Recovering Technique Efficiency and Confidence During Competition

This article examines an essential key for elite purposeful golfers – recovering technique efficiency and confidence during competition. When specific performance areas suffer self-analysis can be a common reaction. How one goes about this is critical. Read on to discover three easy to apply steps when your performance hits a snag on the course. 

The unique qualities of golf make it a special game for all who strive to master it. It is an eternal balancing act on a singular beam of conditioned beliefs, emotions and behaviors. But true mastery is not realized in moments of glory, it is constant testing of inhibition so one may advance with mind-body fluidity free of constraint and fear. Nothing else matters but confronting that which confines performance liberation.

Elite performance execution occurs in a void of personal confrontation. Begin a purposeful movement of confronting the inhibiting components conflicting your mind-musle memory, and you’ll readily condition reflexes of your elite self. The three-step process below illustrates how you can recover in the midst of a decline in performance with greater focus, confidence, and mind-muscle mastery.

1. Identify patterns of mind-muscle memory constriction
Gary chipped to within six feet of the hole and was now lining up his putt for par. Though he generally feels confident about his short game, on this day he couldn’t find his rhythm. Whats worse, Gary three-putted the last hole, each miss compounding negative thoughts and further constricting his muscles. He essentially pushed his final putt into the hole, but the damage had taken its toll, and now Gary was reliving those experiences. 
If Gary’s experiences sound familiar to you don’t worry, you’re not alone on this sinking ship feeling. It can be quite common for golfers, and all performers, to feel an impending sense of doom and subsequent anxiety when confronted with reoccurring experiences of fear. The remedy in such cases is to confront the fear and process through it with purposeful action steps to manage what’s at the root of the cause.
As evidenced by Gary’s trouble sinking putts, confidence in his short game took a nose dive. At such moments golfers often attempt to rationalize irrational thoughts, further leading them to places with no discernible outcome. If you find yourself in this pattern, it’s critical that you remove any clutter clouding your vision of what’s really going on, so that you can hone in on the cause of your anxiety.
In Gary’s case, it may appear that missing putts was the lone reason for his lack of confidence. But poor execution is oftentimes the product of something greater. When left unchecked, the hidden demon wreaking havoc in performance execution can negatively affect all areas of performance. Confronted with a short game in conflict, Gary should have addressed the source of his imbalance on the course.
2. Hone in on the source

Anxiety and negative thinking are contributing to Gary’s short game decline. He replays the moments over and over in his head, desperately searching for some clear explanation that could set him free from a cycle of poor performance execution. These include emotional responses, distorted thinking, and resulting tension and anxiety. He must separate these from his task-oriented endeavors, so that he can regain comfortable confidence in his technique execution. 
When athletes replay moments of performance suffering they can harden these experiences into an unconscious blueprint, further permitting unwanted behaviors. Rather than revisiting the negative experiences with a desire to uncover the mystery behind them, target the source of their origin by peeling away the the anxiety-induced responses. Gary’s anxiety rose with thoughts of missed putts, but he needed to eliminate the outcomes and target the catalysts, instead.
One way to effectively do this requires examining earlier putting experiences before confidence was broken. Re-channel the thoughts, feelings and behaviors associated with a confident mind-body state. Fixate the mind on thoughts governing a confident state, including positive self-talk. When athletes perform confidently there’s likely a flow of positive self-talk affirming desirable mind-muscle patterns, and re-affirming these following successful performance execution. Grab hold of those words, cues and directives, and insert them into a stream of conscious thought. Your words can greatly dictate how you perform, and it’s important that you use them wisely in conditioning confident performance execution.
Another way to eliminate outcome-based thoughts and instead target their origins, is to re-visit the moment when things began a downward spiral. In the case of Gary, one might believe that his reaction to his first or second missed putt is that moment. But again, it’s not the outcome of the missed first or second putt, it’s the steps which lead to them. When revisiting a particular moment, clue the mind to what lead to the action – was it viewed as routine, how was confidence beforehand, what happened on preceding shots, were there environmental causes or things which occurred out of your control? By identifying a negative trigger in this case, which might be uncommon to a natural pattern of confident mind-body behaviors, you can better understand resulting effects and rationalize their meaning. Once you’ve removed the clutter obstructing your view of the source of anxiety and poor performance execution, you can devise a plan of attack for remedying the situation.
3. Construct action steps to confront and process

Gary’s search for meaning of his short game decline led him to mentally replay his missed putts. The more he analyzes, the more he embodies negative emotions, furthering his confidence decline. He can be best served by eliminating associations and thoughts regarding outcome-related experiences, so that he can move forward with action-oriented steps and purposeful play.  Though this is easier said than done, it is possible. 

There’s no clear end when athletes dig themselves into a bottomless hole of negative thinking and emotional responses. Lack of self-awareness spurs irrational thinking, and oftentimes a quest for some magical remedy. For Gary to jumpstart his performance and trigger a confident flow he needs to re-orient himself to the task-specific steps involved with his short game. By re-visiting successful, confident putts earlier in the day Gary will be better able to align himself with a natural flow. He can be reminded of what feels right, have a clear mind and calm body, and perform with confidence.

Re-visiting past positive experiences can be an effective trigger for positive performance execution. But, it must be carefully approached with a clear focus on specific tasks, not outcome. When outcome-related thoughts are at play athletes can lose sight of the specific tasks required for success.

Target mental images of successful, confident performance execution. What are you seeing? Embrace the clarity of your images, and notice the relevant details of cues in your line of sight. Identify how you feel, your posture, and your free-flowing coordination. Are you relaxed, yet powerful in your stance? Is your awareness heightened around the connection between your mind-body, the club and the ball? These are all powerful triggers which enhance confidence, and subsequently performance. When rehearsed with specific purpose this process does not require much time, and can easily be done before your next shot.

Once you’ve amassed mental images of positive and confident thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, build them into task-specific cues. The purpose is to provide your mind with easy to follow steps so that it can direct the body with clear and precise instructions. You’re not reinventing the wheel, you’re simply re-orienting the mind-body flow to familiar, purposeful and confident patterns.

It’s similar to riding a bike. If you take time off from riding, chances are you can confidently jump back on and pedal with purpose and confidence. Your mind directs implicit instructions to the body regarding balance, pedaling, and so forth. If you lose your balance the mind makes mental notes on ways to perform in a balanced state and under control. But, if the mind is overloaded with outcome-oriented, emotional thoughts and feelings, it will have trouble directing the body to do what’s necessary to perform effectively.

In short, liken your mind’s mental images of your successful and confident performances to a highlight video. See these sequences in real time, including detailed information supporting successful performance execution. Identify and utilize positive self-talk affirming desirable thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and recite them into a functioning stream of performance directives. Associate your self-talk with the identified feelings and behaviors effectively re-orienting your mind-body confidence flow. Done correctly and you’ll establish an effective behavior chain as a workable blueprint to guide you.

Now comes the hard part…

You must trust in yourself, and you must practice this with purpose. After effectively processing this information this is where many athletes stumble, because they often don’t believe that they possess the master key to unlock some of their greatest performance mysteries. It simply requires purposeful practice, which can be done easily outside of competitive play. Simply create a pressure scenario involving specific performance attributes you want to focus on, and test your ability to vividly recall, associate, and integrate past successful performance characteristics into your present state.

Then, all you have to do is trust in the process, trust in your mechanics, and trust in yourself.

I have over ten years of performance training through my experiences in coaching, mental conditioning and edutaining of groups and individual clients. My diverse athletic experiences as a college football player, triathlete, mixed martial artist, and coach, have helped intensify my awareness for cultivating elite-level success across various sport, performance, and tactical disciplines. I regularly consult with professional athletes and organizational leadership, including, NFL, UFC, MLB, NBA, NHL, WTA, and PGA, as well as CrossFit, and NCAA competitors and staffs. I served as the Mental Performance Specialist with the US Army Special Forces, Director of Mental Conditioning with the Evert Tennis Academy, and I direct in-house consultation and leadership development with public and private sector organizations. I’m available to provide dynamic and interactive workshops for your organization and large-scale symposiums.

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