You’ve got to ingrain and reinforce the new skills

 In Coaches, Golf, Junior Athletes & Parents, Pressure, Professional & Olympic Athletes, Tennis

Golf swingLast week I talked about how most mental or emotional change doesn’t happen by reading a book or attending a presentation: Don’t look for a book or presentation to drastically change your life In it I discussed some of the reasons for that. I mentioned how “These forms of communication cannot help you develop your individual awareness, provide the best coping mechanism(s) to ultimately enhance your performance and help you reinforce those thoughts and behaviors so that they become the new way of being.” Today I want to talk a little bit more about this.

One of my professional golfers has been doing some amazing work adopting some new skills to enhance her golf playing experience and in a relatively short amount of time. Throughout a couple of weeks she was feeling better, playing better and gained some experience handling her thoughts and emotions in a way that was facilitative to her game. Then along came the most important tournament of the year and she struggled to use what she had been using a couple of weeks prior to that. Here was my response to her: “Let me talk about this for a minute. Remember when we first talked and I said generally 6 months is a good period of time for change to happen? You and I have only had 6 sessions. In those 6 sessions and outside of them there have been a lot of great moments; moments when you felt better. However in order for you to feel better more consistently, this takes a little more time.

One very good thing is that you’ve started to see the change in your golf game by enhancing your emotional coping mechanisms. You now know that have control. The difficult thing is that it still feels out of control because we’ve not had enough time to ingrain and reinforce the new skills. Because of that and the heightened pressure of the situation you’ve gone back to dealing with things in your normal way. This makes total sense because it’s what you know. The pressure in these last two tournaments was heightened and it got to to you.

It sounds to me like playing golf is what you want to do with your life. Let’s really dig in: really develop the skills that you need, make sure they are working and then make sure they are the go-to! Yeah?

The work now is less physical and more mental so let’s get to work!”

This is such a difficult part of the work. Why? If it worked once, why doesn’t it work again? Well sometimes it does but when the new coping skills aren’t yet your go-to (ingrained and reinforced enough to replace what you’ve been doing) and the pressure of the situation you are in is high, they won’t work. In those moments you will go back to what you know, what’s safe and what you are comfortable with. It’s no different than learning to drive the ball in golf. If you learned to drive with a choppy, half swing and are just starting to learn a more relaxed, full, follow through swing you won’t be able to play a round using the new swing (maybe bits and pieces of it). And in pressure situations you will fall right back into your choppy, half swing drive. It’ll take time, patience and lots of practice to get it right.

Thanks for following along!

Dr. Michelle

Photo cred: en.wikipedia.org

Dr. Michelle Cleere
In her own private practice as an elite performance expert, Dr. Michelle Cleere helps top athletes, musicians, and executives in competitive fields unlock the power of the mind and create the mental toughness to be the best. Dr. Michelle’s extensive academic background, which includes a PhD in Clinical Psychology and a Masters in Sports Psychology, allows her to help clients deal with performance anxiety, gain more confidence, and build resilience. In addition to personal coaching, Dr. Michelle takes on many roles – a best-selling author, athlete, and teacher. Dr. Michelle’s bestseller line, Beating the Demons, helps clients develop practical skills to gain more control over competitive environments and mitigate the interruption in play to overcome intense odds and defeat adversity. As a 15-year USAT Coach, she developed simple and effective tools to mentally train her athletes, and they are used by coaches around the world. She is a professor at John F. Kennedy University where she teacher her students to use the mind as an ally to improve performance.
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