the competition.


One of the biggest football names, Wayne Rooney, has used visualisation throughout his career going to the extent of asking what specific colour kit they would be wearing the next day as he wanted to be as specific as possible when visualising himself playing well the night before. Olympians use imagery as part of their mental training to prepare for peak performance under the high pressure situtations that they will face in competition with the some of the best in the world.


A question I have been asked a few times is: How does it work?

The brain is hugely complex and split between conscious (Left brain) and subconscious (Right brain). The left brain is a gatekeeper for the subconscious where we use logic and analytical skills compared to the right brain which is where we hold creativity, intuition and imagination, to name a few. The brain cannot distinguish between what is real and what is imaginary with the body responding to both as if they were both real.


An example of this would be when you are being chased in a nightmare while you are asleep, you are imagining the situation but your body is reacting to it as if it was happening, inducing an elevated heart rate, increased panic breathing, sweating, muscle twitches/tightening as if acting out what you are doing, being scared, running, hiding or fighting etc. where this technique comes into its own is when you are preparing for a competition but it can be used for anything (Public speaking for example). You can visualise playing with 100’s of people watching, noticing how you would react and the emotions and feelings you would be experiencing. You can notice if your attention and focus is on the task or if you are distracted by feeling anxious, nervous, excited and pumped with adrenaline which all contributes to your performance. The more you visualise the situations the more comfortable you become within them so when the time comes and you are actually doing it for real, you will be more relaxed and in control as you have been in that situation 100’s of times.


So how do we do it?


Preparation:
Find a quiet area at a time when you have about 30 minutes where you will not be disturbed. Immediately before sleep or as you wake are ideal times are you are moving through the different brain states. Wear comfortable clothing so you will not be constantly moving, making sure you are warm enough (use a blanket). Drink some water about 30 minutes before so you are hydrated. You can sit on a chair or in a meditation posture (making sure your spine is stacked/straight or lay down but make sure not to fall asleep if you are lying down. Have an intention and situation of what you want to experience. This could be that you are the last group playing the last hole in an all-Ireland interclub final, leading by one shot with the overall match all square and over 100 people watching. The pressure would be immense with all hopes on your shoulders.


Relaxing and breathing:

The breath is used to relax the body and quieten the mind. As you breath in, count to 5 and as you exhale, count to 5. As you exhale scan the body and release any tension that you come across. The body should start to become fully relaxed where conscious thought is tasked with the count and timing of the breath. The breath is also diaphragmic (belly/abdominal) breathing where your chest remains still as your stomach expands fully. Shallow restrictive breathing (upper lung breathing) when hunched over sitting at a desk or texting should be avoided. This is a practice and if you are doing it for the first time, we adapt a patient non-judgmental attitude as your paradigm will be wanting its say. This comes in the form of distractive repetitive thoughts of something you must do, something that annoyed you during the day etc. Whenever you get distracted bring yourself back to the breath. When you feel your mind has become quiet and your body is relaxed you can let the breath go (natural rhythm breathing) and begin to visualise. It can take 10 to 15 minutes or a few breaths to quieten the mind and the first few times you may not get past this part.


The process:
As you begin to imagine the setting as set out above, this is where you get as specific as you can including as many sensory organs as you can. Imagine stepping up to hit your tee shot with 100’s of people watching, knowing the situation and what is on the line. What outfit and colours are you wearing? How do you feel? Are you nervous, feeling sick, excited, happy, comfortable? Just notice how the body reacts. The body can become tight, sweaty, elevated heart rate, tunnel vision, hands shaking, dry throat, hungry. Notice if you are pumped with adrenaline as you can hit the ball farther than expected. What can you hear? Are there birds singing, cars driving past, trees rustling with a light breeze, people chatting? What smells are you experiencing? Was the grass freshly cut, are there flowers blooming or heather close? What can you taste? Have you just had something to eat coming off the 17th green, did you have some water or energy drink, is your mouth dry with nervous energy?


Once the setting is set then you experience your action. what are you noticing as you go through your routine, are you focused or distracted, clarity of mind or struggling to focus, committed to the shot or blinded by doubt, comfortable of uncomfortable? What chatter do you hear going through your head? Are you telling yourself how to play the shot and what to do? Take in and notice as much as you can. How did your swing compare to a normal unpressured swing on a practice round? Was it quicker, timing was good, was the strike solid, finished in a world class balanced position? Then based off the swing experience where did the ball finish, was it on the fairway, was it a good lie, was it towards your target? if it was then reliving it as much as you can will help create confidence. If it wasn’t, what did you notice? Was it a mental or physical issue? This can signal a limiting subconscious belief and would need to be looked at to see where it stems from and then clear it as if left, it can sabotage your success and hold you back.


Do this for each shot of the last hole and each time you play it create difference scenarios so on the day you are prepared for all possibilities. This will help give you confidence as you will be in auto pilot with little doubt to distract you. The key is to notice the emotions and feelings that you experience.


When you are finished, slowly bring yourself back, taking your time to stretch and write down what you noticed. You can work on any highlighted areas that you experienced which would lead to sabotaging you on the day to double your chances of success.


Have fun with it and as Dr. Joe Vitale says:

“EXPECT MIRACLES”

TPI

A question that I have been getting a lot from all level of golfers is “What is TPI?”.


TPI stands for the Titleist Performance Institute. They have analyzed thousands of golfers from all ability levels and identified a connection between a person’s physical abilities and the swing that they are producing. They called this: the body swing connection.
In order to give the player the best chance of peak performance, all aspects of the player must be reviewed from the golf swing/technique, the physical movement range, any impingements or limited range of motion/Injuries, their diet/nutrition, fitness levels and mental strength.

Of the last 20 major championship winners, 18 were advised by a TPI Certified expert. The golf coach has a team of experts around them to keep the athlete in the best possible shape for maximizing performance and reducing the chance of injury keeping the player on the course for longer. At Proformance, I have consulted with and put together a team of experts ranging from Physiotherapists, Deep tissue masseuse, a Master club builder, nutritionist, motivation and mental focus coach and a Golf specific Yoga teacher. The aim is to provide all levels of golfer, the same experience that the best players in the world have access to.

As a golf coach, it is vital to view every player as a blank canvas where no assumptions are being made and the TPI assessment is part of this process.

There are 16 TPI tests within the screen which check the current health, client history, swing mechanics and biomechanical movement a person has which depending on the results, can be seen in the 12 characteristics of the golf swing listed by TPI. There is more than one way to swing a golf club with some of the best players in the world, swinging with one or more of these characteristics. It is not to identify a right and wrong way of swinging but to make you swing in the most efficient way for maximizing power while reducing the potential for any injuries.

The 12 swing Characteristics are how the body is swinging the club with some of the common ones being, early extension, loss of posture, sway and slide to name a few. Once they have been analyzed, we can see from the assessment if there is a limitation; this is where the team comes in. We need to identify if any limitation is being caused by a previous injury. If so, can the medical expert fix the issue (if joint issue), can the fitness expert help stabilize the joint, increase mobility and flexibility or improve the strength in the area or is it a case that there is no limitation but you just do not know how to move your body correctly which is where the golf professional would come in.

Once we have identified and assessed these areas then we can start to prepare you to play your best golf. The Fitness expert can do a separate assessment to check your fitness level, strength, power and overall movement, your medical expert can check that all joints are working correctly and suggest any exercises needed if there is an issue found that can be corrected (non-biological issue) or if it is a biological issue like arthritis, this is what we need to know. The golf coach armed with this information can then look to making your movements as efficient as possible to maximize your playing potential knowing that there are areas of the swing that need to be modified.

To give you an example:

During the backswing you are internally rotating into your non-target side hip (Right hip for right handed golfers and left hip for Left handed golfers). The base level identified is an ability to internally rotate 60 degrees or more which is checked using the lower Quarter Rotation test during the screen. If you can pass this test then you should have no issues in maintaining your set up angles during the backswing. If you have less than 60 degrees rotation, your hip is not functioning correctly and can be seen as a loss of posture on the back swing. This is where the Medical professional comes in first to identify the cause and if they need to do some manipulation of the joint to free it up or if it is a joint issue where there is an abnormal bone growth which is restricting the movement for example. If the joint is just stiff and the range can be increased by just exercise then the Fitness expert can guide you through this process.

As the golf professional, we still need to get you to perform with your current range of motion so we look at how to set up your body to work around this limitation. For the right handed golfer we can have foot flare with your right foot (left foot for Left handed golfer). This places the foot in a neutral position so when you turn to your backswing, rather than having you turn into your hip which we know you can’t do, you are turning in to a position as if you are standing in a natural stacked position, removing the need for the internal hip rotation. This allows you to turn more and allows you to maintain the angles better during the swing. With this adjustment, we need to pay attention to how you transition, as this can load and strain the knee if moved aggressively in an incorrect motion.

The main thing we are trying to do is reduce any possible injury due to compensating joints but freeing you up to maximize your turn, speed, strength and power.

If you would like to see more on the TPI please visit http://www.mytpi.com. You can find an expert in your local area.

If you are interested in getting an assessment and seeing what your physical screen handicap is and based around Dublin (the better the movement the lower the handicap), you can contact Proformance_golf on Instagram, twitter, Facebook and by E-mail at proformance_golf@hotmail.com.

The 4 Stages of Learning

In a time when information is readily available at the tips of our fingers, the expectation is that all answers to questions we have will be provided almost instantly. This is evident with golf lessons, where the expectation is that within a 30 minute lesson all the barriers that are hindering performance, strike or ball flight control will be corrected. If you have read my last blog “performing or learning” you should have realised that it is not that simple. If I was to list out all the actual factors that affect performance, the blog would very quickly become a book containing all aspects that contribute to balance.

When we are tasked with a new motor skill, the fastest form of learning is through experience. Generally, language is the weakest form of communication due to the manner in which people use language. The instruction is not specific enough and to the point that the person understands in-depth, what is it you are instructing them to do. The body understands how something feels but struggles with the translation of an instruction in order to experience that feeling.

The 4 stages of learning applies to every motor skill that we have to learn for the first time or if we are building a new book for a movement we already have been doing. The best way to make it contextual and relational is to use an example which most of us would have experienced. The easiest way of thinking of it is to split yourself into 2 parts, your conscious mind (conscious) and your physical body (subconscious/unconscious).

As an example, we will apply the stages to learning to driving a car.

Firstly, the 4 stages of learning are:

1. Unconscious incompetence

2. Conscious incompetence

3. Conscious competence

4. Unconscious competence

1. Unconscious incompetence is that you don’t know what you don’t know. You do not know what is involved in doing the new skill and your body does not know how to move in order to be efficient at doing it. Think back to when you first were learning to drive, you sat in the car and turned the engine on but you consciously did not know how to move the car and your body did not know how to move or what it had to do in order to move the car.

2. Conscious incompetence is when you know what you have to do but your body has not learned the moving pattern in order to do it. When you are sitting in the car and you have been told what you have to do, the relationship with the steering wheel, handbrake, gears, clutch and accelerator pedals but your body still doesn’t know how to move in order to stop the car from cutting out. This takes practice to get the correct balance between the clutch and accelerator to avoid jolting with the engine cutting out or to the other extreme of wheel spinning.

3. Conscious competence is when you can think of doing what you want to do and your body has learned the skill, so when you are thinking of doing it you are able to do it but when there is a distraction you are unable to do it. After you have had a few lessons, your body has the understanding of the necessary movements to carry out the actions to drive the car and you are competent to drive as long as you are focused on the task. However, if you are stopped at a red light with a couple of your friends talking to you from the side of the road and the light suddenly turns green, your body will try to do the movements, but as you are consciously distracted and rushing, the movements become slightly out of sequence and the car jolts forward and cuts out.

4. Unconscious competence is the ability to carry out a movement pattern without having to consciously think of doing the movements. Your body knows the movements and how to do it better and faster than you can consciously think of doing the movements. Now your body knows how to drive the car better than you can think of driving the car which allows you to be able to look out the side windows, talk to passengers, set the heating and radio while driving and not have to worry about the engine cutting out. It is now your dominant habit where you are competent doing the movements without having to think about it. This is saved as your mobility skill under the heading of “driving mobility book”.  

Stage 4 is the level we all wish to obtain in everything we do. In golf, you can hear evidence of this in the interviews of the best players in the world with comments like, I just let it happen, I stayed out of my own way, it was like I was an observer and I was fully committed to every shot. This leads onto the different mind-sets and attitudes as the right attitude can excel where a negative attitude is a barrier. The next time you play, notice how you are doing the mobile sequence when you consciously try to do the movement and when you just let it happen. Notice how you are thinking and if there is any lack of commitment to hitting a shot. Awareness of these are a key to increased performance.

Performing or Learning

A few people have asked why is it when they are getting a lesson, they are hitting the ball really well but a few days later when they play a round, they aren’t able to hit the shots as solid. There are a number of factors that this can be down to, such as: the aid of hitting off mats, the body was well stretched before the lesson or the time between shots is far less in practice than on a course which allows your timing and rhythm to be corrected quickly for better sequencing and striking, to name a few.

The question that needs to be asked is, during the lesson, is the client just Performing due to the focus and regularity of shots where adjustments can be made quickly and remembered in the short term (cognitive skill) or are they actually Learning and understand the body movements and how it feels to produce a certain ball flight (mobility book). This is often over looked and can only really be checked with the use of a retention test.

The retention test is used anywhere from 3 to 14 days after a lesson which tests if the client was just performing on the day or if they actually learned and can repeat the movements from that lesson. There are 3 main types of environments which can be used to assess the swing lesson for a repeatable swing or a feel based learning swing. These are defined as block practice, random practice or a mixture of both.

Without going into too much detail, the answer generally comes down to the motor skill mobility book. Mobility books are movement patterns and sequencing for motor skills which have been learned and developed from the first time you started doing the movements. When you start doing a motor skill, like riding a bike, a golf swing or tennis serve, the brain starts refining a neural pathway which links to a mobility book with the heading for the task and it stores all the movements it has developed for that task in that one book. They are hard to change due to the hours of engrained repetitions which has become the body’s dominate habit and go to sequence when carrying out the task. This is sometimes referred to a muscle memory (movement patterns).

To give you an example, let us look at walking. A mobility book has been developed for this motor skill which was been refined from when you were a child. You are in stage 4 of the 4 stages of learning being unconsciously competent, the motor skill has been engrained with direct neural pathways making this mobility book your dominant habit when tasked with walking. Imagine you tried to change a part of how you were walking where your left foot takes a full step and your right foot takes half a step. How much time and practice would you have to put in to make this your dominant walking habit? (Be able to do it without having to think about doing it).

This is the reason that you can perform in a lesson but as soon as there is an introduction of pressure or you stop thinking about doing the change without the required hours of practice, your original dominant habit will come to the fore front. Due to the complexity of the mobility pattern, it is quicker to start a new mobility book than to try and change a part of the existing one and this is where the issue lies.

Usually lessons are given with minor changes to the existing pattern which can work as a quick fix at the time but when there is the introduction of pressure like a score card in competition or a long period of non-practice, the dominant habit will come to the fore front which can be supported by conscious thought of self-doubt or lack of trust in the new changes which leads to a whole new area of the 2 main mind-sets as described by Dr. Bob Rotella, the practice (trying to do) and playing mind-set (let it happen) with how and when you should be in one over the other.

There are 4 stages of learning (which I will go into in a later post) that the body and brain connection goes through when learning a new motor skill and building the new mobility book which takes multiple, slow moving, perfect repetitions to start the building process of new neural pathways. Only when you have developed and engrained the new Mobility book to the point of Unconscious competence, will you be able to play without having any swing thoughts which is where you can play freely with no interference which is where we are all aiming for.

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