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When your brain gets in the way!

I was at a BBQ recently when I asked a friend how golf has been going. He replies, “no good – my handicap has blown out to 5 and I feel nervous and unsure every time I stand over the ball”. Now to paint a picture, most people would be happy with a handicap of 5 over par, however this is a scratch golfer who is used to playing at a professional level. “I just don’t understand” he continues “my swing is as good as it has been, I’m flushing them on the range and anytime I play socially, I shoot par or better”. I replied, “mate, I think you have the yips”.

The yips, even the word sends shivers up my spine and it is something that most people if you have played enough sport can tell you is a very real thing. I have seen the yips in action many times playing various sports and have certainly caught them myself on more than one occasion! But what are the yips and what can we do about them? To onlookers, the yips appear as if the athlete has suddenly and unexplainably lost their ability to execute the skill that they have honed through many hours of practice. To the athlete there is a mental and a physical battle taking place, they have lost all sense of flow and being present. Their usually smooth and well-honed movements have become rigid, jerky and tense and a sense of dread ensues. To put it simply, their brain has gotten in the way!

It’s any wonder why professional athletes invest so much time in their body and their brains in today’s sport. So, if this story sounds familiar to you, here are some simple strategies that may help you to overcome your mental block and achieve at your potential:

🏈 Routine: As human’s we feel comfortable with predictability and engaging in the same pre-game or pre-shot routine can help to bring a sense of calmness and relaxed focus to each moment during our performance. Many athletes now like to use mental imagery and pre-performance routines during their training stages.

⚽️ Psychological flexibility: Big word right. All this means for an athlete is to forget what has come before that moment and commit your attention and focus fully to the present moment. This takes practice and often a formal meditation practice will help.

⛳️ Just breathe: During a difficult moment while performing, the body tenses up as if it is ready to fight/flight or freeze – not exactly the response we need when trying to put a tiny white ball within a few feet of the hole! Take a step back, engage your breath mindfully and reconnect to the present moment and your values of why you play this sport to begin with.

🏐 Forget the end result: For many high achievers this is a difficult step to let go of thinking about the end result. If you have done all of the work in training both physically and mentally, then thinking and worrying about the end result can be an unnecessary distraction. Let go of this, be in the present moment and approach each moment with a sense of calm concentration.

🎾 Happy life: If your life is chaotic off the course, or away from your chosen sport then it is difficult to expect a consistent high level of performance on the field. Look after your mental health and your performance on the field will follow.

Sport is an amazing way to bring people together, to challenge yourself and bring enjoyment to your life. Sport is a journey so whatever your code, make sure you enjoy every step of it. 🧠 ❤️ 


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