Every sport has a variety of pre-game rituals to prepare the athletes for competition. I attended a Professional Basketball game, and there was a consistent routine of drills that the players engaged in, such as stretching, passing drills, lay ups, foul shots and rotating jump shots. These rituals are carefully planned by the coaches with the purpose of warming up the bodies and minds of the players for competition. Unlike basketball, golf is basically an individual sport. The golf player needs to develop his or her own pre-game rituals to prepare for competition. What are the important pre-game rituals to prime up your mental game?
Athletic performance is dependent upon the cooperation between the intellectual mind and the feeling body. The connection between the mind and the body needs to be awakened. Conscious stretching is an excellent way to wake up this connection. Conscious stretching is more than simply stretching muscles, it is moving your center of awareness into the area of your body that you are stretching. For example, if you are stretching a muscle in your leg, you relax into the stretch and focus your awareness totally into the sensation that is occurring in your muscle. With a quiet mind, you move your awareness into the different parts of your body, and as you warm up your muscles, you are also consciously connecting with your body.
The second part of the mental game that needs to be warmed up is your competitive juices. After you hit enough balls to get your body loose, play some competitive practice games to wake up your competitive fire. For example, take out your driver, and play the game that you need to hit 3 in a row within a 20 yard width of a target. This game simulates pressure, challenges you to concentrate and forces you to focus on the importance of each shot. Another game is that you need to make 3 putts in a row from 6 feet. Again, you begin to move into a vibration that challenges you to make each putt count. As you exercise these mental challenges, you are awakening these mental muscles for competition.
Another great mental preparation exercise is to imagine playing the first 3 holes on the practice tee. Pull out your driver and imagine that you are on the first tee box, and hit the type of shot that fits the layout of the hole. After a good drive, hit the appropriate iron that you would use for your approach shot to the green. Imagine yourself on the 2nd tee box, and repeat the exact rotation of shots that you would do on the course, except the putting. After completing the 2nd hole, do the same process imagining the 3 hole. Some players will go through the entire 18 holes in this manner before a tournament, and they will tell you that they receive great benefits from this exercise. It serves the wonderful purpose of experiencing the rotation of shots that your experience during the round, yet more importantly, it will decrease anxiety because your body is becoming familiar with playing strategy. The same process can be done on the putting green. Play 3 holes imagining that you are on the first green, and you go through your full routine, and finish the hole. Pick another hole and imagine that you are on the 2nd hole, then the 3rd. This process helps you get the rhythm of your putting routine going, in addition to engaging your mind into the attitude of scoring.
Finally, create a pre-game warm up that warms you up physically and mentally, and be consistent with the same process. The worst mistake you can make is to go straight from your car to playing a round with no warm up. It may be the 4th hole before you begin to transition into competitive mode. Develop a pre-game plan and allow yourself plenty time to complete the process. As human beings, we love consistency and love to know what to expect. If you develop a pre-game routine and consistently follow it, your body and spirit will become accustom to the different cues, and will be ready for competition. The consistency creates safety, and safety allows the best of your ability to come out. Warm up you body and warm up your mind, and you will hopefully warm up that pencil to write down those low numbers.
Dean Sunseri, MA, MEd, is a specialist in Sports Performance Counseling. He has a Masters in Counseling from the University of New Orleans and a Masters in Theology from Notre Dame. Some notable athletes he has coached are PGA Tour member John Riegger, NFL Players Donte Stallworth, Patrick Ramsey and Kenny King, New Orleans Brass Hockey Team and the US Inline Skating Team. He resides in Baton Rouge, LA and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.ihaveavoice.com by telephone 225-290-7252.