Sport Psychology for Croquet [next]
An Old Science:
Sports psychology is a new name for an age-old science. From before recorded history shamans or witch doctors have used this little known mental phenomenon to their own ends. Most champions of what ever discipline have displayed special qualities, particularly the ability to perform best when it mattered most. These qualities were usually put down to talent rather than training.
Mental rather than Physical Challenge:
Those who lacked physical "talent" were not considered effectual in any particular performance even though many of the historic greats were not blessed with the approved human specifications - the exceptions which proved the rule.
Luck: 20% Technique: 30% Tactics: 40% Psychological:
Success with Croquet, as with any major endeavour requires more than the physical, technical and tactical, expertise and there is obviously another factor involved.
There is always an element of luck involved for everyone in everything - right person in the right place, at the right time - which can be held accountable to some degree - but is difficult to manipulate other than to say "the harder I work the luckier I get" - a bit hard to win a lottery without first buying a ticket.
we Tough Enough?
Is there any truth in the expression "When the going gets tough - the tough get going"? Most Croquet Players have experienced occasional "highs" when it seemed impossible to miss any shot or tactical manoeuvre. Whereas, at other moments, one feels like throwing the mallet away.
.............. But only momentarily.
Triumph and Disaster:
It seems that this grace or curse is a fundamental need to have both triumph and disaster almost back to back - as if there is a need to go into the valley to appreciate the mountain and up to the mountain top to recall the valley. Can we evolve ourselves, mentally, to the extent that we can rid ourselves of this cursed need?
Mental Stages in Acquiring a Skill:
There are four mental stages through which we progress to master any particular skill.
At the start we are:-
(1) "subconsciously unskilled" so that when introduced to an art we realise we are
(2) "consciously unskilled" so with perseverance and coaching we become
(3) "consciously skilled" until, with practice, eventually we become
(4) "subconsciously skilled".
It is at the latter situation when "psychology" or our intellect rather than our senses, takes over almost completely.
The Conscious Mind:
The conscious mind is at the call of our sensors - eyes, ears, touch, smell and taste - in that order. Although we are in a scientific age, where new wonders are seemingly created ever day, our bodies are still tuned to the hunter/gatherer era of 100,000 years ago or more.
A hormone - adrenal (epinephrine) - is instantaneously released into our bodies for "flight or fight" at the slightest sign of danger. Even when a ball is going out of bounds it's not because of a sabre tooth tiger being on our tails but because of a fear of loss.
There are thousands of hormones in our bodies ready to be released by our sensors to activate various reactions both external and internal. Virtually nothing is done unless it is triggered by a chemical reaction in our brain - the power source for the electrical energy required.
The Subconscious Mind:
But the subconscious brain, unbeknown to you is coordinating every step you take: every breath you take: every thought that springs into your brain from you know not where.
Could you imagine what it would be like for your subconscious brain not to know how to make your legs walk? If your spinal cord were cut there is no possible way your conscious or subconscious mind can make the legs operate. Some diseases do the same thing.
Think of a number between one and ten. Can you see the numbers? Hear them? Smell, feel or taste them? No! In the recesses of your mind you can automatically bring that number to mind from a storage long long ago put down for just this purpose.
And if you have learnt correctly and "practiced your numbers" then that capability will remain in your mental arsenal all the days of your life.
Remember learning to ride a bicycle? Once learnt never forgotten - its all stored in the mind, the subconscious mind.
V Conscious Mind:
A person, having driven a motorcar for years, drives subconsciously - ever mentally alert for visual or sound danger signals. The young driver uses his/her conscious mind and is erratic and unsafe because of the collection of "dangerous" sights and sounds that contest in that over reactive conscious mode.
How then do we rid ourselves of this consciousness and allow the subconscious mind to take over and just compute the necessary information - control it - send the signal to our working bits and accomplish the task - while monitoring the actual conditions for the next computation.
We must exercise our will power? Taken in or out of context this statement is nonsense. Basically we are saying that our good angel should fight our bad guarding angel - in our brain - a war no less. No! Willing something is a conscious reaction.
The brain - the PC between your ears - works on electricity (electron flow) the same as the PC on the work bench. In normal sensory or conscious mode it works on a Beta wavelength adjusting all the time to input signals from our sensors.
The Power of
When we are relaxed, driving a motorcar, we are operating in subconscious Alpha and in the unconscious dreamworld we are in Alpha-Theta. A deep trance like state is Delta. These wavelengths can be measured and recorded on a EEG (Electroencephalogram) attached to your scalp with electrodes.
How to get in touch with our inner self is basically very easy. When you go off into a deep state of relaxation to create, your subconscious is in search mode, seeking something that will fit.
You can see yourself with the prototype of your idea changing. No! This wont do. Back to square one.
Think about it and you realise that you are using all of the knowledge you have gained from the moment you were born. Every scrap of information is still retained, somewhere.
Sometimes, for the fun of it, your subconscious mind will gather a mass of information and play with it while you sleep. You dream. If your PC shuts down when you went to sleep who or what then keeps you breathing and your blood pumping? The brain is always active - until one day a doctor will pronounce you "brain dead".
So! How do we consciously find our way into the subconscious to use it's attributes and the dormant treasure trove of knowledge contained therein?
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Put on some soothing music - or ear plugs. Close your eyes. Settle back into your easy chair.
Relax you head, shoulders and the rest of your body will follow.
Let tension flow out of your extremities.
Don't worry if your conscious mind is playing up.
Just relax - its only normal.
What we are about to do is
visualise a workshop in your brain where you can work out all your
But this time you are going to learn how to be in charge of the problem solving process.
You are going to Create.
We have to find a pathway to your workshop of your mind.
Visualise 20 steps down to your workshop.
Can you see the steps?
Cover them, in your mind, with ferns and flowers. Its your stairway.
Now visualise walking down while you count backward from 20.
Don't stumble. Hang on to the ferns if needs be.
Is this the path you would build if you had a house on the top of a cliff?
Can you hear the ocean waves?
Turn around as you walk down to your workshop. Put trees in or little water falls.
Visualise them - see them there?
At the End of the Rainbow is this Message to be Told:
Now you are at the bottom of the stairs.
Visualise a door painted in all the colours of the rainbow.
See each colour of the rainbow and as you relax even more see the colour red.
A red apple. Can you smell the fragrance.
Turn the apple around and look at it closely - feel the smoothness - is it heavy?
Put the apple to your mouth and bite into it. Delicious!
Now see the colour orange.
Can you see a beautiful orange ready to be eaten?
Have you ever been needlessly concerned about something - only to find that it wasn't necessary.
That the problem fixed itself.
Needless worry! Waste of precious time.
See yellow in the rainbow?
A beautiful glowing
yellow shining on all around you, brightening up your workshop door and
calming you even more.
See the soothing colour green like the grass on a croquet court and the inner peace you feel.
With blue you can see the sky with the white clouds travelling by and you are at peace with yourself.
Open up the door now that you are calm. The workshop now is empty so you are going to plan what to put into the workshop of your mind. It's your workshop. Design it the way you want it, for you will want to use it when you have a problem to solve. A table; a bench; TV; Telephone; Fax.
How about a long couch to lie on while you calmly work things through. Windows?
Make yourself comfortable.
Now how about some assistance. Think who you would have at your beck and call to help you. An old teacher from school who understood you? How about someone you love who understands some of the problems that confront you.
Its your workshop so you can invite anyone in that can help you solve your problem. Make them feel welcome.
Talk to them.
Bright Screen of your Mind:
At the end of the room you must build a big screen - like a movie theatre screen - as big as you like. Cover it the way you would like for this is the "screen of your mind". This comfortable workshop with its screen, will be here always for your problems or ideas to work upon.
Is there enough light?
Surround the screen with light like an actor has for his make-up table. But make it big and bright.
Never work on anything in the dark.
Visualise five pictures on the screen to try it out.
Can you see them clearly?
Have you got the screen of your mind on a platform? Is it sturdy and bright?
Does the light focus on it?
Here you are safe and calm to work on your creation. You can solve all of your problems here. And you can tell yourself in truth that, what ever you need to do, your friend for life will always be your subconscious mind.
You will have no fear - for your subconscious mind has been there before and solved the problem.
There is no room for worry here.
Now tell yourself that you know the way to that workshop of the mind where all is calm and bright. Soon, with practice, you will not need to count the steps or visualise the colours of the rainbow to enter your workshop.
It is there waiting for you when you close your eyes and bid your conscious mind to be still.
In deed, when you walk onto that Croquet lawn and take three deep breaths of fresh air, your eyes will focus on the ball to be roqueted or hoop to be run.
As you stalk that target all else will be like a mist - no sound - only the light around the "screen of your mind" and your whole being will be calm.
As your eyes focus
now, only on that spot on the back of the ball, your arms bring the
mallet into contact with that spot with just that right amount of force and follow through.
In your subconscious mind on the screen, the hoop has enlarged itself to twice the size of the ball showing all the paint work on the uprights so you can "see" exactly where to aim to control the running.
You will have visualised all this before hand on the "screen of your mind" in that special workshop you have built for yourself.
When a Croquet Player succeeds in running a hoop subconsciously, there is a moment when they have to face reality with their conscious mind - if the strikers ball has gone further than the subconscious mind intended.
The Return Roquet:
This is called the "Return Roquet" and because it is usually done in the conscious (of sight and sound) mode the player automatically misses the target ball - end of turn.
Back to the Rainbow and it's Pot of Gold:
This calls for the most tremendous amount of self-discipline to revert back to the subconscious to make this normally easy shot. Practice at recalling the rainbow - the workshop - the screen of your mind - your subconscious attributes - getting in touch quickly. Do this and the merry waltz - the choreography of croquet - will continue to a successful conclusion.
your Subconscious Mind be your Guide:
It's so easy don't you agree? Just practice going to the "screen of your mind" each day and it will become easier - and your subconscious mind will then be in charge of running those hoops.
Practice going there, to the workshop of your mind, until you can flick to it as and when you require to be "unconsciously skilled"
If you eat just before a game the blood in your body - which should be feeding your computer
(brain) with oxygen and trace minerals (electrolytes) - is instead, being used for digestion.
Therefore, eat sparingly before a game.
Remember the computer philosophy - rubbish in = rubbish out.
Eat intelligently and drink
plenty of water!
"The Fault is not in the Art but in the Artisan:
He who must work with the most precision is the better for it."
I. Newton (Principae)
"Nothing is good - nothing is bad - but thinking makes it so".
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