"My son gets so angry on the golf course that he cannot perform in competitions". "My daughter gets so nervous when other people are watching her play that her game completely falls apart". "My kid hits it so well on the range, and then hits it all over the map in a tournament". These are the kinds of comments that I often hear from parents of junior golfers. Do these kids need a golf psychologist? No. Nobody needs training on the mental part of the game. I take the word need very seriously. I believe we need air and water and sleep and food. I certainly wouldn't suggest that anyone needs mental training, anymore than I would suggest that anyone needs golf lessons or physical training. What I would say, however, is that I have yet to encounter any player who couldn't benefit from proper mental, technical, or physical instruction. Thus, I believe any junior golfer could benefit from mental instruction. Most people simply don't understand what this training is or how it works.
When I ask parents what percentage of their kid's golf game is mental, I rarely get a number less than 75%. Conversely, when I ask those same people what percentage of their child's training time is devoted to working on the mental game the answer is rarely greater than zero. And while parents see the "problem" with their child's mental game, the young player doesn't know how to work on the mental game and the parents don't know where to look for answers to their questions.
"What exactly do you do?" Most people outside of sport have never heard of sport psychology, and many people in sport have little knowledge about the nature of the job itself. In a nutshell, golf psychology- or mental training for golf- is consultation and education that exposes a player to the requisite mental skills necessary to create an internal environment to enjoy the sport more and achieve excellence in performance. These skills are in conjunction with, but not contrary to, the mechanical and physical instruction that might be given by a swing coach or fitness trainer.
Here's what it's all about: Among other things, mental training for golf is to help:
Understand how to deal with lapses in concentration
Deal with situations of accumulating frustration
Develop coping strategies to deal with increasing anxiety
Improve decreasing motivation
Examine and reinforce slipping confidence
Create strategies to reduce breakdowns under pressure
Craft procedures to increase consistency of preparation and play
Generally the process first involves some type of assessment. Next, there is a period of education and skill development, followed by on-going follow-up and adjustments. The specifics of the actual mental training will vary from player to player, with the vast majority of interaction and consultation done via telephone, on the golf course, at the range, or on the putting green.
The added benefit for junior golfers is that the training typically also has positive life effects. Understanding the power of one's thinking, learning how to differentiate those things over which we have control from those over which we do not have control, deepening an understanding of how to take responsibility for our actions and our reactions to events are among the many, many golf/life issues explored and addressed. Ultimately, the more the junior player knows him or herself, the more they understand the nuances of the game, and the more they have specific strategies to apply, the more they will be successful in golf and in life!
Jeff Troesch, MA, LMHC is an internationally recognized expert in the mental side of golf. As the former Director of Sport Psychology for the David Leadbetter Golf Academies, Jeff has worked with thousands of golfers nationwide and brings a wealth of experience to seasoned golf professionals as well as the recreational golf lover. You may contact Jeff directly through his website, http://www.fitnessforgolf.com.