Sean's Soccer Notes
Get Back! Get Back! Back post! BACK POST! COME ON, YOU HAVE TO MARK THAT MAN! As I stood on the sidelines yelling, again, getting frustrated, again, and looking around at my teammates also yelling, again, I had to take a second to stop and think. I am a mental game coach, this is my job. In the heat of the moment I know that this is where the hard work of Mental Toughness and focus come into play. What does my yelling, and the team yelling have to do with my Mental Game? Good question.
First, I know that a player with my behavioral style (my style is "high I and D above the line" for those of you who are familiar with the DISC system that we use) is prone to yell and scream and be very emotionally involved in the play. Sometimes this is to my advantage, sometimes not. I hustle non-stop and can be very inspiring when positive, but when the tides turn...I can be very annoying, or even insulting to my teammates. As a coach, I stay very involved vocally as well, likely to shout directions non-stop and get very emotional. To players who are not open to this, it is noise, and it takes away from the good advice that I would be able to deliver them later.
The mental game challenge for all of us is to develop the SELF AWARENESS to be able to interrupt a behavior when it is not working. If I know what I am likely to do, and can watch myself do it, then I have a chance of making a change. For me, spending my energy yelling advice that no one is likely to hear or heed causes me to lose precious time and focus on my own game. This habit is a waste of energy and counterproductive to my goals. I need to pay attention to my own mental process and habts as much as I pay attention to the field and the ball. If I do not, then I become a liability to my team, and progress toward my goals is restricted. As a coach, I a, there to serve the players. It is my job to tune into what is best for them. I need to make sure that the players that I am trying to reach will benefit from what I have to say, not just force my way through. This may appear to be effective at the time, but it degrades the relationship and makes me less effective later on, because trust has been lost.
When I play, I know that I need to be more focused on taking care of my role to be effective. Another tendency of my style is to have a difficult time staying with a plan. This makes for a creative player, but that creativity is best when it works for the team. I need all of the energy that I can muster to get past defenders who are 20 years my junior. For someone with my style it is much more effective to skip the constant commentary, advice and worrying about what others are doing; reserving energy for playing smart and keeping focused on my responsibilities. If I accomplish this, my comments can be saved for positive chatter that can have an uplifting effect on the team, especially after mistakes and things that may knock others right out of their mental game. Keeping comments limited and positive keeps team spirits up and the energy lively. Some players do not want encouragement when they have made mistakes, and mistimed advice can make people resentful. Learning about my own style and others styles has helped me to figure out how to talk to players of all different styles. ( As a coach, this type of information is absolutely incredible!)
If it does nothing for me to continually shout advice on the field, but this is my lifelong habit, what to I do to make the changes and develop new habits? Self-awareness is the key and there are methods for developing it. At 6D Sports, we use a daily journal as a place to focus on our goals for mental game development. The journal teaches essential skills to use each day for developing the mental game. One of the most important of these skills is effective goal setting. For a player like me, with a tendency to waste energy and lose focus because of my emotional involvement, it is important to make my communication with others a goal and a priority to focus on in practice and play. Before each game I have to review my goals for the game, one of which continues to be, "I communicate positively, focus on my own play, focus on staying loose and creative." In time this will become a habit.
When I do this, the difference in my play is amazing. When I am relaxed and focused, I am always an asset to the team. Keeping my emotions and energy in check keeps me creative and connected to my teammates. I am able to see the field better, and direct the play. I am not going to say that I wish that I had these skills when I was playing professionally, but if I had, I know that my career would have lasted much longer, and I would have enjoyed the game more. It is never too late to learn more about ourselves. It gives us more control and an ability to move our lives in a positive direction. So if you are in a rut with your play or coaching style, figure out how to develop more self awareness and make the changes that you want to make......and remember to enjoy the game!
Using Breath to Improve My Tennis Performance
I am a decent recreational tennis player, somewhere between a 4.0 and 4.5 in the USTA ranking system. Over the past 3 years I have been concentrating a bit more on improving my game, but continually have the same problems with a lack of consistency, especially in my serve and backhand. Recently, I have started using a breathing technique based on the structure of the 6Dimensions RitualLog to control my game. Here's how it works:
Using my breath effectively
During a service game when I first take the ball in my left hand, I exhale for as long as I can, forgetting the point that just transpired, saying to myself "It's over, one point, win it." Breathing in, I step to the service line and go through two full cycles of breath while bouncing the ball, concentrating on my serve. On the second out breath I say to myself, "relax, rock, toss high" - because everytime I try to overhit the ball I tighten up, don't roll back far enough on my heels, and don't get my toss high enough.
When I forget to do this, I invariably miss my first serve. In a tight situation, I start thinking about double faulting, even as I'm breathing trying to concentrate. In this situation, I bounce the ball and breathe long enough until I am no longer thinking about double faulting, but visualizing the entry of the serve. When I'm really uncoordinated and tight, which happens all too often, I double fault - it's always because I didn't relax, rock and toss high.
Another breathing technique
The other technique I've been trying to employ is having a forceful exhale when my opponent hits the ball. This exhale does several things: it prepares me for what's coming, forcing me to move my feet, makes me inhale as I'm preparing to hit, which gets me ready to exhale as I stroke through the ball. I haven't yet figured out something to say to myself to help me stroke and not swing, but I'm working on it.
Review and Learn
After every match or practice, I make detailed notes about what I did well and poorly. Before every match or practice, I review these notes while going through a short visualization exercise (found in the RituaLog). I am starting to discover some predictable patterns and my game is much more consistent now than it was just three months ago. It certainly helps to be playing on the beautiful red clay of Fluminese football Club here in Rio de Janeiro.
(A 6D note: Follow Chris while in Rio -at www.geostadia.blogspot.com)
Dr. Carol's Comments
Living in 3, Skating in 6 Dimensions - Evan Lysacek
Evan Lysacek may live in the three dimensional world but he skates and performs in Six Dimensions; the Six Dimensions of Sports Axiology. Lysacek's interview with Meredith Viera caught my attention because, as he answered questions after winning the gold, his words and phrases sounded like copy from a Sports Axiology Textbook. I don't know whether his coach, Frank Carroll, intentionally uses the axiology six dimensions, but if he does not, then through his extensive experience and intuition he put the formula for success in place.
(photo by vincenzo pinto afp getty images)
What are the Six Dimensions?
The Six Dimensions that I'm referring to are first, the Three Dimensions of Personal Awareness which consider:
- How well do I understand my personal strengths and weaknesses and how objective am I about them. (Self-Esteem)
- How well do I understand and appreciate myself as an athlete (Role Awareness)
- How personal and vivid are my goals and what's my commitment to them (Self-Direction).
In addition we assess and help develop the Three Dimensions of Game and Team Awareness which consider:
- How well do I know the people on my team (including coaches, trainers and teammates) and sport and how do I appreciate them (Awareness of Others)
- How well do I execute and adjust when practicing and competing. (Playing the Game)
- How well do I understand and value the elements of the sport including the rules, strcture and design of the performance strategy (Game Systems)
When we assess these Six Dimensions we learn about an athlete's Mental Toughness, Commitment, Confidence, Emotionality, Coachability, Team Play, Self-Talk, Performance under Pressure and ability to fully engage as an athlete. We learn thinking and emotional strengths and can be specific about what to coach in order to have a player who is balanced in thinking and is fluid within his or her sport. As I listened to Lysacek, I could hear his strength in each of these areas.
What did Lysacek say?
It's during the first 6 minutes of the 8 minute interview with Viera that you'll hear the 6 Dimensions come to life. (my apologies for the 30 sec commercial - I can't figure out how to get past it!)
For a shortened version, these are my notes.
- About his goals and commitment: After Torino it wasn't enough to go back to the Olympics, there was a need to get on that podium. (The other skaters) provided more inspiration than I've ever had. They were a driving force for the last 4 years.
- About his role: All I could do was my job and if I get wrapped up in that other stuff, it's not a healthy thought process. (After advice from my coach) I got back to what my job was. I love the ice.
- About his self regard: I knew I could do it.
Game and Team Awareness:
- About the Performance Plan: We had a 4 minute and 40 second gaining points with every step. (Also note that Lysacek won based on maximizing the new scoring system so he didn't have to do the quad to win. He and his coach planned ahead using their knowledge of the system to their advantage.)
- About Playing the Game: I spent so much time perfecting every step. I spent countless hours working on some of the most mundane moves. I've done these moves a thousand times, a hundred thousand times.
- About Appreciating Others: My first thought was for my coach, to give him a great Olympics. I want to make my family proud and my friends proud and my coaches proud. To see my flag, to hear the national anthem.
For us, mere mortals
The Olympic wins are dramatic and because of the level of performance we know that the athletes and teams and coaches and families have put in years of dedication and training for the performance of a few minutes when it really counts. In my opinion, Lysacek, as he has performed this week, is an example of the fulfillment of the Good of Sports.
Whether as Olympians or "mere mortals" we can learn from Lysacek. Regardless of what we play and where we play, I think each of us can achieve a personal best with pride and satisfaction through the development and appreciation of all Six Dimensions.
The first step to your own Six Dimensions development is evaluating yourself which can be done with a validated assessment by our 6D Sports team. At the very least write down how you would describe yourself in each dimension and then ask someone who knows you well to do the same. What is your sport? Is it tennis, soccer, golf, ultimate, skating, Ironman? How would you describe yourself in each of the 6 Dimensions for yourself and your sport? How do the 6 Dimensions of sports performance translate to school and job performance?
For more information about the 6 Dimensions of Axiology visit http://www.6dsports.com/axiology-definition/
For the Coach-Vue (short axiology assessment) visit
Dr. Carol Comments
First Tee Jitters
"Standing on the first tee of my first major at Baltusrol, my mental game was gone. My knees locked and I wanted to use my driver rather than the 3 Wood I'd practiced with. I just wanted to be sure to hit the ball. It didn't really matter where. I just wanted to hit it, not miss it.
"Luckily my caddy knows me well, and broke into my mind haze as he said, 'What are you crazy? Play the 3 Wood like we planned.' With that I was back in the game in front of me, played the 3 Wood and made a reasonably good shot. I was under way."
Mental Game Strategies
Most of the group at the Southern New England Golf Expo seemed relieved to hear that even a successful PGA pro like Jeff Martin had times when the situation seemed too big to manage. We all have experienced those golfing "first times" and whether the first time is the first tee in a major or the club championship or playing on Saturday morning in a friendly game, the body and mind will react the same: little thinking, lots of emotion and usually restricted play.
I interviewed Jeff who is the 2 time New England Player of the Year and assistant club pro at Point Judith Country Club as he talked easily and also demonstrated how he
- relaxes under pressure (he discreetly takes a deep breath as part of his pre shot routine. He will also intentionally yawn.),
- visualizes his shot (this is a target sport, always look at where you want the ball to go and see the flight of the ball),
- commits to the shot at hand (if you're not committed to a shot before you take it, don't bother)
- keeps a good attitude (after a bad shot, let it go, it's over. Thinking about the last shot doesn't help the one you have to make next.)
- decides what shot he's going to take (I figure the odds of making the shot, evaluate the risks and rewards and whether I'm willing to take the consequences.)
- improves (after a match I go to the practice range and practice the shots the right way. I'll work on one shot for 30 min.)
Jeff was also willing to talk about a few aspects of his mental game that he wants to improve. As successful and physically capable and mentally tough as Jeff is, when he is in a major competition, everyone else is just as good as he is so he knows he needs the edge that he can get from tweaking his mental game.
Jeff wants more confidence with his comfort zone among his peers and he wants to be sure that he has his life and golf priorities and goals written as well as thought about.
With improvement in these two areas, you'll be hearing much more about Jeff! Stayed Tuned!
Sean Gaffney - Soccer Notes
Feedback or Not
Does my feedback help or hurt the team? We all have different behavioral styles and ways of expressing ourselves. How do we learn to give the right kind of feedback to teammates? Do you know when your feedback is helpful and when it is not?
When we react to events in the heat of a game, we usually react instinctively. Our individual behavioral styles (something you can learn about with the our DISC profile) in combination with our emotions determine how we act. This combination is a powerful force, and unless we have trained ourselves to understand our style and to manage our emotions, we are at the mercy of our habits, for better or worse.
I was reminded about this in a recent game. I was playing well, working hard, focused on the play, attacking the goal and creating opportunities to score. After several mistakes by teammates, I got frustrated and started to let it show.
I let my negative feedback fly, adding to the worsening team atmosphere that was already getting tight and restricted. People began playing very stiff, uncreative soccer. What was the state of our Mental Game?
With no voices of positive reinforcement to balance the strong negative feedback loop that was being created, we were creating the perfect atmosphere for failure. Even though we were able to finish with a win, we did not enjoy the game and left the field without our usual camaraderie and high spirits.
I often pride myself on my sportsmanship and positive attitude on the field, but I was genuinely upset and was letting my defenders and midfielders know it. At the time, it felt like the right thing to do. They needed to get their act together and I felt like telling them all about it. But was that really helping the situation?
We were playing a team that we could not afford to give any room, and it was a difficult battle for all of us. I shrugged off the initial requests to "be more positive," feeling justified in "encouraging" my teammates with harsh and untimely advice.
The Coach Steps In
It took our coach pulling me aside and commenting on my behavior to help me see what was happening. While there were changes that needed to be made, we had our best team on the field and needed at that moment to relax and support each other, regain our composure and relieve the pressure that had been created by the mistakes. To put it simply, our players needed encouragement and I was being far from encouraging. I had slipped into bad habits and had lost track of my Mental Game.
How often have you seen this happen? Negative feedback can be targeted at our teammates or ourselves (negative self-talk), and it rarely helps the situation to improve. How do we create habits of positive self-talk and appropriate feedback to teammates?
The first step to making a change is noticing that there is something that needs to change. We must first learn to recognize our behavior. Watch yourself. Notice how you speak to yourself after mistakes. How do you speak to your teammates? Are you able to be the type of player that you would want on your team? Be honest.
If there is room for improvement in this arena, make it a goal to be an encouraging and positive influence on the team. Many players play better when they are mad, but we need to balance our better play with the overall health of the team. Focus on this before practice and games and notice how it affects your experience of the game and the team atmosphere. Can you be more positive and still be competitive? Try it out and see. Can you channel that anger toward an appropriate target that will actually help improve the chances of winning?
Become a student of your mental game. Notice the things that you do. The more that you can see yourself, the better you will get at making the changes that you need to make to succeed.
For more information about our system of developing the whole Mental Game, our Mental Game Profiles, and our Mental Game coaching services, please visit us at www.6dsports.com. Thanks, and have fun!
CPBA, CPVA, Certified Sports Axiologist
Six Dimensions Sports Consulting
Dr. Carol's Comments
4 people, 1 concern
Four conversations yesterday with 4 different people had one common thread: I can't relax when I want to. For these 4 people the inability to relax interferes with drives off the tee, golf scores, team play and for one person, overall life satisfaction.
The conversations are not as important right now as what to do about changing the common problem of "inability to relax" to the solution of "I can relax when I want to under most circumstances."
Relaxation is a Skill, not a Gift
How can you learn to "relax on demand?" I think that relaxation is a skill that can be learned, it doesn't have to be left to chance, and in the next few blog entries I'll offer three ways of developing the "relax on demand" skill: breathing, progressive muscle relaxation and visualization.
With these skills will you be 100% successful? Probably not because everyone is different and as situations change our ability to perform as we would like can be compromised. However - the goal will be to increase your ability to relax more deeply when you want to so you can play more consistently and be more satisfied.
Just a note: I don't know anyone who expects to perform well in a sport unless they have practiced and learned basic skills. It's no different with mental game skills. Yet when talking with frustrated athletes I hear things like:
- I've read about visualization but can't seem to do it when I need it.
- I've heard about how breathing can help me to relax but I tried it the last time I was putting for birdie with this new group and it didn't work for me.
My response: It's too bad these attempts to relax when you're playing didn't work. But... there is no reason to think you can execute under pressure if you haven't developed proficiency before you need it. Mental game skills are like any other skill: the more you practice, the better you'll be. And the more you practice under stressful situations, the better you'll be. And sometimes it takes a coach to keep you accountable to learn the skills you need the most. And the only place to begin is at the beginning. So... next up:
MC Breath, Progressive Muscle Relaxation and Visualization for Relaxation.
(photos by CRG and taken at Newport National, RI)
Sean's Soccer Notes
Are you having fun yet?
I have discovered something about my Mental Game this season. Our season is short, with only 7 games before the playoffs, so there is no room to get off track or lose focus on the goals that I have set for myself. This past weekend, we were playing fairly well as a team, and I was feeling confident and fit, several things began to work together that caused me to lose track of my Mental Game, get down on myself and forget that I am out there to have fun.
Commitments and Goals
I made a commitment before the season began to use the Six Dimensions Mental Game Workbook to help me stay on track with my physical and mental training. This was very helpful, inspiring me to get to practices and games in the right mind frame, ready to focus on the goals that I had written out for the season. This is men's league and though we are all serious athletes, and the skill level is quite high, there is not much pressure from anyone but myself to perform.
The past two seasons, my fitness has not been at a level that I can play 90 minutes. Being unfit, I would get tired and sloppy toward the end of the game, leaving me prone to injury and poor performance. My first goal was to be fit enough to play 90 minutes each weekend.
I thought that reaching my other goals would fall into line if I was fit and training well, but they have not. I have been getting more and more frustrated with myself, not enjoying the success of our team or the opportunity to play quality soccer as much as I know that I can. So what is going on with my Mental Game? Is it time to go to a sports psychologist...first lets look inside my Mental Toolbox...Self Evaluation...what is there to learn from this weekends performance?
Old Habits Creeping In
This weekend, I recognized an old habit of negative self talk, frustration, and lack of enjoyment from my old days as a collegiate and professional player. In those days, winning was everything, and as a forward, that meant that scoring was everything. If I did not score, it did not matter how much I was contributing to team success, I was frustrated and not feeling good about myself or my performance.
For the first four games I was feeling excellent and on top of my game. People were commenting on the change in my play from last season. Despite this after a couple of games without goals, my old habit of negative self-talk began to effect my Mental Game and my play. In training last week I noticed that I was becoming more frustrated after each mistake. I made a note of it in my journal after our second training session. I was being very hard on myself and left the field feeling low and annoyed, remembering only the mistakes that I had made. Even though I noticed this and wrote about it in my journal, I did not make the shift in focus to enjoy the weekend game, but stayed focused only on my performance goals.
This stress and attitude carried through to the game. After I missed a good scoring opportunity at the beginning of the game, I jumped all over myself and started to become snippy with teammates, opponents, and the referee as well. Not a good combination if I was hoping to enjoy myself and come off of the field a better person.
Back on Track
This is an important concept that athletes at all level can use to benefit both their athletic careers and their life beyond sports. As I set goals for this season, I set mainly performance goals and failed to set enough goals for how much fun and enjoyment I want to get from the game. These non-performance related goals set the bar for the kind of person that I want to be before, during, and after the game. Can I find enjoyment in the camaraderie of the team? Can I make mistakes without getting down and putting more pressure on myself to succeed?
I am adding more non-performance goals into both my long range goals (BIG Goals), mid-range goals (CHECK Goals), and daily STEP goals. I love playing soccer. I have to work to remember that, especially when I am stressed in my daily life, or when my performance is not what I think it should be.
Fortunately, I have been able to bounce back from the negative self-talk, frustration, and other old habits by using my Mental Game tools. When I was playing more serious ball, I had only a passing interest in sports psychology and Peak Performance, and thought that I had it all figured out for myself. But looking back now, I realize what kind of player I might have been, if I had trained my mind with the same commitment that I trained my body to perform. I spent a lot of time angry and unpleasant to be around even after victories. In the end, it is WE who set the bar OURSELVES. If we can make sure that our athletic goals are helping us to become the type of person that we want to be, we set ourselves up for success no matter what the outcome of the game. What do you have in your Mental Toolbox?
Dr. Carol's Comments
What a great weekend for great sports performances - and what a great weekend to watch the Mental Game in Action in tennis and golf. We had a beautiful weekend in the Northeast so watching televised sports was not initially on the agenda but then there was the US Open and Melanie Oudin, the prime time personification of mental toughness, competitive fire, commitment, confidence, focus, and game intelligence. In addition, she's well spoken and from her interviews and what coaches and friends say has a great awareness and appreciation of others. Ms. Oudin has the total game - physical, tactical, technical and the foundation - the Mental Game - purring along on all cylinders. And she walks her walk - her shoes say "believe." Not bad for a 17 year old.
I didn't intend to be a spectator this weekend and I hadn't heard much of Melanie Oudin until Saturday when I happened to catch the last set of her match with Maria Sharapova. Oudin had already ousted Elena Dementieva in a surprise result on Thursday so there was also quite a bit of high pitched commentary during the Sharapova match.
As I watched Oudin, 5'6" a relative newcomer and Sharapova 6'2" a seasoned player, I was drawn into the match first by the exuberance of the crowd and commentary and then by Oudin's look of focus and determination and the way she moved around the court during and between points. All energy was directed toward her desired outcome. And all that focused energy prevailed as Oudin's mental game powered her past Sharapova in 3 hard fought sets. The emotion, which had been so well managed during the match, burst forth and spilled over in exuberant warmth and excitement once the match was won.
Labor Day was another beautiful day here in Rhode Island - a great day to be outside - but watching Oudin play was now part of the plan. I was so impressed with her play and personality and perseverance that I wanted to see her again. Could she hold on? Were her tenacity and grit situational or are they part of the package? Again, as she was with Sharapova, Oudin was outsized and out-experienced by Nadia Petrova. Prior to the match both were saying the right things - they were confident, felt strong and ready to play their best game. Once the match was underway, the technical and tactical play was excellent and very competitive for both players. In the end though, it was the mental game that made the difference. In the end, it was Oudin, focusing on the task at hand, playing an intelligent adaptive game, fighting for every point, believing she could do it, taking advantage of Petrova's errors, showing remarkable emotional resilience after disappointing points, who persevered. Oudin stands on "believe," knows her game and then plays with her mind and heart as one.
I'm ready for Oudin's next match against Caroline Wozniacki, another dynamic young woman who plays with great skill, great passion and great mental skill. This is great tennis and great fun!
Sean's Soccer Notes
From the Heart
I have always played with a lot of passion, but I never had a "mental game." I am changing that. I still play with heart, but I am also learning to play smart.
It was clear from an early age that soccer was my sport. Every time I stepped foot on a field. I was quick, had good skills, was always ready to play, and knew how to find the back of the net. I loved it and never thought twice about laying it all on the line in practice and games. I worked and played with all of my heart, but how strong was my mental game?
During my career I enjoyed a moderate level of success, especially since I lacked decent coaching (football coaches and untrained Dads) and never saw a pro soccer game until I was 14. In high school I was all-conference, all-region, and a hair away from the Texas all-state team. I played striker for four years on a Division 3 college team. We never made the NCAA tournament, but we won our conference and played like we meant it. In college I received honors for all-conference three times and narrowly missed the all-American team my junior and senior years. I was asked to play on the local professional team after my senior season where I played for two years.
The Mental Game? What's that?
All of that training, all of those hours working on fitness and skills; not once did I hear the term "Mental Game." Not once did a coach direct me to write down goals, improve my understanding of the game, or train my ability to find my Peak Level of performance. We were asked to play with intensity, to hustle, to try our best; that I consider playing with "heart" and having a good attitude. These are essential for an athlete, but it is not the same as having the mental skill set needed to succeed at higher levels.
In college, we played under the guidance of an enthusiastic young English coach who had a skill for motivating people with humor and amateur sports psychology, but he had no consistent system for improving our "Mental Game." There was no fine tuning available, no tools to move beyond the current level and find Optimal performance or the elusive "Zone" that great athletes access regularly. In the professional leagues, it was no better. We were left on our own to focus and motivate. The level of play increased, but our mental games floundered, and no one had a clue what to do about it. Attitudes flared, egos clashed, and though the skill levels had improved, the camaraderie and fun had gone away.
What we needed, what I needed, I did not discover until I returned to soccer after an 8 year break. When I stepped back on the field, my skills and fitness had gone way south, but I had learned a few things that came in handy. I had been studying yoga, nutrition, and the healing arts and I understood the concepts of self-reflection, breath control, and the power of the mind. Little did I know that these were the very things that champion athletes had been using since the Soviets and East Germans revolutionized athletic training in the 1980's, but they were not yet widely known in any but the most elite sports circles.
My "mental game" really began to come into focus when I took the Pro-Sports Profile (http://www.6dsports.com/psp) and learned that the mental game can be measured very accurately. This tool taught me the power of "six dimensions" thinking and the science of axiology. Using sports axiology (the Pro-Sports Profile) in combination with the sports psychology tools that we have put into our Mental Game Journal, it became incredibly clear that this is a combination that people should know about. My family and I (all athletes from birth) are teaching athletes at all levels how to use these tools to improve their levels of achievement and satisfaction as athletes (these tools and their use reach far beyond the field as well).
It's a whole new ball game
I am now 37 years old and I feel like my soccer career has just begun. My goals are different than they would be if I were an 18 year old, but what I gain from being in shape, competing, leaving it all on the field, and finding my current "peak" level of performance is no less exciting and fulfilling now.
I will keep you posted on how the upcoming season goes as I complete my first season using the new and improved Six Dimensions Mental Game Journal.
Please visit our website at Home and remember that we offer targeted profiles for many sports, the journal, and personal sports axiology coaching. Be good. Play smart.
"Oh, yeah. That's right. Take a deep breath, relax. That's what I'm supposed to do when stressed and hitting balls every which way. Why didn't I think of that?"
Just relax ...mental game words of wisdom from Brian, who has been playing golf for fun and competitively for 50 years, to me the mental game coach, sports consultant and self-acclaimed guru of using your mind for peak performance. Brian's words were also a reminder that when stressed what you know to do can disappear as quickly as the morning dew on a hot sunny summer day.
I didn't realize it when I started but I was not in the game mentally as I stepped up to the first tee, and the second tee and....well, you get the picture. My body was there to play but my playing mind was on the bench or beach somewhere between my home in Barrington and the Acushnet River Valley course. I was with people I had not played golf with before, on a course new to me, and I didn't get to the practice range prior to starting. These are circumstances that create havoc with my confidence and execution of my pre-shot routines. My first drives and fairway shots were jumpy and erratic and the ball seemed to have a mind of its own. The words "just relax" were my cue to do what I know to do. How did Brian know?
Just relax - sometimes easier said than done. But... I know relaxation - mind and body - like I know my name and once I relaxed by using my breath I refocused and started to use my mind effectively. I set up better, my confidence returned, the drives were longer and straighter and my putts were much more satisfactory.
Although there are several ways to relax and refocus, my favorite and most effective is to use my breathing. I've practiced and taught breathing and relaxation for years so I've become adept at intentional breathing and body awareness. I've learned that mind/body relaxation is a skill that can be learned just as driving consistently is a skill that is learned. With breathing practice our bodies and minds learn to respond with relaxation more reliably and more quickly.
Most people I've talked to about breathing for relaxation are aware of how important it is and have used breathing at one time or another to "get back in the moment." Not only can breathing get you back in the moment but breathing can relax you mentally and physically. I've also found that most people I've coached for breathing have learned to breathe in first which in my opinion is not the most effective method.
When I breathe to get back in the moment or to relax I breathe out, then breathe in and then breathe out again. It's on the first out-breath that I feel my muscles begin to soften and my shoulders drop. The in-breath is energizing and the next out-breath gets me more centered physically and allows my thinking mind to engage.
Breathing to relax is as easy as 1, 2, 3. Try it now - just as you're sitting in your chair reading.
- Breathe out through your mouth and feel your breath move across your lips. Keep breathing out as your abdomen seems to get smaller.
- Put your lips together and breathe in through your nose. Once you've breathed in as much as is comfortable, hold your breath for just a moment.
- Now purse your lips and breathe out through your mouth once again, feeling your breath over your lips, emptying your lungs and making your abdomen small.
Your shoulders will drop and your muscles will soften. Not only will you be able to think more clearly, the power in your body now has a clearer path to travel through your arms to the head of your club.
Will being able to relax make you a better golfer? Not necessasrily but it will give you the opportunity to maximize your potential and be your personal best at your present skill level. Being able to relax when you need to, an important element of a strong mental game, will give you a competitive edge. I'm far from an exceptional player but I'm adequate on the course and when playing I want to be able to execute as well as I can. I like optimizing my performance. I like being my personal best even when I'm playing a casual game.
Brian has an easy game, a straight long drive, an affable manner and even though is still in recovery from major surgery, hit the ball long and straight from the tees and long, short and in-between on the fairways and greens. His easy manner translated into effective instruction for his 10 year old grandson Luke who was playing with us and a "just relax" comment to me that I heard because of his warmth and sincerity as he spoke.
Thank you Brian - I wish you a continued recovery and enjoyment of the game you love.
Until next time...