Fighting self-doubt? Try these 2 tips from Jason Day’s performance coach

Jason Day's mental coach, Jason Goldsmith, shares his best mental tips in order to perform your best and block out any self-doubt

When you have those feelings of self-doubt on the course, use these mental tips from Jason Day's performance coach.

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Welcome to Shaving Strokes, a series in which we’re sharing improvements, learnings and takeaways from amateur golfers just like you — including some of the speed bumps and challenges they faced along the way.

No matter how good of a player you are, self-doubt happens.

We all have those negative voices in our head that make us think we’re doing something wrong, or that make us assume we’re going to hit a bad shot because of how poorly we’re playing on a given day. When not controlled, these thoughts can consume us and leave us spiraling.

It’s one thing to slam a club after bad shotI. It’s quite another thing to openly put yourself down, crushing any remaining confidence you might have to turn your game around.

In many ways, golf requires lying to yourself. This means giving yourself positive reinforcement and celebrating even the smallest victories.

But how can you drown out the noise and any self-doubt to perform your best? I spoke with Jason Goldsmith, a world-renowned performance coach, who works with Jason Day.

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According to Goldsmith, too many amateurs allow their brains to get in the way of their athleticism on the golf course.

“The more you’re internally thinking about what to do, the less you can be athletic,” he told me. “So if there’s a dialogue going on in your head, and if your mind is using words, then it’s the words that are getting in the way of your athleticism.”

One of Goldsmith’s many methods includes using a wearable device on athletes that measures spontaneous electrical activity in the brain. This is called an electroencephalograph.

By using this tracking device, he’s able to measure what’s going on in an athlete’s brain while they’re performing. The results show that when athletes fails to perform, it’s because they’re overthinking. That leads to self-doubt, which is holding them back from just performing.

Jason Day’s performance coach top tips for overcoming self-doubt

You don’t need to be an anxious person to overthink — especially on the golf course. And since this is a common trait that Goldsmith sees in all levels of athletes, he says these are the tricks to take back control in order to play your best.

1. Turn words into images

In my experience working with GOLF Top 100 Teachers, many of them often simplify the game by suggesting players visualize success. This could mean visualizing an outcomes as part of a pre-shot routine, or visualizing yourself as a player who knows what it takes to break 80 for the first time (something I’m working on myself!).

Goldsmith endorses a similar tactic, and says that, when getting verbal information from someone, do your best to turn those words into a picture in your head.

“When you’re working with somebody on mechanics, your job is to take those words and turn them into images about your body,” he told me. “Once you can create that picture in your mind, that picture gives your body the information it needs and the sensation it needs to perform that action.”

But Goldsmith added that visualizing any verbal instruction is a tall task — mainly because our brains want to join the party!

“Problem is, our intellect wants to be so involved in the process, that it’s like, ‘Oh, don’t forget to make sure that you’re shifting your weight, and your elbow is tucked, and you have 45 degrees [of an attack angle],'” he said.

2. Break down your process into parts

Another way that Goldsmith says you can successfully block out self-doubt is by compartmentalizing tasks. In other words, rather than thinking about the golf swing as a whole, put all of your focus on just one area for improvement.

“I suggest chunking it up into parts,” he tells me. “So if you’re working on setup, then visualize the setup. If you’re working on backswing, then visualize the backswing piece. Working on transition? Try to block it up into chunks of information until you can get through to the finish.”

When you’re capable of visualizing success and focusing on just one area rather than the whole picture, Goldsmith says your body will react in order to get positive feedback.

“That’s the simplest way to take instruction and translate it into useful information, and it’s also the fastest,” he said.

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“Let’s say you make a swing. Right away, your body will be able to tell you, ‘Oh, that action didn’t match the image that I had of that action in my mind.’ So what could I do to make that match better?

“Ultimately, the quality of the picture and the definition of the image starts to get better and better and better, until, finally, your body’s able to understand how it’s supposed to be.”

By matching up these two sensations (the image sensation and the action sensation), Goldsmith says you’ll be able to move forward and use that in your game — shuttering any self-doubt along the way.

“The words, the judgment part of your brain, that’s what’s always getting in the way,” he said. “Your body doesn’t understand words, but it does understand images and sensations.”

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