One important element of golf performance that is too often overlooked is the brain. This three-pound organ controls every aspect of life by receiving and integrating input to produce output. The input received comes from movement, eyes, balance (inner ear), and internal awareness of the body. Integration requires that all input signals receive the same message to generate an output ideal for elite athletic performance; quality input creates quality output. There are many options to train these inputs to vastly improve performance.
It is important to note that the primary goal of the brain is to survive, not to perform at the most elite levels; therefore, stress and threat must be reduced to obtain the best performance. Stresses must be assessed from all systems to create a current adaption from non-resolved past experiences or lack of stimulation. The mind must rest assured that survival is a non-issue to allow for peak performance to be the goal.
From this basic understanding, let’s address what that means for a golfer. During any given round of golf or practice session, the brain requires all inputs to work at optimal levels to provide performance output without consideration for survival. More specifically, the eyes, inner ear, movement and internal inputs need to provide accurate information for a golfer to hit every shot and win. When a brain receives the appropriate input, and is comfortable in predicting that the environment is safe, it will integrate all inputs to provide the appropriate output, e.g., making a shot below par.
Now, the question is, how do we provide a training program that addresses every input that brains use to consistently produce an output that wins tournaments and keeps the athlete playing the game they love at a high level for a long time? Understanding a golfer’s life is the first step. Knowing about a person’s lifestyle, accomplishments, injuries, setbacks, and other health related info is crucial in discovering which areas (inputs) and integration could be used to produce better learning and output. For example, head injuries, movement injuries, pain, digestive issues, carsickness, accidents and surgeries. A thorough assessment is used to explore and confirm the input and integration areas that need specific focus. Areas of focus may include movement (muscles, joints, ligaments, tendons, coordination), vision (clarity, eye-muscle balance, depth perception, contrast resolution), balance (where you are in space and how you move in and through it), and internal feelings (breathing, digestion, physiological regulation and fascia). Assessments include evaluating how well the eyes communicate to track and locate objects, integration of information from both eyes equally, head movement with visual clarity, control of the spine through movement, efficient nutrition and breathing, strength through necessary ranges of motion, movement planning, visualization, coordination, and stabilization of movement… to name a few. From the information gathered, an individually tailored program is created with a complete understanding of what areas need to be emphasized to produce the desired end goal with less physical demand.
Historically, we have done an extraordinary job in understanding one piece of the input equation: movement. Get stronger, more powerful and maintain mobility throughout by manipulating how we use our bodies. However, this is just one piece of a much larger puzzle. To better train an athlete’s movement needs it must be addressed in the context of the brain. The golfer who follows a holistic training program that addresses body and brain will ultimately have a lower risk of injury and earn higher payoffs from the work done to reach elite levels of performance.
– Joe Locascio, Brain Based Performance Coach