HOW A COMPLEX VISUALIZATION STRATEGY SIMPLIFIED JASON DAY’S GAME.
In 2012 PGA Golfer Jason Day found himself struggling mightily with the mental side of his game. Having won only once in five years on tour, he felt his mind was not living up to the talent that his body was capable of producing. Jason found himself in a negative thought pattern where standing over the golf ball, all he could imagine were “the worst possible results”.
That is when he decided to start working with performance coach Jason Goldsmith. Recognizing that his player needed to get “all of his thinking out of the way before performing the act of the swing”, Goldsmith helped Day develop a routine.
It’s not just any routine either, Day now executes an elaborate 15-step pre-shot routine that includes practice swings, visualization, and positive self-talk before every shot. Goldstein describes why a routine is so important, particularly in golf,
“The reason why golf is so difficult is because you’re starting the action – everything is still, so your intellect wants to be involved. Your mind wants to be in control, but the golf swing has to be done on a subconscious level. It’s impossible to think about the thousands of muscles and tendons, and ligaments, that have to fire in a perfect sequence, and in a fraction of seconds. Yet even the best players in the world get stuck in a pattern of trying to consciously make the perfect swing. It doesn’t work”
Since he began working on the mental side of his game in 2013, Jason Day has enjoyed 11 tour victories (including a Major), rose to the position of number one golfer in the world, and has seen his “cuts made” statistic improve from 73% to 91%.
|Era||Events||Cuts Made||Cuts Made||Wins||Win%|
|Pre-Routine (2008 to 2012)||108||79||73%||1||1%|
|Post-Routine (2013 to 2018)||102||93||91%||11||11%|
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR ATHLETES
The majority of the sports we play do not allow us the appropriate amount of time to apply “thoughtful intellect” to our decisions. Instead we need to run on instinct – hence why we practice so much. A routine, whether pre, post, or during our sport should be designed to bring as much consistency as possible to our process. The type of consistency you are searching for with a routine is usually very individual and could include consistency in anything from concentration, to work ethic, to focus, etc.
Goldstein is right when he says,
“it’s impossible to think about the thousands of muscles
and tendons, and ligaments, that have to fire in perfect
sequence, and in a fraction of seconds [to perform our craft].”
A solid routine reminds our bodies how to execute automatically … on instinct.
Developing a good routine takes time and practice. One of the best ways to test and learn new routine strategies is to journal your results as you deploy new tactics. Jason Day is an excellent example of routine in golf, but you don’t have to go far to find the best athletes in each sport following their own routines. What works for Jason Day may not work for you, but odds are one or more of his 15 steps can be a basis for building your own routine.
JASON DAY’S PRE-SHOT ROUTINE
The goal of Jason’s routine is for him to achieve a state of “mushin” Japanese for “mind of no-mindedness” or “in the zone”. Below is Jason’s routine, which is slips in and out of feel, visualization, and self-talk components:
- Executes two practice swings, feeling out the ideal swing
- Steps back and close his eyes
- Pictures himself standing in front of himself, about to hit
- Imagines his swing going back and through the ball
- Sees the ball fly away, watches where it goes
- Pictures the ball landing and bouncing
- Approaches the ball
- Looks downrange
- Picks a target
- Locks back at the ball
- Looks at the target again
- Tells himself to “aim small, miss big”
- Tells himself to “hit it as hard as you can”
- Waggles the club to loosen himself
- Resets the club and swing
Watch the process here: