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  • Carol Alford

Practice makes Perfect


Recently I was very fortunate to join in a zoom call with PGA's 2020 Champion Colin Morikawa's mental toughness coach Rick Sessinghaus. Rick became obsessed with the game of golf from the age of 12 and like so many players, began searching for the perfect swing in the hope it would make him a better player. After several years of seeking the holy grail and many teachers he later, he found his performance plateaued, whilst his frustration grew at not reaching the results he desired. This led him to change his search and begin looking at what all the top athletes did to achieve success. He was surprised to find that it wasn't technical ability that set them apart, at an elite level the technical skill was a given. Instead he found mastering their mental and emotional skills, by blocking out distractions and being able to control their emotions revealed the answers. No matter what the sport the mental skills required to be the best where the same. Armed with this knowledge he decided to gain a doctorate in Applied Science Psychology to help athletes take their game to the next level. Rick has worked with Collin for the past 15 years, from his introduction into golf at the age of 8, through his collegiate days and up to present day on the PGA tour. During which time he has honed his knowledge in mental training and in particular developing strategies to help athletes reach flow state, otherwise known as getting into the zone. The majority of Collin's lessons from the early days right through to present day are held out on the golf course. Rick stresses the importance of learning from every shot, with the onerous being placed on the player to look at what can be learned rather than assessing it purely as good or bad. Thereby forcing the student to become their own coach, learning how to correct rather than be told how. It was this thought process that led him to discover how to improve the player's focus when practicing. All too often when we practice, we hit shot after shot without much thought or attention to give to its execution. Consequently, our practice doesn't really deliver the results we desire when out in competition. Our focus is either distracted or not attuned to execute the shot. Let me explain further using two scenarios. Have you ever found yourself playing in competition with a simple straight forward chip shot to get the ball near the pin and you fail to execute properly? Now consider a difficult lob shot that needs to clear a hazard in front of the green and then stop next to the pin to avoid running off the top tier of the green. Miraculously you pull this shot off successfully, why is that? Well quite simply you fell into the mental trap of challenge vs skill levels. In the first scenario your skill level was not being challenged, which brought about boredom and apathy and consequently lack of focus. You've played this shot so many times, its not challenging your skill and so you don't give it the true focus it deserves, resulting in a poorly hit the shot. Compared to the second scenario where your skill level is being challenged, whilst your excitement is aroused by the difficulty of the shot. Consequently you are uber focused and pull off the shot. How can we replicate this when practicing or playing in competition? You need to give each shot your full attention as if your life depended on it. BUT there is a balancing act that has to be applied to ensure success. The challenge or skill must push you out of your comfort zone but not be too extreme to cause stress and anxiety. If you go too far you will diminish your performance rather than enhance it. Next time you practice chip shots, for example, bring in creativity to focus your attention. Try hitting the same shot using different clubs, or look at changing your landing zones and spin back rates for example. The challenge in skill will keep you interested and get you to explore and push your abilities, taking away the boredom or apathy. ”Give it a go this weekend and let me know how you get on. If your would like more information on these techniques please contact me to arrange a session

Hope you found this blog interesting, if you would like to learn more about mental toughness please visit our website and get in touch. Drop me an email and let me know what you think, I would love to hear from you. Visit our website and check out our other blogs, there's something in there for everyone.

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1 Turnbury Close, Burton Upon Trent,

Staffordshire, DE14 3GZ, UK

Tel: (+44) 7890 528119 

Email: carol.alford@alfordprojects.co.uk

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