Josh: Walk me through a player going through your mental game learning process. Let’s say a player is starting from zero, they freak out every time they have to hit over water, and they have no clue what to do to be better mentally. How would you work a player through that kind of situation?
Coach Stabler: In order to work through this, I don’t need to be there. You don’t need to be wearing our Mind Meter brain measurement band. I just need to know what you’re thinking, your personality assessment results, and we need to talk. With the Online Coaching System, you can prepare for your rounds, learn from them, and make progress. No need to be in person.
So let’s work through the example of having to hit over water, and freaking out every time you have to do that. Let’s work through the basic steps of mental improvement.
Step 1: Off the course
Before ever even getting on the course, we first need to focus on calm and quieting your mind. These can be trained through meditation and proper breathing. Most people don’t breathe effectively for calm, so we need to teach you how to breathe. And then we can teach you how to quiet your mind by focusing on the breathing.
Step 2: On the range
So now that you’ve built that basic skill, you know that you have the ability to be more calm and more relaxed. So now let’s introduce it to golf. Let’s swing the club and hit shots on the range — nothing out there, no score, doesn’t matter — How’s your tempo? What’s happening mentally? You’re pretty relaxed right? You show yourself that you can hit shots while breathing and feeling relaxed.
Step 3: Take it to the golf course
Ok, we’ve built the base level skill of calming and quieting your mind, then we hit no-pressure shots on the range with that sense of calm. Now let’s start by playing shots on the course where they have consequences, but NOT over water just yet. You hit some good ones — How did you feel on those shots? How did you do that? What were you thinking about to do that? Ah, you were doing a good Athletic Shot Process to play that shot. Great.
Step 4: To the water
Now let’s take it to the actual problem shot. You’re going to find very similar circumstances that start getting you worried. This time—just like off the course, then on the range, then on the non-water golf shot—you’re going to focus on breathing, your arousal level (that sense of keyed up readiness), and your calm. During your Athletic Shot Process you’re going to imagine that other shot where you were swinging free, focus on your target, and imagine the shot you want to hit.
Then play the shot.
Now after the shot — How was your tempo? Were you able to calm? Were you able to relax? Were you able to focus on where you want to go, instead of where you don’t want to go?
You’ve worked your way up, built the ability to be calm under more and more difficult circumstances, and shown yourself that ability.
The principle here can apply to any situation you encounter that causes you to get worried or anxious. You start at a basic level of being able to find a sense of calm. Meditation is a great way to train that. Then you methodically ramp up to being able to do it under real pressure.
You don’t start by learning to swim in the deep end. You start shallow and work your way towards more and more difficult. Same goes for the mental improvement process that Coach Stabler at GolfPsych uses.
Work through that process over and over until you are routinely in that good place during those worry-inducing shots.