Saturday, March 11, 2017

SOLSC #11 - Mental Challenges

For the fourth year, I am participating in the SOLSC and guiding students from my classroom and my school on the same writing journey. Here is the link to our school blog and the 15-20 students who are participating in the Classroom Challenge.

Mental Challenges:

I step up to the the colored disc, laying on the dry brown grass. My peach colored putter with the skull stamp on it, spins on the index finger of my left hand as I size up the situation. I am about twenty-seven feet from the basket, my goal, facing into a slight headwind. I check quickly for any branches along the line of my putt that might impede it's flight. The ground is mostly flat but slops gently away and if I completely miss there is a chance my disc could roll away. I make up my mind that I should be putting to make this shot and not laying up. That is an important conscious decision because if I'm not clear on my specific goal, my body does weird things. The results are usually a missed putt and often it is so poor that the comebacker is at least as long as the putt I just tanked.

The above takes a few seconds. It's where all my observations, analysis of the situation and decisions are made. Once my mind is set, it's time to let my body and muscle memory take over. I go into my routine, trying to treat this putt like I do every other putt. It's about feel, finesse and just a second of action to pull back and then toss the disc towards the basket. Thoughts are to be acknowledged and then moved along and thinking is verboten. Thinking, while doing what should be automatic, introduces tension and takes away the smoothness of athleticism.

But today I am having mental challenges. I've missed several putts, it's a tough course, it is the first tournament of the year, and nothing about putting has felt smooth.  Even easy short putts under ten feet feel rough and I've almost missed a couple. I should be solid on all putts under thirty feet. They won't all go in but they most should and the rest should be close. Today, I'm short, right, high, and my misses have led to tougher putts than is reasonable. I'm holding my breath and even biting my lip once I release each putt, hoping it finds it's way to the bottom of thee basket. So really, I'm just trying to get through the round without completely blowing up.

I try not to think about what this putt means. If I nail it, I get a birdie and perhaps can start a little comeback the last few holes of this relatively poor round. I step back, replant my foot and start my routine. I focus on the link in the chain I will hit with the disc and imagine throwing the disc through that link. I move my arm through the throwing motion a couple of times. Once it feels good, I rock back and forward on my legs and toss the disc...just as a thought about my score wanders into my mind

It's off. The moment it leaves my hand, I can tell I didn't follow through enough and the disc sails left of the basket, skipping on the dry grass to twenty-one feet on the other side. Frustrated, I try not to hurry and go through my routine again. A four on this hole would be pretty demoralizing. The next putt feels tight and awkward but it manages to fall into the basket anyway and I give a little hop of relief and celebration. I blow out a big breath, collect my putter and grab my bag to head to the next hole. 

Putting is mostly mental for me and today was one of the days where nothing came easy. I managed to come back a little in the afternoon round of the tournament and putt a little better. It didn't ever feel easy but I made most of the putts I should have made. In the end, I placed 10th out of 30 players in my division and made back a little more than my entry fees in prize money. I had higher hopes for the tournament but I still a wonderful day playing disc golf with friends I've known for 15+ years and new friends I made today.

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