Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Quick Tip: Mental Focus

Hey guys, my name is Robert McCall. I’m the Team Manager for Dynamic Discs, and I’ve been playing disc golf for around 10 years. I’ve played with players from all over the world, and I’ve been doing my best to learn from as many of them as possible. In the Quick Tip series, I’m going to share something I’ve learned over the years from a combination of personal experience and expertise from other players.

This week’s Quick Tip: Mental Focus

When you play rounds of disc golf, especially on a long, elevated course, do you find that your legs feel like jello for your last few holes? Do you leave putts short and fail to commit to your angle and speed on your drives? Considering the type of course you played that day, no one would be surprised to hear that anyone wore themselves out and didn't quite have the steam to finish the round well. On the opposite end of the course spectrum, especially during tournament rounds, have you experienced the same short-putting, angle-missing, non-committing dreary finish to the round? By all logic, the shorter course shouldn't tire you out nearly as much, but people often fall prey to end-of-round poor play on all types of courses.

Disc golfers train to battle physical fatigue through field work and constant practice, but we rarely pay much attention to physical fatigue's less obvious, sinister sibling: mental fatigue. If you're like me and your mind tends to race, you likely spend a lot of time between shots thinking about what your upcoming lie might look like, what you could have done differently on the tee, your last putt that just spit out, or myriad other concerns about your round. By the time you reach the end of your round, you've worried about everything that you could, and your last 15 footer on 18 feels impossible to make.

Sports psychologists and coaches obsess over mental focus, as a person's ability to focus intently on their task is directly correlated to their ability to perform that task consistently. Eager to learn more about the mental side of disc golf, I've read several golf books on mental toughness and mental tools that top mental coaches teach. If you haven't taken some time to read books like these, I'd greatly recommend checking out books like Golf Is Not a Game of Perfect by Dr. Bob Rotella or Fearless Golf by Dr. Gio Valiante.

I've gleaned a lot of useful tools for my mental game from these and other books, but I'd like to recommend one practice to you: Focus intensely on your shot for the 20-30 seconds that it takes to plan, visualize, and execute it, then let your mind rest. In between shots, I do my best to think about anything but disc golf, like a song that's been in my head, chatting with other competitors, or observing nature around me. By doing so, I'll ideally only focus intensely for 25-40 minutes of each round instead of the actual 3-4 hours the round lasts. When I'm playing well and aware that I'm executing this strategy well, I can feel a real difference in my mental fatigue and capacity at the end of each round, which is especially helpful for longer rounds and two-round days.

If you're having trouble focusing at the end of rounds or find that you're worn out mentally before it seems like you should, give this strategy a try. It's tough the first few times, because you're accustomed to thinking about disc golf exclusively, but I've had my most positive results when I've limited my disc golf thoughts to the few seconds right before throwing and while throwing. After you throw, it's almost a relaxing feeling to allow your focus to widen.

What mental focus strategies do you use on the course? I'd love to hear from you! Feel free submit a question to the Disc Golf Answer Man podcast or Anchor app or contact me via my social media links below. See you next week!
  1. Great info!! Love this Quick tip stuff!! Thanks Robert!!

  2. Great advice, I'm gonna apply that! I decided to turn my mind to prayer and thankfulness between shots; remembering what a blessing it is to be out in creation and to share competition, and the love of the game with those around me. It helped me to let go of my stress initially by taking the mindset of, I'm as prepared or unprepared as I'm going to be, from here on out I just execute each shot as well as I can with what I've brought skills wise, and the rest is up to God, and I can be satisfied with His will. :)

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