Relaxed concentration is the key to excellence in all things... Timothy Gallwey.

Recently I had the opportunity to do a presentation on Developing a Mental Game for Teenagers. About 16 boys from the age of eleven to fourteen participated. They burst into the room with youthful exuberance and a playful attitude The immediate challenge was to get a vigorous, and somewhat rowdy group of boys, settled down so they could focus enough to learn something of value about their mental game. For the most part I was impressed by their willingness to listen, share and learn more about their golf game. A format of interactive sharing was utilized to keep their interest and engage them in learning from one another.

I asked them some questions about what a mental game entailed. I was bombarded with phrases like; focusing, visualization, practicing, and a wide range of other comments that belied their lack of understanding about the mental aspect of the game. This was to expected because even adults with considerable playing experience have a paucity of language about the skills of a mental game. The standard understanding of a mental game often consists of such ideas as visualization, focusing and staying positive. These are popular ideas in sporting circles, but often are unsupported with any real depth of knowledge of how to develop or use these skills to play better golf. As well, although they are important mental skills they are just the “tip of the iceberg” and a well developed mental game is much more detailed and extensive than just these popular skills. Therefore, it was to be expected that teenagers would not have a clear understanding of the mental aspect of their game.

Unfortunately, this lack of understanding of the mental game is all too common and accounts for the erratic play of skilled teenage golfers. This results in a considerable waste of talent, time and money for the players and their families. I believe it is important to help youngsters develop skills to strengthen all aspects of their golfing ability, especially their mental game. The skill sets outlined in TOTALGOLF* are applicable to motivated youngster wanting to improve their golfing performance.

To improve, a player must practice n the right way, working on both his swing and his mind....Bob Rotella.

Through the use of experiential activities I was able to access an understanding of the perceived strengths and weakness of the teenager’s mental game. Although this was a small group I do believe the ideas they shared are applicable to many players, especially other teenagers.

The four mental strengths identified were the capacity to;

a. stay focused, which slightly less than half the group identified,
b. hold on to positive thoughts, which was shared by a number of the youth.
c. visualize making shots, which was mentioned as a skill by a few of the youth.

In contrast, the weaknesses of their mental game was identified as;

a. losing focus and being distracted by others and (this a was the dominant problem)
b. exploding and getting too frustrated and mad-another prevalent issue.
c. having too high of expectations and getting discouraged.

When they were asked to identify the mental strengths and weaknesses of a professional golfer they admired they said the strengths were; being focused, using visualization, and being confident. The weaknesses they identified were; loss of control, showing too much frustration, and being too pressured.

So we can see that there are a number of important mental skills that youth are aware of. Now, to help them improve, they need to address both their strengths and weakness as it pertains to their practice and playing of golf. And they will need someone who can help them develop these skills. They need to strengthen their strengths and transform their weaknesses to develop a better game. As well, there are other important skills of a mental game that need to be learned and integrated with the technical aspects of the game.

The challenge in bringing our golfing dreams to reality is to realize that we must make a commitment to develop all aspects of our game -there are no short cuts. In the final tally our outcomes will be as complete as our development-DR T.
From a Totalgolf* point of view, some obvious factors are missing. Namely, the skills of planning, preparation and discipline. These are fundamental skills for enhancing performance in any sport, especially golf. In order for youthful players to develop they will need coaching and mentorship that help them address these aspects of their game. As well, they will need to learn how to develop and use the skills of focusing, visualization, thought and feeling management. In an elementary way these skills have already identified by these youth as important but, perhaps they still lack an understanding of how to use these skills in their own game.

As well, the skill of being disciplined needs to be addressed. Discipline is essential in the development of a budding golfer and must be fostered by the help of an experienced teacher. Without a comprehensive approach to player development we can expect the loss of enjoyment and talent due to lack of attention to the role of the mental game and its integration with the technical aspects of golfing.

Hopefully, these ideas will help youthful players, their parents and coaches see and develop the mental skills that have the potential to help the aspiring teenage golfer to develop fully as a player. Of course, we believe these mental skills must compliment and support the learning of the technical game and the development of a strong, flexible and physically fit young player. Armed with the “skills of excellence” the youthful player will better prepared to find greater enjoyment and satisfaction of playing his/her best game. Now he/she can thrill in the excitement of excelling in a sport that has the promise to transform him/her into confident and competent player and person.

The TOTALGOLF mental skills are outlined in other articles. To get a fuller description of the TOTALGOLF mental skills visit the website:http://www.thegrailinstitute.com and go to article section under the information on TOTALGOLF CLINIC

Author's Bio: 

DR Shannon-Brady-see biography on experts on selfgrowth.com-counseling, health and sport psychologist.