Change is difficult. Deep down most of us believe we are fine the way we are and we subtly resist change. We continue to embrace what is comfortable. However, we can make real change if we make the athlete comfortable in the uncomfortable by growing a segment of themselves called the self-image. There are concrete tools available to you to enable this change to happen.
Resistance to change is common with the young athlete due to how he or she is wired. The profile of today’s athlete is a cautious decision maker who is highly innovative and intellectually curious. These athletes are used to instantaneous change so the concepts of commitment and perseverance are against the grain of their core principles. Some call the young athlete the “fast food” generation-he demands delivery of the result instantaneously. The tolerance for struggle is limited because of his core beliefs but he is smart and resourceful. We need to be aware of this as we coach him.
So, what exactly is the self-image? It is the way we are comfortable operating in life, work and sport. It is the sum of our habits and attitudes. On a practical level, picture the basketball player who averages 20 points. He gets hot and scores twenty points in the first half alone. The second half begins and his shooting becomes cold. It is not like him to score more than twenty points and the self-image corrects and shuts down the skillset. The self-image controls the conscious skill like the throttle on a motorcycle, killing the engine when not providing the correct amount of gas. In this example, the self-image shuts down the shooter from having a personal best. The skill is there but the area of comfort has not been achieved yet.
The exciting thing is you have control of the self-image and can protect and cultivate it by directing change instead of allowing the environment to dictate change. We can help the athlete overcome and see the breakthroughs he is seeking in performance using concrete strategies in training. The self-image works collaboratively with the conscious mind and will do whatever the conscious mind sees. It is crucial that we control our thoughts and talk and think about what we want to happen to reinforce positive change. This principle of reinforcement allows the self-image to grow.
It is imperative to be careful about what we picture. Every time we worry–about scoring poorly on an exam or playing poorly–we increase the probability of that happening. The self-image pulls you in the direction of what you are thinking, good or bad, and we have not been taught how to cultivate it. In golf we tend to pay the greatest attention to our conscious mind and subconscious skill and the self-image stays small and seldom grows, or shrinks altogether. We are great technically and physically but unable to control our thoughts in an inconsistent environment and that’s why it becomes tough to have those breakthrough performances.
There are a few ways to grow the self-image. For a golfer, imprinting the way he desires to compete through actual physical imprints. Good shots grow the self-image, as well as shots that are reinforced with putting a solution in place. Imagined imprints also need to be managed. A great athlete envisions the way he wants to operate and talks about what he does want. In lieu of thinking “do not hit it in the water,” the athlete thinks “I want to hit it here.” Environmental imprints include weather, spectators and fellow competitors. In college golf it is important for the golfers to talk about what they did well versus talking about how bad they did. Coaches reigning in these conversations to focus on solutions is critical because of the collective effect it has on the team. The great athlete will talk about what he did well, what he learned and the solutions he plans to implement, never rehashing what went wrong.
Now that we have all of the theory let’s talk about what we can do practically to make this change in the athlete. We can take imprinting to the next level with a Performance Analysis (PA) journal. There are three important reasons for athletes to use the PA to track and measure performance.
The first reason we use a PA is to be able to manage something effectively you must be able to measure it. Systems must be defined, measured and timed so that there is reinforcement for everything that is done. The PA leads the athlete through reporting the event and conditions, what he did and why and what solutions he is putting in place. He then sums up the PA with a goal statement which directly relates back to the solutions he is looking for. This allows the athlete to imprint everything he is doing that day and move forward believing that he already has the solutions which will allow him to achieve his goal. The language of the PA, stating things positively, is imperative.
The second reason we use the PA is it helps the coach to know what the athlete is working on and what solutions he is implementing. I can be in a different location from an athlete and still have a very strong impression of what is going on with his game. There is space in the PA for the athlete to brag about himself and talk about what he is doing well. No one but the athlete can write these experiences down and we ask for rich descriptions, as if a color commentator is following his training session. This daily exercise after training is where the self-image is receiving significant positive deposits, just like making a deposit into a bank account. We utilize a training app that allows the athlete to upload his PA to a training space where I can read and comment on his entries so that I am included in his development, helping him to stay on track.
The third reason we utilize the PA is that it is an actual segment of training and it is the final, perhaps most important part, of what he does to wrap up his training day. The manner in which the PA is filled out in the athlete’s own handwriting and the diligence and detail directly relates to the growth of the self-image. What we talk about, think about and write about directly correlates to the probability of that thing happening. So when we are writing about solutions, about our great performances in training and competition, the area of comfort for the athlete expands. Research also tells us that we retain our experiences as great has 30% more than if we were to use a computer or voice recorder. This is real, measurable change and if the athlete can commit to 30 days of consecutive use, he will not stop using it.
Olympic Performance has shown us the power of the Performance Analysis and I have taken the content and made it more specific for the golf athlete. We can provide this crucial piece of training for you to utilize for your athletes and I am happy to get you on track with implementing this in your current coaching system. You simply will not regret it, nor will your athletes.