By:Patrick J. Cohn, Ph.D.
The ability to perform naturally and instinctively is critical to performing well. The reason why you practice is so you can trust your game when itís time to play.
The ability to perform naturally and instinctively is critical to performing well. The reason why you practice is so you can trust your game when itís time to play. As you progress through the stages of learning, with practice you develop a memory program for each movement. With more practice (or over-learning), your performance becomes instinctive, natural, and starts to feel effortless. The feeling of automatic and effortless movement is essential for superior performance for all skill levels. The problem starts when you donít allow your natural ability to surface when you perform. If you focus too much on technique or control the path of the bat, club, and racquet, you will lock yourself up and feel uncoordinated.
In pressure situations, the tendency is to tighten up and not trust yourself. Focusing too much on how to make a good swing for example makes you guide the bat, club, or racquet and consciously force it. All this does are mess up a well-grooved swing (through repetition) and throws off your natural rhythm. The purpose of practice and repetition is to make it feel reflexive when you perform in competition. When you play, let your instincts built on practice take over.
Some players can trust their ability better than others. Trusting your ability means forgetting about the HOW TO perform a motor skill and reacting to your environment. During competition, you need to let your creative mind take over. When the whistle blows, itís time to trust your practice and play be feel. If you think too much about how to perform, such as trying to make a perfect stroke during a free throw, you will lock up and ruin your chances at making it. React to the target and allow your body do what it knows how to do. I call this performing from the input through the eyes and sensory system and skipping all the analysis and trying that interferes with the automatic process.
About the Author
Dr. Patrick J. Cohn is a leading mental game coach who consults with professional and amatuer athletes. He is the author of Going Low, Peak Performance Golf, The Mental Game of Golf and The Mental Art of Putting. For more information call (888) 742-7225. Or sign up for free mental game tips newsletter at: www.peaksports.com.
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