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20 Jun 2016 15:39
Try Harder? Play Worse! The Solution...
You’re in a tournament and you’re playing badly. You’re ticked off at yourself. What are you going to do? Tell yourself to quit making mistakes? Will yourself to play better? Don’t bother; it won’t help; you’ll probably play worse. Instead, do the following:
1. Play in the Now -- Your conscious mind thinks in the past, present and future; whereas your subconscious only operates in the present. Since you want your subconscious to be dominant, keep your mind in the present. Don’t think about that snide remark your opponent made or the shot you missed – that’s the past. Don’t think about the consequences of hitting the ball long or about winning or losing -- that’s the future. Focus on the ball -- that’s the now.
2. Observe – Your conscious mind is the critic; it judges, discriminates and analyzes; whereas your subconscious mind accepts things literally. When you critique your strokes during a game, you bring your conscious mind to the forefront. To keep your conscious mind from taking over, don’t analyze your strokes, just observe them. If any adjustments are needed, your subconscious will make them -- unconsciously.
3. Watch the ball – Think about, and keep your eyes on, the ball. You can only focus on one thing at a time with your conscious mind. Focusing on the ball blocks negative thoughts, keeps your mind in the present and keeps your conscious mind from interfering with your subconscious mind.
4. Relax – Tension impedes court movement and thwarts good stroking. Top athletes don’t tense all their muscles while they jump, throw, catch or stroke – only the ones needed to do the job. Any additional flexing hinders performance. So loosen up. Take slow, deep breaths between points.
5. Act with confidence – You’ve spent weeks practicing your strokes and strategies. Your strokes are ingrained in your subconscious so you don’t have to think about them. Knowing your strokes are programmed in your subconscious gives you confidence that you can play as well, and better, than anyone in your bracket. Act with confidence; imagine you are confident and play confidently.
Reprinted on Winning Pickleball from USAPA Newsletter. Original source: Harry Carpenter's 'Pickleball: The Mental Side'; see Resources side panel.