The mental aspect of a competitor’s game is becoming more and more recognized as a component worthy of attention. Athletes who take the time to master their mental skills will find themselves more consistently successful then athletes who only take time to master their mechanics. As I see it, it doesn’t seem to matter how much time, money or effort has been put into mechanics; if an athlete has weak mental skills, they might as well consider their mechanics trumped. All of their hard work and effort will be unrecognizable as they fall into the hands of their weak mind. This shows up in many ways including inconsistent performance, crumbling after a good streak, and inability to maintain the lead.
What Is Mental Training and Why Would I Need It?
It's important that you have a general understanding of the mind before you attempt to give it a tune-up. Just like realizing the importance of understanding an engine before you take it apart and change its parts. And, you know you would get yourself in a mess if you started deleting files from your computer before understanding if they are important to the processes of the computer.
Now take this into consideration... we have yet to invent a computer as powerful as our mind. Such a computer would have to be able to take in information from its sense of sight, smell, taste, hearing, touch, and emotion; while simultaneously and appropriately responding to those stimuli based on information from the past, present and potential future. Meanwhile, as it engages in these hi-tech maneuvers, it must also filter through its 60,000 thoughts a day, all of which have their own set of cause and effect circumstances. Then, oh yes, there is more... here is where it gets very tricky... For most of us, especially those who have not participated in any mental training, we are in a very poor habit for which a large percentage of those 60,000 thought are negative, limiting, unhealthy and unproductive. And since we don’t know any better, we believe and react to all of them, which brings about instantaneous decrease in our performance.
So you see the dilemma. It is imperative that you make change to the default/habitual programming of your mind. But, at the same time, this is no easy task and it can be very challenging. Attempting positive change with limited knowledge of your mind functions could, ultimately, put you in a much more difficult and limiting position. It is just as important to recognize that attempting to make change with the same mind that got you in your current predicament, will only result in the same outcomes. You need a fresh perspective and training to gain the insight and skills necessary to bring about effective, long term change.
Here are some areas of mental training you may find to be effective in your shooting performance:
1. The Secret Behind Your Pre-Shot Routine.
Most people believe that their pre-shot routine is just going to help them with their mechanics, and it is very good for this, but it can potentially offer you so much more! A good pre-shot routine will help you with the mental side of your game. It will get you focused, present, confident, relaxed and ready so that you are poised to take that shot.
How many times have you heard that? But then wondered... "How much harder can I possibly stare at an orange circle?"
It's not really about staring at it harder or simply just telling yourself to look at it. The secret is to learn how to get present, to learn how to be in this moment; to feel and be completely connected with the bird. This is so much more difficult than it sounds! Observe yourself for the next few hours, notice how often you are actually fully present, in the moment and completely connected with what you are doing or who you are speaking with.
3. Why Can't I Compete As Good As I Practice?
I hear this all the time from clients. It may actually be the most common problem that shooters face. People are confused on how to handle this; they don’t really understand how this is possible.
The belief is: If I am practicing my mechanics religiously, then I should be able to easily transfer these skills onto any course, at any time, no matter what. Not so! Because it's not your mechanics causing the problem, it's the six inches between your ears that is responsible for the pandemonium. It is fears, expectations and doubts that creep in.
My mental training program addresses: expectations, worry, fears, self-doubts, insecurities, over-analyzing, second guessing, anger, dread, regret, trying too hard, negative self talk, and giving up. Recognizing these are the areas which hold one back from peak sports performance as well as peak life performance, my approach encourages implementation of training skills in both sport and in life. My mental training is transformational and drastically improves one’s overall success.
So, the big question for all these dilemmas is: "What can I do about it?" Learn some good mental skills, then, just like any habit breaking, use the new skills diligently.