Learning something new is difficult. Learning something new that involves a motor pattern or motor skill is even more challenging. To help understand the struggle that is quite often experienced when leaning a new motor skill it helps to understand how the brain works.
The brain is made up of 6 components. The Frontal Lobe is where our cognitive thought takes place. This is where our mind functions the most throughout the day. Behind the Frontal Lobe is the Temporal Lobe. This is where are long term memory is stored. Adjacent to the Temporal Lobe is the Perietal Lobe. This part of the brain deals with our 5 senses. Behind the Perietal Lobe is the Occipital Lobe which houses the vision function of our brain and is where dreams originate. Underneath the Occipital Lobe is the Cerebellum and this is where motor skill function originates. Finally the Brain Stem supports the brain and acts as its security system.
The Cerebellum initiates motor skill by utilizing the body’s neurological system to send electrical signals to the proper muscle groups involved in performing the motor skill. This signal has to pass through the Frontal Lobe before it leaves the brain however. If the Frontal Lobe is active with cognitive thought at the time, the signal that is being sent is hindered and interfered with. The result of the motor skill will be inconsistent and when applied to the game of golf, produce inconsistent ball striking.
So the challenge is to be able to utilize cognitive thought when necessary, but also be able to eliminate it when it matters. The good news is there is a way, and it’s called OSVEA.
Before I get into explaining OSVEA, I have to give credit to its creator, Iain Highfeld at Bishops Gate Golf Academy where he is the Director of Mental Performance.
OSVEA is a 5 step process that enables the golfer to prepare fully for the shot at hand, be able to execute it without brain interference and then accept the results and move on quickly. It’s an acronym that stands for Observation, Selection, Visualization, Execution and Acceptance.
Observation: This is where you assess the situation before you. What is the yardage? Where is the wind? Does it play uphill or downhill? What obstacles do I have to encounter? You will go through this observation phase and be presented with options as to what shot to hit. Should I play to the middle of the green? Should I try to cut the dogleg? When done correctly these options will be clear and the decision will be simple, which brings us to….
Selection: This is where you have taken all of that analytical data and come up with a solution. The solution is the club that you have selected and the shot that you are going to execute with it. This decision is now made with commitment and confidence.
Visualization: This is where we transition from the analytical part of our brain to our fluid free flowing part of our brain. Here we will use all of our senses to “imagine” the shot we are about to hit. In addition to seeing it in our mind’s eye we also want to feel our feet’s connection to the ground during the execution and hear the sound the clubhead makes striking the ball crisply.
Execution: If OSV are done with purpose, then Execution will be a product of it all. The time spent in execution is very minimal; just enough to get set over the ball and swing the club. Time spent lingering over the ball will result in left brain activity which will detract from the fluidity we are trying to create.
Acceptance: This is the most critical part of the process. It allows us to accept the result, good or bad and move forward and be able to repeat the process. Imagine you have a cup, and each part of this process fills 20% of that cup. Part of the acceptance process is to empty the cup completely so you can begin again fresh. If you do not empty your cup, then when you start the process over, your cup will overflow before you get to finish it completely.
It is important to base your evaluation of success or failure on how you executed the PROCESS of OSVEA, not the actual result of the shot. By focusing intrinsically on the process, then the results over time will take care of themselves. Do not focus on the total score for your round, or for 9 holes or for even the hole you are playing as the benchmark for success. Focus on how you go through the process of OSVEA for each and every shot and evaluate your ability to do so. When done to the fullest, the results will show for themselves on the scorecard.