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Sports Psychology – Insanity

Story By The Maltese Cat

Image result for skiing on a ridge


There are several aspects in learning sports. The thinking process can be broken down into 3 categories.
1. What we WANT to do
2. What we THINK we are doing
3. What we are ACTUALLY doing.

There seems often to be a cognitive disconnect among these three categories. What we think we are doing is not always what is actually happening. We can observe this if we are video taped. So, when we do not achieve the results we desire, we go back to the same pattern…and get the same results. And then we wonder, “Why?”

Insanity has been defined as “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results each time.”

Assuming that what we want to do is correct, sometimes we have to change that category itself in order to achieve the original desire. We have to “trick ourselves.” That is where “imagining something else” comes into play. Sometimes we have to draw upon our prior knowledge to re-enforce what we want to do.
Let me use two examples. The first example occured last year with my horse trainer. He was complaining about severe pains in his elbow and wrist. This was serious because he started missing time at work. He was also my farrier, so having pain in his wrist and elbow translated into neglect of my horses’ hooves. I knew why he had his pain. Everytime I saw him stick and balling, he would first turn his hand over so that the mallethead was facing with the heel upwards and the toe was pointed downward. Then he would twist around his hand to hit the ball, without using his body. No wonder that his pain always acted up after he came off of the practice field! He thought that this was the correct position for the mallet. And, indeed, it is. However, there is a difference about how the mallethead gets in this position. I see other players raising their elbow up first to turn over the mallethead. In actuality, if you turn the shoulders vertically, after having positioned yourself sideways and bending down, the mallethead will come into this position automatically. My horse trainer’s problem was with category number 1.
A second example involved my teaching tennis to a young girl from Finland. She asked for help on her backhand, which she said “didn’t work.” A quick look identified her problem. She was standing up throughout the shot. The typical answer from most tennis pros would be, “Bend your knees.” (That is a phrase I never use because a student really can’t assimilate it.) Instead, I appealed to what she already knew.
I asked her,”You’re from Finland, right?”
“Do you ski?”, I asked, already knowing the answer.
“Well, DUH!!!”
“Okay. Imagine you are skiing along a ridge, easily, and suddenly you go over the ridge and see moguls. What do you do?”
She immediately dropped down into a crouch.
“Great. When I call out ‘moguls’ I want you to do just that.”
She looked at me quizzically, but got ready anyhow. I hit a ball to her backhand and cried out, “Moguls!”
She dropped down into her crouch and smacked the ball crosscourt like a champion.
“Wow!!”, she exclaimed, standing back up.
Problem fixed. She continued to hit backhands, one after another.
The point here is simply: In these rambling blogs that I write, I will often refer to other things that appear to have nothing to do with polo. I will use examples from baseball, or golf, or driving a car, or even Chinese cooking. They are used in order for you to visualize something non-polo which you can understand. They are meant to help you achieve your goals.
Don’t be afraid to try out some of these thoughts, especially if you heretofore have not had the success which you have wanted. If you don’t, you will probably just keeping on trying the same thing, over and over again. And, as stated at the beginning of this article, we all know where that leads!