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5 Mental-Game Myths That Might Be Holding You Back

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I have the wonderful privilege of working with some of the world’s leading athletes in many different sports (including professional golf at all levels). These athletes leave no stone unturned when it comes to training and performance. They understand that performance starts in the mind — that it frames all of the “performance pieces” — so building their mental and emotional muscles is a priority for maximizing their abilities. Spending equal time on all the key areas of performance enables them to have a healthy, proactive approach to their sport.

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In an athlete-performance model, there are four key areas:

  1. Technical: Your skill development or fundamentals.
  2. Physical: The physical development to support your technical skills.
  3. Strategic: Applying skills, course management, and understanding how to play the game.
  4. Mental/Emotional: Critical fundamentals and tools that drive the physical performance.

In the game of golf, there’s been a recent emphasis on technology and perfecting technique. This has been due to new tools that have allowed us to better quantify, isolate, and measure the impact of physical training and the equipment factor. The formal training of the player’s mind is being talked about more than ever, but it’s still pushed down the list and not getting the attention it deserves.

This lack of training of the mental/emotional component can inhibit golfers from truly bringing maximum value to their own game, as a strong mental and emotional game often ignites the other performance pieces. An organized, self-aware, confident player is one who can maximize the impact of fundamental technique, training, and equipment.

The traditional nature of the game of golf has facilitated an environment of late adoption to new approaches compared to other sports. Most players and coaches have not embraced the exponential benefits of a mental and emotional high-performance program. The late adoption is potentially being driven by some myths about performance that are not entirely understood. These myths may be ultimately holding players back from progress in the quest to reach their potential and fully maximize their experience in the sport.

5 Mental-Game Myths That Might Be Holding You Back

myths and facts balance sign

I’d like to highlight and dispel a few myths that may prevent you from working on and developing your mental and emotional muscles. Ultimately, these myths may keep you from being the best player you can be.

Myth 1: There is something wrong with me if I need to work on mental/emotional skills in my sport.

Fact: Mental and emotional high-performance development in sport is not about fixing an athlete. It’s focused on helping athletes develop skills that are required to maximize abilities. It’s an educational process that’s similar to building your technical, physical, and strategic skills each day. The same effort must be made to develop the mental and emotional aspect.

Myth 2: Mental and emotional high-performance training is for players who are mentally weak.

Fact: Mental and emotional training is for all players. Any player at any level should be developing the skills that more fully allow them to express their technical and physical training. Consider that almost every great player is coached, no matter what level. Why? So they can continue to improve and ensure sustainability and consistency.

Myth 3: Mental and emotional high-performance development is only for elite players.

Fact: No matter what level or age, any golfer can benefit from mental and emotional high-performance development. Parents and coaches can also benefit. Not only will mental and emotional high-performance development help you on the course, but the skills are highly transferable to all areas of life like school, business, leadership, and relationships.

Myth 4: Mental and emotional training is a quick fix and a short-term thing.

Fact: Mental and emotional training in golf is a process to build independence and confidence in the client athlete. Like any skill, it takes time and repetition to build competency and confidence. Tricks and tips never work. Mastery of mental/emotional fundamentals and a great process does.

Myth 5: Mental and emotional training is too much like therapy: lying on a couch talking about my feelings.

Fact: Mental and emotional training in golf is about high performance and developing performance skills. A great performance coach has a defined, quantifiable process that includes assessment, building detailed plans, communicating with coaches, and using the latest technologies to help the player improve. The work is done through conversation, watching, reviewing, and planning at a convenient location or on the course.

Don’t Wait for Things to Fall Apart

I encourage you to be an early adopter and take the next step to maximize your golf abilities so you can more fully enjoy the sport you love. Be proactive and don’t wait for your mental/emotional game to fail before you give it attention. Take a developmental stance and build the skills to maximize your abilities and gain an edge in the game.

As a major added benefit, you’ll take these skills and become a high performer in everything you do.

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John Haime is the President of New Edge Performance. He's a Human Performance Coach who prepares performers to be the their best by helping them tap into the elusive 10 percent of their abilities that will get them to the top. This is something that anyone with a goal craves, and John Haime knows how to get performers there. John closes the gap for performers in sports and business by taking them from where they currently are to where they want to go.  The best in the world trust John. They choose him because he doesn’t just talk about the world of high performance – he has lived it and lives in it everyday. He is a former Tournament Professional Golfer with professional wins. He has a best-selling book, “You are a Contender,” which is widely read by world-class athletes, coaches and business performers.  He has worked around the globe for some of the world’s leading companies. Athlete clients include performers who regularly rank in the Top-50 in their respective sports. John has the rare ability to work as seamlessly in the world of professional sports as he does in the world of corporate performance. His primary ambition writing for GolfWRX is to help you become the golfer you'd like to be. See www.johnhaime.com for more. Email: john@newedgeperformance.org

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. John Haime

    Sep 23, 2017 at 8:45 am

    Thank-you Tom – that was the intention of the article – to point out the lack of attention to a critical piece in the performance puzzle – thanks again for the great comment!

  2. Bob Jacobs

    Sep 18, 2017 at 1:04 pm

    Sorry, not helpful. Why not give us some “here’s what to do to improve the mental side of your game”, vs here’s why most people don’t seek help for the mental side.

    Read too much like a “why people don’t see a therapist” article from Psychology Today.

    • John Haime

      Sep 18, 2017 at 1:50 pm

      Thanks for the comment Bob.

      I do think it’s important to point out why golfers don’t work on a very important part of the game. What do you do to work on it? I have written many articles for WRX (you can see them) that can offer some ideas for you. But first – I think it’s important to point out why golfers aren’t doing it.

      More articles coming to help.

  3. Bob Jacobs

    Sep 18, 2017 at 1:01 pm

    I’m personally not a fan of these articles and their titles that are just teasers and don’t offer any real input or advice.

    I’m expecting to hear a few pearls of wisdom about how to use some mental tools to shoot lower scores or a program to focus more on the mental side of golf. For me this was just must too obvious and read like a “why do most people not go to a therapist sort of article”…give me some beef, give me something I can use, give me some knowledge!!

    • John Haime

      Sep 18, 2017 at 2:49 pm

      Lol Bob – here’s some beef for you – athletemind.johnhaime.com. Love your passion! As you know an effort has to be made to improve any area of performance. Thanks!

  4. John Haime

    Sep 17, 2017 at 12:19 pm

    Hey Walter,

    Thanks for the comment.

    Here’s my bio with my experience – http://www.johnhaime.com/bio. Purdue was a nice experience and ignited a desire to learn – that’s all. Graduated in Management.

    The next 25 years have been a wide education in human performance in corporate, athletics and the arts – all helping the other with new ideas.

    I also played Professional golf for 7 years – helping me understand the intricacies of sport – consider that as part of my education.

    I have found that Sport Psychology is a narrow area and much more needed to get results with performers. It is also perceived as negative – athletes thinking there is something wrong with them if they need it – a problem! No one goes to a Psychologist when things are going well or to develop skills – and that is what athletes need – a well-rounded learning experience with Sport Psychology being a piece of it.

    Hope this helps your curiosity.

    J

  5. WalterG

    Sep 15, 2017 at 2:38 pm

    “Sport psychology is an interdisciplinary science that draws on knowledge from many related fields including biomechanics, physiology, kinesiology and psychology. It involves the study of how psychological factors affect performance and how participation in sport and exercise affect psychological and physical factors.[1] In addition to instruction and training of psychological skills for performance improvement, applied sport psychology may include work with athletes, coaches, and parents regarding injury, rehabilitation, communication, team building, and career transitions.”
    —————————————–
    According to your bio you are a graduate of Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, USA. Could you tell us what you graduated in and when?
    You present yourself as someone who understands and applies sport psychology. What are your academic qualifications? Thanks.

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Instruction

The Big Shift: How to master pressure and the golf transition using prior sports training

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If you’re an #AverageJoeGolfer, work a day job, and don’t spend countless hours practicing, you might be interested in knowing that sports you played growing up, and even beer league softball skills, can be used to help you play better golf. We’re sure you’ve heard hockey players tend to hit the ball a mile, make the “best golfers”, while pitchers and quarterbacks have solid games, but baseball/softball hitters struggle with consistency. Did you know that a killer tennis backhand might help your golf game if you play from the opposite side? Dancers are way ahead of other athletes making a switch to golf because they understand that centeredness creates power and consistency much more efficiently than shifting all around, unnecessary swaying, or “happy feet.”

Lurking beneath fat shots, worm burners, and occasional shanks, are skillsets and motions you can pull from the old memory bank to apply on the golf course. Yes, you heard us right; your high school letterman jacket can finally be put to good use and help you improve your move. You just need to understand some simple adjustments different sports athletes need to make to be successful golfers.

In golf, shifting from your trailside into your lead side is what we’ll call the TRANSITION. Old School teachers refer to this motion, or shift, as “Foot Work”, New-Fangled-Techno-Jargon-Packed-Instruction uses “Ground Pressure/Force” to refer to the same concept. Don’t worry about the nomenclature; just know, as many GolfWRXers already do, that you must get your weight to your lead side if you want any chance at making solid and consistent contact. TRANSITION might be THE toughest motion in golf to master.

The good news for you is that TRANSITION happens in all other sports but in slightly different ways, depending on the sport. Golfers can more quickly learn TRANSITION, and speed up their swing learning process by understanding how prior sport experience can be applied to the golf swing.

[The basics of a solid golf move are; 1) you should have a SETUP that is centered and balanced, 2) you move your weight/pressure into your trail side during the TAKEAWAY and BACKSWING, 3) TRANSITION moves your weight/pressure back into your lead side, and 4) you FINISH with the club smashing the ball down the fairway. Okay, it’s not quite as easy as I make it sound, but hopefully our discussion today can relieve some stress when it comes time for you to start training your game.]

Baseball/Softball Hitters

Hitting coaches don’t like their hitters playing golf during the season, that’s a fact. The TRANSITIONS are too different, and if they play too much golf, they can lose the ability to hit off-speed pitches because their swing can become too upright. Golf requires an orbital hand path (around an angled plane) with an upright-stacked finish, while hitting requires batters to have a straight-line (more horizontal) hand path and to “stay back or on top of” the ball.

Now we apologize for the lack of intricate knowledge and terminology around hitting a baseball, we only played up through high school. What we know for sure is that guys/gals who have played a lot of ball growing up, and who aren’t pitchers struggle with golf’s TRANSITION. Hitters tend to hang back and do a poor job of transferring weight properly. When they get the timing right, they can make contact, but consistency is a struggle with fat shots and scooping being the biggest issues that come to mind.

So how can you use your star baseball/softball hitting skills with some adjustments for golf? Load, Stride, Swing is what all-good hitters do, in that order. Hitters’ issues revolve around the Stride, when it comes to golf. They just don’t get into their lead sides fast enough. As a golfer, hitters can still take the same approach, with one big adjustment; move more pressure to your lead side during your stride, AND move it sooner. We’ve had plenty of ‘a ha’ moments when we put Hitters on balance boards or have them repeat step drills hundreds of times; “oh, that’s what I need to do”…BINGO…Pound Town, Baby!

Softball/Baseball Pitchers, Quarterbacks, & Kickers

There’s a reason that kickers, pitchers, and quarterbacks are constantly ranked as the top athlete golfers and it’s not because they have a ton of downtime between starts and play a lot of golf. Their ‘day jobs’ throwing/kicking motions have a much greater impact on how they approach sending a golf ball down the fairway. It’s apparent that each of these sports TRAINS and INGRAINS golf’s TRANSITION motion very well. They tend to load properly into their trailside while staying centered (TAKEAWAY/BACKSWING), and they transfer pressure into their lead side, thus creating effortless speed and power. Now there are nuances for how to make adjustments for golf, but the feeling of a pitching or kicking motion is a great training move for golf.

If this was your sport growing up, how can you improve your consistency? Work on staying centered and minimizing “happy feet” because golf is not a sport where you want to move too much or get past your lead side.


Dance

My wife was captain of her high school dance team, has practiced ballet since she was in junior high, and is our resident expert on Ground Pressure forces relating to dance. She has such a firm grasp on these forces that she is able to transfer her prior sports skill to play golf once or twice a year and still hit the ball past me and shoot in the low 100s; what can I say, she has a good coach. More importantly, she understands that staying centered and a proper TRANSITION, just like in Dance, are requirements that create stability, speed, and consistent motions for golf. Christo Garcia is a great example of a Ballerina turned scratch golfer who uses the movement of a plié (below left) to power his Hogan-esque golf move. There is no possible way Misty Copeland would be able to powerfully propel herself into the air without a proper TRANSITION (right).

Being centered is critical to consistently hitting the golf ball. So, in the same way that dancers stay centered and shift their weight/pressure to propel themselves through the air, they can stay on the ground and instead create a golf swing. Dancers tend to struggle with the timing of the hands and arms in the golf swing. We train them a little differently by training their timing just like a dance routine; 1 and 2 and 3 and…. Dancers learn small motions independently and stack each micro-movement on top of one another, with proper timing, to create a dance move (golf swing) more like musicians learn, but that article is for another time.

Hockey

Hockey is a great example of the golf TRANSITION because it mimics golf’s motions almost perfectly. Even a subtlety like the direction in which the feet apply pressure is the same in Hockey as in Golf, but that’s getting in the weeds a bit. Hockey players load up on their trailside, and then perform the TRANSITION well; they shift into their lead sides and then rotate into the puck with the puck getting in the way of the stick…this is the golf swing, just on skates and ice…my ankles hurt just writing that.

If you played hockey growing up, you have the skillsets for a proper golf TRANSITION, and you’ll improve much faster if you spend your time training a full FINISH which involves staying centered and balanced.

Now we didn’t get into nuances of each and every sport, but we tried to cover most popular athletic motions we thought you might have experience in in the following table. The key for your Big Shift, is using what you’ve already learned in other sports and understanding how you might need to change existing and known motions to adapt them to golf. If you played another sport, and are struggling, it doesn’t mean you need to give up golf because your motion is flawed…you just need to know how to train aspects of your golf move a little differently than someone who comes from a different sport might.

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Clement: Effortless power for senior golfers

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Are you struggling with range of motion? Want more EFFORTLESS POWER? We are truly the experts at this having taught these methods for 25 plus years, while others were teaching resistance, breaking everyone’s backs and screwing up their minds with endless positions to hit and defects to fix. Welcome home to Wisdom in Golf!

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Clement: How to turbo charge your swing

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The shift in golf instruction continues and Wisdom in Golf and GolfWRX are right out there blazing a trail of fantastic content and techniques to get you to feel the most blissful, rhythmic golf shots you can strike! This here is the humdinger that keeps on giving and is now used by a plethora of tour players who are benefitting greatly and moving up the world rankings because of it.

The new trend (ours is about 25 years young) is the antithesis of the “be careful, don’t move too much, don’t make a mistake” approach we have endured for the last 30 years plus. Time to break free of the shackles that hold you back and experience the greatness that is already right there inside that gorgeous human machine you have that is so far from being defective! Enjoy!

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