Along with rain-gear, the mental game (MG) and being in the moment were very much in fashion on Friday when playing in the RI EWGA Rally for the Cure tournament. Allison, Suzie, Lynn and I were a great team who quickly learned to work together for a common purpose. Our purpose - Get the ball in the holes with as few strokes as possible and have fun while we were doing it, all for a good cause. Yes, we also talked about the possibility of winning, especially after birdies and one eagle and the realization of how far under par we were. To our mental game credit, we put those thoughts aside to focus on the tasks at hand which accounted some of the most enjoyable experiences of the day. We cheered for each others’ successes which became our team success (we were in a Scramble format) and we continued to surprise ourselves with not just how good or not so good the shots were but how we continued to make the most of every lie. We talked, we consulted, we disagreed at times and came to consensus with just about every shot. We even developed a plan for protecting the “pink” ball which had to be returned if we were going to have a chance to win.
If you were at Wentworth Hills in Plainville, MA you would have heard us cheer and then you would have seen us high-five as we landed tee shots on the green, sunk 15 foot putts with (near) impunity and used our optional mulligans strategically. We were our own gallery.
And after the high fives and laughter all around you would have seen and heard us - “back in the moment” - “we have this shot to play” - “let’s take the yoga pose if that helps.” At one point all 4 of us were standing on the Tee Box, balanced on one foot, hands in prayer position, breathing slowly and intentionally. The pose was totally spontaneous and fun and accomplished its purpose: Getting back to thinking about what to do right now. We were the mental game gurus!
The “mental game” is simply using the power of the mind to improve performance. The “mental game of sport” is simply using the power of the mind to improve athletic performance, as an individual and as a team. The “mental game of golf” is based on the idiosyncracies of golf such as lots of time on the course, very little time actually striking the ball, the fact that the darn ball just sits there waiting, the pre-shot, post-shot, between shot routines, etc. Golf is usually about individual performance. A scramble is about the team effort.
Most athletes know something about the mental game of sport but doing what should be done can take a back seat to what’s happening in us (emotions) and what’s happening all around us (other people, distractions, scores and the like). The mental game of golf has more elements than breathing, being in the moment and having a great attitude and fun with each other but these are all important parts of the game. Last Friday, we put some of the basics of what we know into practice perhaps because I was referred to as “coach” and the mental aspects of the game couldn’t easily be ignored or forgotten. Whatever the reasons, we added the mental game to our scramble play which gave us a competitive edge. And it was great fun. And we scored well.
Does this happen to you while playing your sport?
What is the Mental Game and why is it important for Peak Performance in sports?
If you are an athlete at any level you have done physical preparation for your sport. Why do you do it? If want to have any chance at success in your sport you know you need to get your body in prime physical condition to succeed. You could probably get by without being in top condition but there is great satisfaction in knowing that you prepped your body well enough to compete at a high level. That is your Physical Game.
Think about all the time and energy you have put it in to your physical preparation. Now think about all the time and energy you have put into your mental preparation. How do they compare? Has there ever been a point in your competition or game where you felt you had your opponent dominated mentally? Has there ever been a point where your mind abandoned you, and it did not matter how well prepared your body was because you could not put the pieces back together upstairs in order to compete at a high level?
That feeling of dominance or the feeling of loss of focus and composure are characteristics of the Mental Game. Ideally you want a strong Mental Game, so you can say you have good Mental Strength in competition and training. Some people have a knack for it, they are driven and focused and exude confidence at all times. Other people have to work at it. Even the people that appear to have Mental Strength come naturally have spent time honing those skills and teaching themselves to believe they are capable of achieving their goals.
It takes work to have a strong Mental Game but it is within everyone’s reach. It takes dedication to a set of goals, it takes forming good mental training habits and it takes the time to sit down and make a plan to do it. It might sound like a lot but it can all be accomplished with as little as two, five minute sessions a day – one before and one after training or games. The benefits are greater success in your sport, the achievement of your goals and greater satisfaction with the time and energy you put in to your sport. You do not need to be a professional to have a strong Mental Game and to be a successful athlete, but it doesn’t hurt to think like one.