Read the following
statements and circle the answer closest to the way you might respond in
1. You meet your best
friend in the final round of the club championship.
On the tee, you think:
A. This is terrible. If
she wins, Iíll feel awful. If I win, sheíll feel awful. With anyone else,
I would have stood a real chance.
B. I know this will be a
challenging match. I need to keep focused on my pre-shot routine, and
develop a game plan for each hole.
C. This is what Iíve been
waiting for--a chance to play in front of all those people.
I hope she has
an off day. It will feel great to have that trophy in my hands!
2. For the closing day at your club, you are a strong intermediate
whoís designated the "A" player on your scramble team. Your reaction is:
A. Itís unfair! My team
obviously wonít be in the running.
B. How can I use the
strengths of the team? What a great opportunity to see how
I hold up in
this position--becoming an "A" player is one of my goals for next year.
C. This is fabulousóIím
the top dog! I know I have the potential to be a leader.
3. Youíve knocked your
drive down and it rests on a giant rock. After taking
a one stroke penalty to drop off the rock, the ball lies well above your
feet and you whiff. You finally punch the ball out, lying four where the
other women lie one. You think:
A. The round is shot. I
already lie four, and even Annika Sorenstam couldnít have gotten off that
B. Too bad, (big sigh),
but I need to focus on how I can recover my equilibrium and
hit the next
C. I wonít count the
whiff. The lie was unfair and lying three is already punishment enough
when Iím trying to break 90 again.
Dr. Shane Murphy, sports
psychologist for the U.S. Olympics Committee and author of The
Achievement Zone, has identified three types of competitors. If you
chose "A" responses, you may have what Dr. Murphy calls a "failure focus".
To avoid the pain of trying and losing, you choose easier tasks at which
you can succeed, or very difficult tasks which are obviously too hard for
If your answers were primarily "C", you may have a success focus. Your
goal is to win, whatever it takes.
"B" answers reflect an
action focus. You concentrate less on winning, and more on improving your
own performance by setting internal goals that are independent of scores.
Which style is most
successful? The research is clear: athletes with an action focus are the
best competitors. Players who emphasize either success or failure are
focused on results. As a consequence, they tend to play conservatively to
protect their self-image, instead of taking risks to enhance their skills.
With an action focus, you concentrate on getting the job done, not on the
rewards to come. You choose new learning opportunities to improve your
skills and persist in the face of failure.
And here's the good news: this
approach can be learned!
SHAPING YOUR STYLE
Actions are under your
control-- results are not. So set goals that emphasize an action focus.
These should be concrete, hard rather than easy, both long and short-term,
and phrased in positive terms. For example, rather than setting as a goal
for a round: "I will break 90 or score five pars " (results), say: "I will
recover from trouble by staying focused, and I will work on getting up and
down on each hole" (process or action). Action goal-setting helps players
avoid focusing on externals (i.e., your opponent, the spectators, your
Keep track of your
progress and give yourself positive feedback. And don't forget mental
goals such as: "I'll be a good sport throughout the round even if I'm
playing badly". Or, "I'll concentrate on my own game even if my opponent
is playing especially well (or poorly)".
Finally, the research is clear. People who put their goals in writing are
more likely to meet them than those who donít. WRITE YOUR GOALS DOWN!
Dr. Roberta Isleib is a
clinical psychologist and the author of the Cassandra Burdette Golf
Visit Roberta's website at