We’ve all seen those stop-action pictorial essays in golf or tennis magazines where a series of photos shows a famous athlete in various stages of a swing.
And under each picture is a caption jammed with details describing what is happening with his feet, knees, stride, hands, wrists, hips, eyes, head, grip, posture, weight transfer, torque, and belly-button. In addition, we are regaled with minutiae about racquet or club position, movement, arc, speed, contact, follow-through, and finish.
The whole thing is actually kind of cool. But aside from their aesthetics, what are these pictures really good for?
Do they help the readers improve their game?
Not even close!
For one thing, there isn’t an athlete alive who, by following those pictures and descriptions, could replicate that swing exactly. And that includes the athlete being pictured!
Trying to control or correct an athletic motion via this “analytical” approach is a fool’s errand. But this is the path nearly every athlete takes to improve.
Here’s why that’s a problem:
The part of the brain that analyzes and “gives orders” is called the prefrontal cortex. Now this is where it gets sticky. When the prefrontal cortex gives orders on what to do during an athletic motion, the flow of muscle memory gets disrupted. In addition, another part of the brain (the cerebellum) starts to shut down. The cerebellum is important because it controls the firing of the fast twitch muscles.
Are you curious to know what happens when muscle memory is disrupted and the fast twitch muscles don’t fire?
The motion becomes muscled … or awkward … or flawed … or rushed … or stiff … or ineffective … or all of the above. That’s what happens.
Let’s take a look at the golf swing. It is, by far, the most dissected and analyzed athletic motion in sports. And there are coaches who know what every part of the body should be doing at every single micro-second of a golf swing. When they see a mechanical flaw, they hop on it like a fumble—you’re lifting your head, you’re looping your back swing, you’re casting your wrists, you’re hitting across the ball. Their analysis is always correct. Fixing that flaw, however, is not so easy.
In my case, I knew I was casting (straightening) my wrists before striking the golf ball. I tried everything to correct it. I took lessons. I watched videos of my swing. I practiced in slow motion. I threw old golf clubs (not in anger but to get the feel of how my wrists should function). I hit thousands of balls on the range until it was too dark to see where my shots were ending up. I studied golf magazines. I visualized the correct motion. I stewed. I obsessed. Despite all that analysis and mental attention, the problem never went away.
As it turns out, swing flaws (mine included) are bi-products of how we think. That’s right! Bi-products … of … how … we … think! Once I learned how to sidestep the thought pattern that was causing my wrists to cast, the flaw disappeared instantaneously! My wrists weren’t the problem; my brain was—at least how my brain was thinking was.
Perhaps you are able to fix a mechanical flaw through good coaching. And you then groove that correct stroke with hours of practice. BUT if a disrupting thought or desire creeps into your brain while you are in the middle of your swing, no amount of practice beforehand will save you. That nasty flaw will immediately re-appear!
So what are those nefarious, disrupting thoughts? The answer will surprise you. They fall into two main categories:
- Telling yourself anything during your motion: “get racquet back,” “keep head down,” “keep eye on ball,” “hit ball hard,” etc.
- Desiring a result during your motion: “I really need this putt to drop”; “I hope the ball makes it over the lake”; “please go in the basket,” etc.
What, you say! Those thoughts are completely normal. Every athlete thinks those types of thoughts all the time!
You are exactly right. Every athlete does.
And that’s an enormous problem.
These thoughts are handcuffing athletic potential more than you can imagine. Having those thoughts and desires during a competition is like wearing cement shoes to a 100 meter dash.
But there’s good news. Those same thoughts are easy to sidestep.
And when you do, the transformation is breath-taking. You’ll be flabbergasted at how good you actually are.
Of course, there’s a little “trick” involved but once you get the hang of it, it is money in the bank.
This “trick” was discovered and developed by my good friend Steven Yellin. In fact, I was his first golf guinea pig. I couldn’t believe my eyes how well I hit the ball the first time I followed his instruction. It has since transformed me as a golfer.
But that’s not all. His method has dramatically improved my tennis game as well.
Steven’s program is now being taught to Major League Baseball players, professional golfers, pro tennis players, pro bowlers, and bunches of recreational players like me.
But here’s the coolest part. Steven just sent me an e-mail describing his experience with teaching his method to a super-famous, enormously well-respected swing coach who has instructed many to the world’s top professional golfers. This man currently runs a chain of international golf academies that bears his name. If you golf, you've heard of him.
This guy, needless to say, is heavily invested in the mechanical/analytical approach to the golf swing. But once he followed Steven’s instruction, he experienced a whole new level of freedom and effortlessness. He then watched Steven instruct his son and another young touring pro. The improvement to their swings was immediately obvious. He ended up telling Steven that this was something he had been searching for his entire life—the X-factor that makes everything he’s been teaching work. Now he wants Steven to teach this method to all his teachers all over the world.
Steven’s approach, while unusual, is simple to learn. I describe it in great detail in my book The Mentally Quiet Athlete. If you read it, you’ll learn the same methods being taught to top athletes.
I’m obviously prejudiced but I believe this is something you and every athlete and coach should become intimately familiar with. I guarantee it will open your eyes to a whole new world of possibilities.
This knowledge is definitely a game-changer.