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!