by Michael Riggs, M.Ed.
The relationship between a player’s optimal level of arousal – how revved he is – and performance is one of the most studied, and difficult to pinpoint, concepts in the field of Sport Psychology. Each golfer has an optimal state of mental stimulation that allows him to think and feel “ready” to play. If the golfer is under-aroused, less than peak performance may be the result. Conversely, over-arousal can lead to a sense of panic and feeling “out of control.”
As is true with all aspects of the mental game, learning to recognize different states of being is the first, and thus, a critical step. It is important to become aware of how “keyed up,” “ready,” or “mellow” you tend to be when you are playing your best golf. Each player has a different level of optimal arousal; therefore, each player needs to be self-aware what that level is in order to “go” there to play his best.
With golf, a lower level of arousal is usually best for extraordinary performance. Because playing great golf requires fluidity, excellent timing, and the ability to make clear and decisive decisions on the course, being mentally tense will usually decrease the player’s ability to reach proper physical, mental and emotional states. For example, on a scale of one through ten, if being asleep is represented with a one, and being in a state of fury were a ten, the proper mental arousal level for great golf would be between a three and a five.
Most players do not know their optimal level of arousal. Consequently, they end up playing better when they “happen” to be properly aroused, and score high when “they aren’t ready to play.” Experiment and become aware of your optimal level of arousal. Your intuition will usually tell you when you are near your perfect level. While feeling butterflies in your stomach and increased respiration are natural for athletes prior to competition, feeling like you are going to throw up and your heart pounding out of your chest are sure signs of over-arousal. On the other hand, a lackadaisical “I don’t care” attitude is almost always a sign of under-arousal.
The ultimate goal is to be able to “dial up” or “dial down” to reach your perfect level each time you play.
Train yourself – with the guidance of a mental fitness expert – to be able to “dial up” or “dial down” to reach your perfect mental and emotional level each time you play.
Hat’s off to Mark Haddad, new Executive Director of the PGA Tour Academy’s, for his creative efforts putting together some truly extraordinary camps and schools for Jr. golfers!
In Another’s Words…
“Pressure is playing for ten dollars when you don’t have a dime in your pocket.” – Lee Trevino