Competitive Demeanor and Attitude

Competitive Demeanor and Attitude

A tournament week reveals the realist look into a player’s mental strength.  A player’s demeanor and attitude prior to, during, and just after tournaments reveals the most realistic look into their mental strength and level of ability.  Vast differences are seen in players who succeed under pressure and players who struggle under pressure.

Important tournament weeks are not only true tests of players’ abilities, they are the truest tests of mental strength.  They show players’ levels of self belief and confidence.  They expose mental weaknesses and fears.  Attitudes, beliefs, and demeanors during these weeks can be much different from attitudes, beliefs, and demeanors during other weeks.  The weaker the mental game, the more difference is seen between non-tournament weeks and tournament weeks.  A common result for weaker minded players is shooting higher scores in tournament play compared to non-tournament rounds.  If course conditions are similar, yet scores are frequently higher in tournament play, the player’s mental game definitely is playing a role.  A player can then conclude and except this fact.  It is also the point where players need to learn how their mental outlook changes and begin steps to improve it.

There is a difference between nervousness and negative performance anxiety.  The majority of great players throughout the history of the game feel nerves prior to and in moments of tournament play.  The difference between the players who excel and struggle is rooted in their mental outlook and demeanor in these pressure moments.

Players who excel play with great self belief, high expectations of success, and exhibit attitudes of extreme inner confidence.  Players who struggle experience higher levels of nerves, play with low self belief, low expectations of success, high fears of failure and embarrassment, and exhibit low levels of inner confidence.  These inner beliefs and attitudes can be seen in body languages and through conversations to others, spectators, and the media.  I often recognize these elements while talking to, listening to, and observing numerous players in weeks of tournaments.  It is something which occurs in all levels of tournament play, even in the highest levels of the game.

The outlook is similar when comparing top golfers to athletes in other sports.  For example, players who succeed in basketball, baseball, and football have similar mental outlooks to players who succeed in competitive golf.  Players who succeed in these other sports demonstrate similar mental outlooks to golfers who succeed in tournament play.  Players who make winning shots, hits, catches, and throws in moments of high pressure demonstrate similar mental outlooks to golfers who successfully hit golf shots in high pressure situations.  The same applies on the opposite side of the coin.  Players who struggle making important shots, hits, catches, and throws have similar mental outlooks to golfers who struggle facing important golf shots in moments of pressure.

The game’s greatest tournament players demonstrate the highest levels of mental strength in weeks of important tournament play.  They go into tournament weeks with an expectation to win; they believe they are the player to beat.  They believe their abilities are better than all other players in the field.  They fear no one and no moment, their body language exhibits a level of confidence and arrogance.  If you were to observe Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus the weeks of tournaments, you would feel an aura of confidence just by standing next to them.  They walk around tournaments as if they own them.  Great competitors’ minds are filled with thoughts and beliefs of success, memories of successes, and thoughts of winning the current weeks’ event.  Negativity and fear does not exist in their minds at their best.  When you see a press conference from Tiger Woods before an event, especially important events, and he is asked about his goal for the week, you will undoubtedly hear him say, “To win.”  I have never heard him answer with a different reply.  This same level of self belief is found in the other greatest players who compete in the game.

Players who commonly struggle in tournaments demonstrate lower levels of mental strength.  They exhibit low levels of self belief and inner confidence.  They go into tournament weeks with low expectations of winning.  They focus upon other players they unconsciously believe have superior abilities when compared to themselves.   Their body languages exhibit auras of fear, low self belief, and lower inner confidence.  They walk around tournament areas not feeling comfortable, feeling as if they don’t belong.  They walk around anxious and scared.  Their minds are commonly filled with fear, thoughts of failure, memories of previous failures, fears of embarrassment, and negative thoughts.  They commonly play to avoid failure instead of playing to experience success.  When you talk to these players, they commonly mention current or previous struggles, and are fearful of discussing expectations for success.  These beliefs commonly turn into self full-filling prophecies and hold true.  Wins in tournament play come from players who expect to win; failures in tournament play come from players who expect to fail.

If a player finds themselves shooting higher scores in tournament play than outside of tournaments, the player is most likely experiencing some of the mental weaknesses discussed above.  These players need to focus upon improving their mental demeanors and attitudes.  This is more difficult than it sounds, and often will take time and dedication to improve.  I know many players who decide to work with sports psychologist to help improve mental weaknesses.  Although I feel receiving support from sports psychologist can be a beneficial activity for players who struggle mentally, doing so must not be the only process for improvement.  These players must also incorporate some other important activities.  These are the same activities all successful competitors rely upon, activities undertaken by many successful competitor who have never spent time with sports psychologists.

The first of these activities is competing in pressure situations as frequently as possible.  I feel nothing is as valuable for improving mental strength as competing in pressure situations as frequently as possible.  Overtime, players will feel more comfortable prior to, during, and after competitive events.  Overtime, doing so helps negative outlooks and attitudes change into positive outlooks and attitudes.  This occurs because the repetitive nature of competing lowers levels of nerves. It also increases chances for players to experience moments of success in competition.  Both of these elements go a long way in developing mental strength.  I say again, nothing is more valuable for improving mental strength than participating in as many competitions as possible.

Another vital activity players can undertake is improving their overall golfing ability.  Improving golfing ability will often contribute to better competitive performance.  When a player becomes a better golfer, their bad rounds improve.  When these players compete as an improved player, even when struggling mentally, their rounds will be better than the struggling tournament rounds of their past.  Improvement in scores leads to an increase in self belief and confidence, thus starting the cycle for further improvement in tournament play.  I believe this is another vital activity a player can undertake.  Improvement creates higher self belief through the fundamental concept of improving overall golfing ability.

The next activity a player can undertake is preparing properly for specific tournaments.  This encompasses not only practicing current weaknesses in their games prior to specific tournaments, but practicing in manners which aids in tournament success.  This is done by practicing and engraining shots they will face in the upcoming tournament.  If courses require certain types of shots, players increase chances for execution by practicing them prior to tournaments.  Many of the game’s best prepare for the most important tournaments in this manner, including the likes of Phil Mickelson, Jack Nicklaus, and Tiger Woods.

Another activity players can undertake is to hire a wonderful caddy.  The most important caddy trait is the ability to raise self belief and confidence in important events and moments.  Nothing is more important from a caddy than this element, an element more important than carrying bags, obtaining and giving yardages, or reading putts.   A great caddy is one who builds and reinforces self belief and confidence.  A caddy can do so in numerous ways, in anything from reinforcing prior successes, making positive statements, helping players avoid negative thought patterns, or just saying the right things in the right moments.  Caddies who raise players’ self belief and confidence in pressure moments are well worth the price.

I have talked about differences in the mental games of top tournament players and players who struggle in pressure situations.  I have not only demonstrated traits from both types of competitors, but also discussed ways to improve mental strength.  If you struggle mentally in pressure, dedicate yourself to the activities I described above.  If you do so, you will see improvement in your future.  Also take security in knowing future improvement only builds further future improvement.  Tournament success is like a snowball rolling down a hill, increasing with each revolution.





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