A lesson learned from Golfer, Justin Thomas- Managing emotions on the Golf course

Emotional management is what separates good athletes from great ones. Golfer Justin Thomas recently used a homophobic slur when he missed a hole.  Justin Thomas has a long way to go and he definitely isn’t homophobic or intentionally trying to offend anyone. However, it is an eye-opener for athletes who think that expressing anger and frustration on the golf course is acceptable. All of us make mistakes and sometimes, it costs us a lot more than money or reputation, it makes us form a pattern of frustration and anger in our minds

Practising Emotional Management

Neuroplasticity is a process by which new patterns of thought, emotions and behaviour are formed in our minds. My advice to golfers has always been the same- Don’t react, simply take a few deep breaths and ‘respond’ to the situation. I have taught my athletes to practise ‘Post-mistake’ routines that allow them to form healthy patterns of thoughts and behaviour. They are meant to use these routines in training and competition because repetition helps to form new neuropathways that will strengthen the new habit pattern. 

Post-Mistake routine

The purpose of post-mistake routines is to allow you to ‘move on’ from the past moment and focus on the ‘present moment’. The next 3 steps will allow you to create your own ‘post-mistake routine’

Step 1- Awareness and acceptance – As soon as you become aware of your mistake, you need to pause and allow yourself to accept it. You can pause by observing your breath for 5 to 10 counts. Your routine needs to allow you to accept that you made a mistake and that ‘its okay’ to make mistakes. You can do this by adding words of comfort such as ‘Leave it aside’ ‘Its; okay’ Lets’ move on’ ‘Accept and stay present’ 

Step 2- Action- Your routine needs to have ‘an action’ or a small physical gesture that will work as a physical anchor for your emotions. Our mind and body is deeply connected and our subconscious mind will associate the thoughts and feelings with this physical action. Some athletes choose to clap their hands, tap their shoulders or rub certain fingers together. Choose an action that you feel comfortable doing on the course, field or court.

Step 3- Practise it- Practising your routine is the most important step. As an athlete, you practise all the techniques and tactics to improve yourself. You can see visible improvements in your performance. It is difficult to watch yourself improving on a psychological level. However, you can always journal or record how many times you were able to use your routine and rate how you felt each time. You can also name the emotion, for example ‘ I felt angry today and it was 7 out of 10. After using my routine, my anger dropped to a 4 out of 10 which helped me to focus on the next task’. Journaling can also improve self-awareness. 

To know more about how you can improve your performance, you can book a free phone consultation with me or simply share your experiences with me by emailing me at sarah@sarahmajid.com 


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