THE NUMBER ONE REASON GOOD PLAYERS DO NOT WIN and what to do about it!

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Bill is a good player. His training scores are solid enough to win every championship. His equipment is the finest money can buy and his technique is sound. He should win but he doesn’t. John plays well in smaller competitions but when he gets to ones that are important to him he has trouble shooting low. He should win but he doesn’t.

So what is the reason? In my more than 40 years of competing and coaching there is one factor that is most often the culprit. It takes more shots away from those that are skilled and have trained diligently than any other. The villain is the amount of MENTAL EFFORT the player uses in the tournament.

“Giving all you’ve got, giving 110%, doing the BEST YOU CAN is almost certain to keep you from winning.”

When you give it your all, you may be trying too hard. Your level of mental effort exceeds the optimum and shots are lost. Let’s look at why this happens and what we can do about it.

When we begin any form of skill acquisition we are forced to do things consciously. An example would be looking at the keys when we begin to learn to type. I have to admit that I still have to look at the numbers when I type but the keys are touched automatically now that I’ve been typing for a good while. As my Conscious mind can only think about one thing at a time, I was slow as Christmas at typing in the beginning. As I began to practice interesting things happened. Very soon I found that I didn’t have to think about the keys. They seem to type without conscious effort. When this happens we are typing with our Subconscious mind. What a difference! Our speed increases and so does our enjoyment of the skill of typing.

Skill acquisition in golf occurs exactly the same way. At first, we have to think about the elements of our form. Through training we begin to do them automatically or Subconsciously. There is a huge advantage when the Subconscious controls the swing process. The Conscious mind can only think of one thing a time while the Subconscious can handle countless activities simultaneously. We play best when the Conscious mind is quiet and the Subconscious is in control.

So if this is true, why would we ever want to putt Consciously? We shouldn’t. But, we do this every time we try too hard in competition. It has been my observation that close to 90% of all golfers are trying too hard in competition. Amazing isn’t it? Here’s why. When we get to an important competition we naturally want to perform well. The Conscious mind can over-ride the Subconscious at will. So, the Conscious mind, TO MAKE CERTAIN WE DO WELL, over-rides the Subconscious. The result is an increase in scores and an unhappy player.

This doesn’t happen in practice or in unimportant competitions because the Conscious mind is happy to let the Subconscious take over in lesser situations. You see, the ego resides in the Conscious mind. It seems to resent not being in charge when the really important events in life occur. Also, it seems that the Subconscious is quite willing to allow the Conscious mind to take over its job any time it wants to. The Subconscious is the team we want on the field. We need for the Conscious to stay on the bench but if it takes the field we will have a difficult time winning the game.

So what are we to do? We need for the Conscious to do just enough and not 1% more. You see, everything in life requires a certain amount of effort to perform well. Give it 1% less effort than is required and performance drops. Give it 1% MORE effort and again performance drops.

How can you tell if the effort you are using is too much? If you think you REALLY NEED this birdie or begin to count your score when you are playing you may be over-trying. Giving it all you’ve got in a competition is over-trying. This problem is so common among players that almost everyone will do it at least some time in a competition.

What is the right amount of mental effort? I asked this question to hundreds of elite performers and this is the best answer I’ve received.

“The optimum level of mental effort and let’s just have fun today are really close together.”

That’s right! There is a time to try really hard but it is not in the competition. The time to try is in preparation, not in execution. We must TRUST in execution. That’s correct… TRUST! Trust your training. If you are not training efficiently and effectively you will have a difficult time in having anything to trust in competition. We will visit that topic in a future article. But, it you are well prepared TRUSTING is the ticket to a winning performance.

By Lanny Bassham

Lanny Bassham is an Olympic Gold Medalist who used his own Mental Management System to reach success at the highest levels in his sport. He has been teaching his Mental Management System to athletes and business professionals for over 30 years. His system is used by competitive golfers of all ages including several on the PGA Tour. He is a member of the Olympic Shooting Hall of Fame, ranks third among all shooters in total international medal count for the USA and one of the most respected mental trainers in the world. His book With Winning in Mind and his Mental Management® concepts are used and endorsed by PGA Tour Players, Olympic and World Champion athletes. You can reach him at 972-899-9640 or  info@mentalmanagement.com .

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