Todays post is by: Dr. Tony Piparo. Tony is author of Kingdom of the Tiger: A golfer’s guide to playing in The Zone. You can find him at www.peakperformanceblog.com.
The ability to direct your attention to a single thought is very important in any activity. It’s as important in golf as it is to a tiger as it hunts. Whether you are a beginner just wanting to develop some basic fundamentals, or an experienced player seeking to improve, you must develop the proper concentration (focus). Concentration involves learning to direct your attention to the task at hand. It also requires that you eliminate extraneous or interruptive thoughts that distract you from that task. As simple as it sounds, keeping your mind focused in the present on a single task or thought and seeing it through to completion is difficult to achieve.
Is difficulty in keeping your level of concentration holding you back from achieving your physical potential or preventing you from playing in “The Zone?” Consider the following questions:
- Do you experience problems producing a fundamentally sound swing?
- Does your swing disintegrate into a series of slashes, lunges, and swats during practice or play, even though others tell you, you have a sound practice swing?
- Do you perform well one day, only to fall completely apart the next? Do your shots produce inconsistent results?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, your problems may be more related to attentional difficulties than to physical incompetence.
Knowing how, when, how much, and on what to concentrate are just as important as being able to perform the physical fundamentals of a sound swing. While many golfers receive instruction on golf’s physical requirements few, if any, are ever taught how to direct their attention. They are assumed to already know how or will learn how as a result of their physical practice. Nothing could be further from the truth.
If you experience any of these problems, you may be suffering from what I refer to as GADD – Golfers Attention Deficit Disorder.
Fortunately GADD is not a neurological dysfunction but an inability to properly direct one’s attention (concentrate). GADD occurs for many reasons, including hectic lifestyles, negative programming, your ego, lack of knowledge about the skill being learned, inappropriate practice and learning strategies, and other factors already mentioned. These factors not only keep you from playing in “The Zone,” they even prevent you from developing sound physical fundamentals. The better your attention to the task at hand, the easier it is to keep interfering thoughts from affecting your attention. Similarly, the less you are distracted by interfering thoughts, the easier it is to focus on the task at hand. I find that most golfers first need to keep conflicting thoughts from interfering with their attention before learning how to direct their attention to the task at hand.
Most of my students lead very active, sometimes hectic, lives. Because they do not normally disassociate their minds from one task before moving on to another, their minds tend to be a swirl of information when they take a lesson, practice, or play. As a result, their ability to process task-related information is diminished, inhibiting their ability to learn and potentially leading to tremendous frustration.
Think about your daily life. You play many roles: spouse/significant other, parent, child, brother/sister, employer/employee/student, friend. Important issues relating to each of these roles affect your life and must be continually addressed to avoid having minor problems escalate. Since you cannot address these issues while practicing or playing, you must consciously shelve them. If not, they will pop up when you least expect it. If that happens, both your attention and performance suffers.
Examine your daily schedule. Does your hectic life create Attention Deficit Disorder-like symptoms so you experience difficulty focusing on a single task? Do you need to be mental a gymnast to process the overload of information continuously thrown at you at warp speed?
Access to cell phones, by their mere presence, may make it difficult to remain in the present. Merely carrying these high-tech communication devices with you can be distracting.
Do you really need to take your cell phone or pager to the golf course? If you do, then you should be prepared to play only as well as the distraction allows. I have my students turn off their cell phones when they take lessons.
Even something as simple as watching TV can produce ADD-like symptoms. How do you watch television? If you are like most people, you lounge in your easy chair, remote in hand, and click from station to station looking for interesting programming, avoiding commercials, or attempting to watch several games simultaneously. As you do, your brain continuously tries to process information and remember what you saw and heard with each click. Even if your TV viewing is restricted to a single show at a time, the way many of today’s programs are produced has the same effects as that repeated click. The story line jumps from plot to plot, scene to scene, in an almost rapid-fire manner. You have very little time to absorb information about one scene before the scene shifts.
Is it any wonder that more and more children and adults are being diagnosed as having Attention Deficit Disorder? Do they all really suffer from neurological dysfunction or is it that they haven’t been taught how to clear their minds or how to focus for the activity that they are engaged in? Recent educational trends suggest that training, and not drugs, is the answer for many children and adults who suffer from ADD. Individuals, whose ADD is the result of neurological disorder, do require medical treatment; however, many others are finding relief because their symptoms are a side effect of lifestyle and lack of training, not dysfunction.
What happens when you go to the practice range or golf course? You fill your already over-worked brain with all you’ve ever heard about how to swing the golf club; try to figure out what you’re doing wrong; then expect that you will produce simple, consistent, technically correct swings. Guess what? It isn’t going to happen!
The secret to lower scores and learning to play in “The Zone” at will lies in your ability to properly direct your attention to the task at hand, easily, automatically, and without distraction. Control what goes on inside your head and not only will you improve your concentration, confidence and composure, you will also perform better than you have in the past.
photo credit: mickeyvdo