Spatial Awareness Starts in the Gym
One of the benefits of consistently dedicating yourself to improving your physical performance is the body awareness you earn through testing your nervous system every time you work out. The body is an amazing tool, and will adapt to the environments it finds itself. In the world of sports performance, developing a high level of proprioception (simply put, body awareness) will certainly improve your ability to engrain a new movement pattern in your golf swing and it all starts in the gym.
An example of an exercise we use to help improve body awareness and coordination is Lateral High Knees through the Agility Ladder with a Ball Toss. The athlete must first master the ability to move side to side while bringing their knees to hip level and landing each foot in each square of the ladder accurately. We begin coaching this exercise by slowing it down and allowing the athlete to look where they place their feet. The next progression picks up the pace, but will still allow the athlete to see and anticipate where their feet are going to land. The eventual goal is to keep your eyes up, while knowing where your feet are going to land from reps and reps of practice. Adding the element and variability of tossing a tennis ball to the athlete as they make their way down the ladder takes it one step further and forces the athlete to have their attention on the ball while maintaining an awareness on the ladder.
The progression of golf skill happens much the same way. Once proper mechanics can be achieved the athlete must commit to them in slow motion, engraining the correct movement pattern without a result connected to it. Slowly adding speed to the movement will test whether it has been “saved” in the athlete’s hard drive, with the ultimate goal of being able to execute it naturally without much technical thought. Along the way the athlete would want to bring the newly learned pattern to a round of golf that may not have any more on the line than a few penalty strokes. If it can become trusted and consistently repeated in this low pressure environment, it is time to put it to the test in competition.
This process is critical to achieving a new motor pattern and mastering a new technique in the golf swing. If a step is skipped the process will not be successful and the risk of losing the changes being made is high. When considering learning a new movement pattern, “connecting the dots neurologically” is also a critical component and will be done more efficiently with the right efforts put forth in the gym.Read More
Breathing is Important
On yesterday’s 5 Elements of Success Player Development Show, our topic of discussion was Under Pressure: Junior Athletes & Performance Expectations. A part of the show was having good strategies to combat the pressures and anxieties that come with performance. In this week’s newsletter, I am addressing one of those techniques; Breathing.
Breathing seems like a simple concept right, you breathe or you die? Now that I have your attention…I am not telling you to hold your breath until you pass out or that golf will make you die. However, if you do not know how to breathe correctly, it can cause more anxiety, a lack in concentration, and trouble getting to your best state of flow to perform your best.
In order to perform your best, it is important to have a quiet mind. The average athlete will have approximately 70,000 thoughts per day which breaks down to roughly 48.6 thoughts per minute! I probably do not have to tell you, that is a lot of self -talk, noise or whatever you want to call it going on inside our head and somehow, we have to find a way to quiet the mind and decide what to act upon.
So, the question is what are the thoughts about? Are they positive or negative? Active or passive questions? Based on scientific research of the best athletes, there is evidence that the best athletes can get to a quiet mind faster than the average person by understanding how to breathe and control the mind to allow flow to take place. Flow is the ability to perform a task with little interference from conscience thought and act on the subconscious “catalog” of the best actions you have taken. This comes from hours of practice and the moments of brilliance while playing with consequence. This means that while we may practice perfectly, it will be embedded or cataloged only when you have made it count by giving significance to the result or action. We all have had that perfect shot or made a great decision and immediately had a gain of confidence or was rewarded with praise, we cataloged all of those feelings, the rush, everything about it! Sometimes we can repeat this for a short period of time and sometimes we try to repeat but the same results do not happen. This usually happens when we try to get to the state of flow by thinking about all the things we do to get there; we are working on the conscience mind. The conscience mind is where the river of thoughts flow, not a good place to be when you want to perform your best! Easy to drown in the negative thoughts or just all the swing thoughts from every session you have ever had. As the great Nike ad says, “Just Do It!” It does not say think how to do it, just do it!
Here are a few simple steps on how to breathe and get into your best state of mind for your best performances:
- Breath from your belly not your chest (chest breathing causes anxiety!)
- Inhale deep, fill the belly full of air, (not your chest), try again!
- Exhale slowly and fully, feel your body relax, get to a heightened state of awareness (not thoughts).
- This time, think of your best shot ever, what it felt like, what it sounded like, how beautiful it was, etc. Now close your eyes and take deep breath, exhale slowly, find that state again, see the shot, feel it! How long did it take you to see yourself hit that perfect shot?
- Repeat process with stopwatch, how long does it take you to go from seeing and hearing a lot of shots to getting to your perfect shot? As you do this exercise it should get faster and easier to begin to feel like you can repeat the perfect shot every time.
- In corporate this into your pre-shot routine.
Enjoy the Journey!Read More
Closing The Gap
As golfers develop new motor patterns through consistent focused practice of the proper drills at slow speed, there will undoubtedly be a period where there is a big difference in the motion that can be performed at slow speed versus the motion that is performed at full speed hitting a golf ball. So the million dollar question is ‘how does a golfer close that gap?’ First we need to understand why there is a gap to begin with.
The difference in the slow practice swing and the full speed shot comes from a lack of awareness. When we move at higher speeds we lose the same quality coordination and awareness that we have at slow speeds. The reason that it is beneficial to do thousands of reps at slow speed and slowly add speed is to be able to transfer that awareness and ultimately the new motor pattern. We can all agree that the ultimate test is to hit a shot at full speed and see how the movement pattern was. If the movement pattern that you wish to see does not show up then where do you go from there? Continue with the reps at slow speed and add speed slowly, paying attention to when and where the movement changes.
There are stories of Ben Hogan, Tiger Woods, and many other great players doing countless slow motion swings in practice. This is the best way to truly grasp a new move and history shows that it can be very effective. Many of you have seen Tiger Woods suddenly stop in the middle of his downswing because of a distraction or some other reason. That is a perfect example of the highest level awareness at the highest speeds.
Take your time and go through your slow motion swings. Add speed slowly and you will start to understand better the forces at work in the golf swing and the challenge of taking a new movement pattern to full speed. Many times you will discover that your level of commitment is a big part of the equation as well.
One of the most undervalued clubs in your bag is your putter. It is a club that makes up nearly 40% of your scorecard and yet it continues to dazzle players on the highest level. Above you can see Max Homa as he lipped out on the 72nd hole from three feet for the outright win. He did end up winning eventually. People have a hard time practicing putting. If you haven’t spent some time improving your putting stroke, consider some of the effects that your equipment will have. Here are a few starters:
Head Type – Can help to improve the arc of the putting stroke and the rotation of the clubface. A mallet versus a blade.
Lie Angle – Is the head of the club flat to the ground and optimal for a good impact strike. Is the toe too much in the air or maybe the heel?
Shaft Offset – Check your start direction and aiming. Different shaft offsets provide different looks. What is your dominant eye? This will play a role.
Shaft Weighting – Adding weight to the shaft can calm the hands, improve inconsistent rotation, improve putting path.Read More
How Are You Feeling?
It’s Saturday morning at about 7:50am, and our Adult Members are rolling in getting ready to start their day by getting their blood moving and crushing a workout. The focus of the day is explained and the dynamic warm up gets under way. As we touch base with each athlete we ask “How are you feeling today?” This question typically gets answered in two ways: with a hint of sarcasm from a reply along the lines of “with my hands”, or more seriously with a slight eye roll and something similar to “Oh, just the normal aches and pains of a 55 year old.” I’m telling you right now that you shouldn’t be settling for “the normal aches and pains!”
According to a post by the Titleist Performance Institute, Certified Chiropractic Sports Physician, Dr. Harry Sese believes “Some golfers think minor pain is normal and try to play through it. Pain is NOT normal, and, almost always, will negatively affect performance.” Our coaching staff could not agree with you more, Dr.! If you are experiencing pain and discomfort on a daily basis, your body is sending you a message, and there is a reason why. Pain can be related to previous injury, overuse, inflamed joints, poor diet, lack of sleep, the list goes on and on. It is our goal to help address these issues and improve not only your general well-being, but your performance on the course. Through an analysis of both your physical function, and your current lifestyle habits (diet, sleep patterns, daily activity, etc.) we can help you determine that reason so you can feel better and perform at a higher level more consistently!
If you have pain in any area, please email email@example.com to schedule a brief meeting with our Physical Therapist, Kate Campbell to get an idea of how we can help you. She is seeing athletes both in person and virtually, and is here to help!Read More
The Pressure of Achievement
We talk about what makes success and the journey to success. However, there is a downside to success if you are not pursuing your success with the right purpose. I know I have written many articles about what it takes, how each of us may measure success differently, however, we all are susceptible to the dark side of reaching for the impossible.
The impossible for each may be different but the journey is predictably the same. It is filled with passion, hard work, people who believe in you and those who do not, highs and lows. The trials and tribulations may be overwhelming at times, without purpose greater than a good outcome, a win in a tournament, adulation for a job well done, you may find yourself in a tough spot emotionally. As a positive person, I do not like to think about the downside of success or failure, but if you do not consider the possibility of not reaching a certain goal, the pressures of succeeding can be overwhelming when your purpose does not align with your goals.
When setting your big audacious goal, it is important to understand, your goal will come with consequences, good and bad, are you prepared? What do I mean by this? If your goals are not aligned with your purpose, the pressures of failing can bring dark consequences. We have seen many young student-athletes crumble under unnecessary pressure because their goals do not align with their parents or teachers and coaches. Our society is littered with stories of young people consumed by this pursuit of perfection in everything from school grades, the best peer group, sports, to the best college bumper sticker so their parents can brag to their friends. Tragically, when a young person feels that they are not able to hold up their “obligations” to keep up with these demands, it can lead to them giving up on their audacious goal leading to more troubling scenarios. The high achievement mentality is a double edge sword. When the pursuit is not driven by the right purpose, it can become dangerous for those caught in the rushing river of high achievement.
If you find yourself in this scenario, take some time to reflect on why you are pursuing your audacious goal. Are your actions aligned with your goal? Do you have the necessary support from those around you? If not, find a new group of friends that will support you. Do you have a good plan to reach your goal? Achievement is not done alone. Desire to improve + Good Plan + Hard work = Achievement
Enjoy Your Journey!
Play It Where It Lies
Pebble Beach had two incidents where a player was penalized for causing a ball at rest that moved. Maverick McNealy and Russell Knox
- Let’s take a quick look at the rule itself. Rule 9 – Ball Played as It Lies; Ball at Rest Lifted or Moved 9.2 a. Deciding whether the ball moved – both players knew the ball moved, then the question became was what caused the movement. 9.2 b. In the interaction with the Rules Officials and no video replay the players were deemed not guilty per se of causing the ball to move. Only with consultation to the video truck was a determination/confirmation made that the players actions caused the ball to move.
A larger discussion could be had, that this is not equitable due to the fact that the entire field is not subject to this type of video oversight, only the top few groups have a camera man assigned to them.
Very few of us will have that experience of having the camera on our every shot, so you need to be prepared to enlist what your caddie, fellow competitor, volunteers etc saw if a question arises. As to what happened at Pebble, the players immediately stopped, spoke with their fellow competitor and initiated a process to determine who/what caused the ball to move. Once you initiate that process and get your fellow competitor involved, you protect yourself from many bad outcomes and or inuendo of wrongdoing aka Patrick Reed. (without the immediate video review, and the player had only followed the guidance of The Rules Official and his fellow competitor, he only would have been penalized one shot and not the general penalty of 2 for not replacing his ball)
The main cause of frenzy with Patrick was putting his ball in his hand without having his fellow competitor or Rules Official there for oversight. That allowed doubters to jump in and speculate to what his intentions were and what actions did he take that not been seen. The one thing a Rules Official dreads is coming upon a player with his ball in his hand, now all the facts are not known and the player has failed to protect himself.
Learning and knowing the Rules of Golf are great, but we can’t know them all or rely on remembering them in the heat of the battle. But if we stop and bring in others as you determine what happened and/or what to do, in the long run you protect not only your reputation but more than likely save from receiving a more severe penalty being imposed.
Definitions of the week: (homework for you to research)
Moved, Known or virtually certain, , Outside Influence, Natural Forces
Heath Wassem, PGA
AKA: “Rulesguy”Read More
Spring Cleaning Time
The Masters is only seven weeks away so what are you doing to get ready for the season? Here are a few tips to get a head start on 2021.
1. Have your lofts/lies checked. You could be hitting poor shots despite making good swings!
2. Clean your clubheads with a steel brush, warm water and some mild soap. Inspect everything to make sure it’s not loose, damaged or rattling.
3. Put new grips on your clubs if they appear worn, brittle, slick, or missing.
Last but not least, look at your wedges. They are scoring clubs and if it’s been a while since you got wedges, consider an upgrade. In the above picture, look at the face on the wedge that has an equivalent of 75 rounds of golf versus the new face. The Vokey team conducts extensive research and found that wedges simply lose their stopping power. Almost 1000 rpm and 45% of the stopping power after 75 rounds. The second picture is Brooks Koepka winning WITB from two weeks ago at the Phoenix Open. I’ve been told that these players sometimes get new wedges every tournament, and as seldom as a few times per year. They probably should because they spin-it for a living!Read More
The Consistency Paradox
When asked what they would like to see in their golf games, most people will say that they want to be more consistent. First off, every shot in golf is different so consistency is a bit of an illusion when it comes to execution of golf shots. In reality, having the ability to adapt to different scenarios and be an artist is what leads to better golf. However, let’s just say that we agree we are looking to shoot more consistent scores. Then the follow up question is, how consistent are you in executing on your improvement plan?
Now, some of you may be thinking ‘well, I don’t have an improvement plan.’ Then, the first step is to be evaluated and create one. After that, what will separate those that see dramatic improvements from those that don’t is the consistency with which they execute their plan. Yes, it really is that simple. Sure, it seems much more enticing to chase that secret move in the golf swing, secret supplement for muscle recovery, or the perfect club to gain distance. All those can be contributing factors, but none alone will make the difference. The overwhelming difference is whether or not you are willing to wake up every day and do what needs to be done and have fun doing it! Then you will build the habit of working on the right things in the right way. This means that slow steady improvement is part of your daily work which can have an everlasting impact. As a result, you will understand the difference between executing a plan from a place of sincere belief and unwavering discipline from that of chasing fleeting quick fixes which will keep you chasing your tail in perpetuity.
Take the time to see where you are with your plan and reflect on the consistency with which you have been approaching your improvement.Read More