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Dr Ian Plummer

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Technical
Sports Psychology

A number of players give tips on what has helped them. See also "Croquet - The Mental Approach" by John Riches.

David Maugham comments:

My experience with sports psychology has been fairly peripheral (despite the fact that Keith Aiton is a professional now) mainly because I'm too lazy to do any of the mental exercises which would probably be very effective (actually, I'm too lazy anymore to practice my physical skills, so maybe 20 years ago I would have been more receptive to the idea of practising my mental focus). Having said that, there are a number of things which one can do, both inside and outside the game, to help one's performance.

In the game, breathing exercises (controlled deep breathing with a focus word on the exhale) can help with the necessary concentration, relaxation and focus needed for consistent shooting; visualisation (mentally rehearsing the shot, seeing it hit) can help with shooting, but also can combat the "what if I miss" type thoughts (since they are a form of "bad" visualisation) on 6 yard roquets & 2 yard hoops; more generally, when stuff isn't going quite right remember the times when it did go right, remember how you felt, remember why you play the game in the first place (because it's fun and you enjoy it...)

Outside the game (either as the out player, or when not playing at all), the issues are more general. You have to avoid "bigging up" your opponents (you'd think this was second nature to good players, but I had to do a bit of work on our team in the Mac when our Captain was telling us all how good the Australian team was), indeed there are techniques for diminishing your opponents in your own perception, but I've not really used them so I can't say how effective they are. Again, reinforcing your own belief in yourself as a good player is always worthwhile, remember the times when you played well, the times when you won major events and remember how you felt on those days are all methods of reproducing that performance in future events.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of things that you can do to produce a peak performance - you'd have to talk to a professional for that, but it is a list of the things I do that I think helps my performance.

Jim Bast adds

David Maugham is describing (in much abbreviated form) some of the things covered by Dr. Bob Rotella in his 1995 book, Golf Is Not a Game of Perfect.  Jeff Soo recommended this book to me.  It is a very quick read.  And the sections are easy to go back and skim over from time to time if you find some that you like.

David Turner comments:

Having done quite a lot of relaxation therapy for more serious reasons than success at croquet I would strongly endorse what David [above] said here - essentially he is also talking about cognitive behavioural therapy, based on avoiding negative thoughts and looking for the rational reaction to any bad stuff that happens.

As to the relaxation technique here is a fuller exercise:-

The technique it is very simple. The basic technique is to using breathing to relax. When you breathe out it invokes a natural relaxation reaction - that is why we sigh at moments of great stress or when something stressful is over. You can do the relaxation in a single breath when on the lawn and for shooting you need to focus on relaxing your shoulders. First you need to practise the relaxation technique and learn to focus it on a particular part of your body

Do the practice sitting or lying comfortably. Take a deep breath in and hold it, clench your fists, curl your toes up, compress you stomach, lift your chest as high as possible "stiffen the sinews" every muscle in your body arms shoulders neck buttocks legs. Then breathe out with a deep sigh allowing every muscle to relax. Observe the feeling of relaxation in your muscles so that you can recognise it easily. Repeat several times until you are sure.

 Now repeat the deep breath (in Yoga it is called a complete breath) hold it for 4 again and this time breathe out counting down from 8. On each count focus on a different part of your body:- 8 - right arm, 7 - left arm, 6 - right leg, 5 - left leg, 4 abdomen, 3 chest 2 spine, 1 head. As you focus on each part of your body feel for the relaxation reaction that you learnt in b) and focus on getting that part of your body to relax

 Now repeat but using one complete breath for each of the 8 body parts. As you relax each body part imagine that a hot sun is shining on that part of your body making it feel warm and relaxed.

You should now be completely physically relaxed. Focus on your breathing. Breath normally only as much as feels natural. As you breathe in through your nose say the sound "Saaaaahhhhh" to yourself, as you breathe out through your mouth say the sound "Haaaaahhhhh" It should sound like waves breaking gently on a sandy beach. On every hah breath send the warmth and energy of your breath to any part of your body that needs to relax more.

When you can do that you just need to do the deep breath, as David said, before you play your stroke, together with the mentally positive thoughts "I am going to hit this!" and, as David said, banishing absolutely any negative thought.

This works for me.

I also think that a good warming up routine before a game is worthwhile - I use some simple Yoga exercises concentrating particularly on those that work on the back and shoulders. I think that Tai Chi warm ups are also good. Certainly the basic Tai Chi stance is right for hitting in.

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Updated 28.i.16
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