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June 10 2013

12:14 PM

Mental Game: Pump up intensity level

Harris English was nervous near the end of his round, and said he benefitted from it. (Lyons/Getty Images)

By Dr. Gregg Steinberg, Special to PGATOUR.COM

Do you have difficulties staying focused on the course?

Harris English, winner of the FedEx St. Jude Classic, might have a solution for you. Harris stated that he loves the pressure and thrives on the nerves. Also, he mentioned that intense pressure gives him a more laser-like focus. His butterflies actually make him concentrate better.

English is hitting upon an important psychological principle related to concentration: our ability to concentrate is modified by our intensity level. Think of your concentration like a searchlight. When you are not motivated, not warmed-up, not interested (i.e., your intensity level is very low), your searchlight will be bouncing all over the place. In other words, when you have low intensity levels, your focus will bounce around the course and you will have a difficult time staying focused on the shot at hand.

However, if you are very motivated, very interested, and the pressure is on (i.e., your intensity level is high), your searchlight becomes like one beam of light focusing intensely on its target. Your focus becomes like a laser. This is what Harris English was alluding to concerning his comments about focusing better under pressure.

If you are having difficulty concentrating on the course, then it might be a function of your intensity level being too low. Here are a few suggestions to give your intensity level a good pump:

1. When I work with players who feel flat, I tell them to think of their thigh like a pump, and slap it, not hard, but in a way that when you hit it, you imagine yourself pumping up your intensity level. You could do this before every shot in your routine, and/or every time you feel your mind wandering.

2. Use some pump-up words. Another useful technique is to use some key self-statements that will get you pumped up quickly, such as, “Find the fire” or “It’s go time.” Find some key words for you that resonate and you will feel the pump!

3. Key images can get you pumped up as well. Recall an image from a moment in your past that got you fired up. This image will work great to spark your fire on the course.

Pump yourself up with the right intensity level and you will light up your focus.

Dr. Gregg Steinberg is a regular guest every Tuesday on “Talk of the TOUR” heard on the Sirius/XM PGA TOUR radio. He is a tenured professor of sports psychology and has been the mental game coach for many PGA TOUR players as well as top collegiate and junior golfer.  Dr. Gregg is the author of the best selling golf psychology book, MentalRules for Golf, and you can get your autographed copy at drgreggsteinberg.com.

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