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Psychology Services

How can a sport psychologist help me?

There is a lot of mystery and intrigue about the way in which a sport psychologist will work with clients. Ultimately how a sport psychologist will help you is determined by their philosophy - namely what they think causes change to happen. Here are my thoughts on one way based on recent experiences. As I was running a psychological skills workshop with a group of recreational golfers recently, I found myself having to consider one of the biggest questions facing amateurs:.

"How can I reduce my golf handicap?".

This is not just a question for golfers but for all sportspeople. Essentially, the question is better phrased as "How can I improve my game?" During the workshop, I explored how golfers can think differently to improve their overall standard of play. Practical suggestions on how this is to be achieved were also examined starting with revisiting a common misconception..

A Common Misconception.

When I ask golfers what the difference is between their game and a golfer whose handicap is, say, three strokes lower, one answer features more frequently than any other. The response is that: the lower handicap golfer hits much better shots. To put this another way, they feel that the best game of the lower handicapper (the seemingly better player) is much better than their best game. The high handicapped amateur therefore concludes that they need to improve their best game and sets about trying to do so.

Intuitively, this thinking appears logical and therefore most people would not challenge it. However, this kind of thinking leads to a false, or at best a premature, conclusion - namely that:.

In order to lower your handicap (improve your game) you need to improve your best game.

It is not about Improving your Best Game

I often begin consultancies by challenging this upside down thinking. I explain that a golf handicap is not often improved by adding an additional 5 yards to each golf shot or hitting your best shots even better. There is seldom much room for raising the bar on your very best game when starting to improve your overall game. In other words, trying to improve the length of your drive by a few yards is difficult, time consuming and ultimately has very little impact on your handicap. Instead, attention should be focussed on raising the bar on your worst round.

As we all know, our worst rounds of golf feel like they leave a bigger dent in our confidence than our best rounds can boost it.

Over time, focussing on raising the level of your worst rounds will act to enhance your confidence. By focusing on making your worst round better, you will improve the consistency with which you are able to perform overall. Gradually, you will remove the fear of performing badly because you will reduce the amount of times this happens as well as the severity of the impact when it does.

A practical example of Raising your Worst Game.

Peter is an 18 handicap golfer who has set a goal for 2016 to reduce his handicap by three shots. When Peter plays his best, he knows he can shoot as low as 14 over par. However, Peter frequently makes risky decisions when playing. He does not like playing a cautious shot and this frequently leads to a big score on at least two holes every round. Despite this knowledge, Peter feels that he will improve his handicap by hitting his best shots a greater distance and practices with this goal in mind. However, there is not much opportunity for Peter to hit the ball further without significant technical improvements. Instead, Peter will benefit greatly from improving his decision making which will consistently result in lower scores.

The 1st Step in Reducing your Handicap: Make sure it's not Getting Worse

Essentially, golfers can start to raise the bar on their worst round so that it does not ruin their chances of a future handicap reduction. At the same time, they will reduce the number of times they play badly brought about by greater confidence in knowing that their worst rounds will happen less often with clearer thinking.

The next time you are thinking about how you can improve your game, whatever sport that may be, begin by taking a step back from your present thinking about how it can be improved. With the right guidance from a sport psychologist, you may notice that an emphasis on your worst game can reap higher rewards for your best game than you may ever have dreamed of.

Enjoy your next round!.

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