Missouri Golf Post

To begin with please have no discomfort over the term sport psychology. About 20 years ago at a competition someone interested in my services asked me, Does sport psychology work? The question surprised me because until then it never occurred to me that someone would think it didn’t. The question enlightened me to the fact that most people have little idea what sport psychology is. To me the question was like asking, Does breathing work?

Just as everyone breathes, everyone thinks and sport psychology is about learning how to think effectively. Being interested in sport psychology means you are interested in learning, training and performing your best. It means you want to change, improve and grow. It means you are interested in what I call, striving for excellence. It does not mean there is anything wrong with you and you need to be “fixed.”

I will discuss all the areas of sport psychology in the future which include individual participants, coaches, teams, families and spectators. For now I will say much of sport psychology deals with guiding people to overcome the self-limiting thoughts, behaviors, fears and self-doubt that prevent them performing up to their skill level. The same limiting thoughts and doubts also interfere with increasing skill, becoming better.

Nearly everyone who participates in a sport has been troubled with self-doubt. I could list many examples world class and professional athletes who have struggled with the same doubt and self-limiting thinking as the recreational player.

I remember an interview I saw with American speed skate Apolo Ohno after the 2010 winter Olympics. He talked about trying to decide if he would attend his 3rd Games at Vancouver. Specifically, he had to answer the question in his mind, Did he want to sacrifice another 4 years of his life and commit totally to the training and preparation needed to compete again at the World level? And the other nagging, deeper question, Did he have the drive to do it and could he be good enough? He reflected on these questions for some time then said he chose to pursue the sport again, but the reason was never to win more medals or break records.

The reason he chose to return was to confront his fears and doubts. Of course winning medals and setting records is great, but as we will discover winning is the result of effective performance thinking. One of the great myths in sport is believing you must putting winning ahead of effective thinking. In reality effective thinking must come ahead of winning. As we will discover all great athletes come to this realization.

All sport performance is combination of mental and physical skills and sport psychology is just a term to help us refer to the process of improving the skills.

If you do feel some discomfort about using something called sport psychology, just refer to it in the big picture as it fits into sport science and think of it as Human performance rather than just psychology.

Human performance is an academic and applied multi-subject approach that includes Anatomy, Neurobiology, Motor Learning, Biomechanics, Kinesiology, Exercise Physiology, Human Learning, Nutrition and several areas of Psychology. Also be assured it isn’t necessary for you to study and become proficient in these sciences, you just have to find someone who is to guide your improvement process.

Here is a final thought to help you understand sport psychology and Human performance. Some people without understanding or experience with these disciplines think they are just theories and have no relevance to sport in the real World.

I assure you I am not interested in useless theories. I have clients around the World from beginners to World Champion and Olympic level athletes in many sports and I have been a championship competitor in several sports for most of my life. Sport psychology, Human performance, whatever you choose to call it, is not useless theory. These disciplines are composed of powerful concepts, principles and strategies that enable you to use your mind and body to their fullest extent.

Here are a few questions to get you thinking about Human Performance and your golf game until our next discussion. I will have many more for you in the future.

Why do you play golf?

How do you create success?

How do you concentrate?

What things affect your concentration?

How do you win?

What judgments and expectations do you have? What judgments and expectations do others have? How do these effect your playing?

Do you have a practice and competition plan?

Do know how to change the disappointment of a poor past experience in your mind so it never bothers you in the future?

Are you aware of your self talk; that endless dialogue and chatter that goes on in your mind? Does your self-talk help or harm your performance?

Do you recognize when you are distracted? What do you do when you are distracted?

Do you worry about winning or losing?

Do you play better at some courses than others? Do you usually play poorly at a specific course?

Do you play better with some people than others? Why?

Do you get mad after several poor shoots?

Do you mentally replay poor shots over and over and feel depressed about what might have been?

How often do you blame something or someone besides yourself for your results?

How often do you make excuses?

Are there other players you do not like?

Can you maintain optimum muscle tension for perfect skill execution when playing?

Do you know how to breathe when playing?

Do you understand the importance of visual skills in playing?

Are you in control of your emotions when playing?

Do you understand how language effects learning, emotion and skill performance?

Can you create the ideal performance state every time you play? No? Why not?

Do know how to train your central nervous system for optimum performance?

Do you apply the principles of periodization and training in cycles to peak for specific performances?

What actions and changes will truly help you in achieving your goals?

Ultimately only you are responsible for your achievement. Regardless of all the instruction, coaching and guidance it is you who must assimilate the information, do the work and expend the effort.

I created a Latin phrase, Opta Praestarae (Pray-star-ray) to describe my business and life philosophy. It means choose to excel or strive for excellence.

I believe if you learn and apply the principles of physical and mental skills development and effective performance thinking you will eliminate the common self limiting thoughts and behaviors that prevent most from becoming the best they can be.

You can be different. You can overcome the self-interference, strive for excellence and transcend who you think you are and discover who you can be.


Mark Brownlee provides professional physical and mental skills development for sport and business Worldwide. He has clients from beginners to World Champions in many sports including clay target shooting, archery, golf, swimming, gymnastics, cycling, kayaking, rock climbing, equestrian and diving. He is also a championship competitor in several sports.

Mark also presents dynamic Human Performance improvement seminars for business, coaches and all sport groups. For information regarding private or group consultation and training please contact Mark at: mbsportpsych@yahoo.com.


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The Missouri Golf Post is a monthly digital magazine that “celebrates the people who play the game.” Each monthly issue contains several “feature” stories on golfers, golf courses, and/or major tournaments of interest statewide. Each issue contains a number of regular departments on topics such as Tournament Summaries, Fitness, “The Superintendent’s Corner,” Instruction, and Rules.


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