By Tony Bennett
Everyone experiences nerves, with some people welcoming them as a sign that they are about to achieve something. Recently, I spoke to one of my students, who plays at a very high level, and I asked him how he conquered his nerves when performing in front of large galleries. His reply was interesting, as he said although he still got nervous, he no longer feared it and looked forward to the feeling. Wow, what a different reaction to most people, who think that being nervous is a sign of weakness. In golf, people normally start to feel nervous when they think that they have a chance to win. I believe you should welcome these feelings, as it is a sign that you are playing well.
Take a moment and write down all those things that you associate with the physical manifestation of nerves. You might end up with a list that looks something like this.
· Sweaty or shaking hands.
· Shaking legs.
· Dry throat.
· Butterflies in your stomach.
· Poor temperature control: you feel hot then cold.
· Cold sweats.
· Faster pulse.
When you are about to achieve something great, meet a special person or start an exciting project, the feelings that you would experience would not be much different. So, perhaps the starting point is to re-label the term, ‘first tee nerves’, and change it to ‘first tee anticipation’ or ‘first tee excitement’. From now on in this article, I will re-label nervousness, with the term ‘excitement’.
The best performers, be they musicians, actors, business leaders or sports stars, all experience these feelings. However, the difference is that they look forward to feeling the adrenaline pump through their bodies. For them, it is a sign that they are alive and that they care about the outcome.
If this is true, then the most obvious question is, how can you deal with your excitement? With awareness and practice, I firmly believe that you can control your excitement. You should check to see what happens when you get excited: do you move more quickly or slowly, or do you find that you talk rapidly? Whatever the case, recognise your actions and remember them. One of my students starts walking much faster and so looks for this behaviour and, when she notices it, consciously makes an effort to slow down.
When you feel excitement, imagine that you are scanning your whole body. Start with your feet and go all the way up your legs, through your body, down the length of your arms and up to the top of your head. In each area, grade yourself on a scale of nought to five, with nought being super relaxed and five being seriously tense. Once you have completed the scan, take a look at your results. They are representative of where tension resides in your body. When you know where the tension builds, then you can look there and, if necessary, take action to relax this part of your body.
I suggest that you make finding tension and recognising your movements a one month project. Everyday, recognise your feelings and take note of them, you will then build up a valuable table of data that you can use to control your excitement, allowing you to use the excess adrenaline to your advantage.
Next article: When to play safe and when to attack.
Credits: All Photographs from Tony Bennett’s Play Better Golf series
GOLF is written by Tony Bennett the head coach of Bennett’s Golf Learning Centres (BGLC), with centres located in Alto Golf, Alvor, Quinta da Ria, Tavira, Montado, Palmela and Santa da Serra in Madeira. For more information, advice on a specific point or general enquiry please e-mail [email protected] or call 932 524 253. You can also hear Tony every month on Kiss FM’s ‘Straight Talk’ with Phil Gilbert.