Research

Research

The prominent position in sport psychology is that motor skills are best performed in the absence of conscious control (swing thoughts). As such, psychologists encourage their players to not think about their technique during shot execution. This position is based largely on this popular model of automaticity.

What is automaticity?

Performing a skill at a high level with little or no conscious attention to the technique.


Unconscious Incompetent

Unconscious Incompetent

As a total novice we have no idea of what we are doing. As a result, there is little technical thought. At this stage we are also pretty hopeless.


Conscious Incompetent

Conscious Incompetent

We then seek advice from a friend, a magazine or a professional. Now we have a better idea of what to do but lack the skill to be effective.


Conscious Competent

Conscious Competent

With practice our skills improve but we still need to consciously control our actions. This is where we spend most of our time when playing golf.


Unconscious Competent

Unconscious Competent

With many more hours of purposeful practice and self-trust, the task is performed effortlessly without thought.

“I always like to have one or two key swing thoughts to keep me focused on the process and not on the pressure of the situation.” Rory Mcilroy

TASK PERTURBATIONS

The model above would fit well to a simple skill that presents the same challenge every time. In golf however, there are numerous task perturbations that include the different clubs, slope, lie, wind, not to mention the ever-evolving nature of the golf swing.

EXPLICIT INSTRUCTION AND THE EFFECTS OF PRESSURE

Golf can be a very technical game and it is certainly taught in a way that leads to a lot of swing thought. On top of that, anxiety caused by the pressure causes the player to think about parts of their swing. These are parts that were functioning as pieces of a complex unconscious ritual. This interference takes the player back to stage 2 of the model. There is an element of this in any swing change.

PERFECTIONISTS

It is a very common sight for me to see a player who has mastered a part of the swing but refuses to leave anything to chance. This golfer runs through a checklist in their mind before every shot and as such, doesn't give themselves a chance of achieving their fluent best.

COMPLEX SKILLS

The 4-stage approach above is a very basic model of automaticity. In golf, learning and performance seldom form such a linear pattern. Learning how and where to focus your attention can mean the difference between entirely choking and playing in flow states that facilitate your best performance. Dr. Noel Rousseau will help you structure your learning and refine your focus to get the most out of your game.

> See blog for more on automaticity