Article by Troy Bassham

Point of Initiation

Scholastic Clay Target Program

The Mental Program, in the most straightforward term, is the last series of things you think about before a task. We use a Mental Program to occupy our Conscious mind to allow the Subconscious to take over the action. By defining what you choose to think about in advance, you control the thought process. If you determine the optimal thing to think about before the action, then repeat these thoughts during the task, you will improve the probability of getting the result you desire.

When I’m working with an individual, I help them define what they are thinking about during their pre-shot routine. It doesn’t matter if it’s golf, shooting, pool, or tennis. Anything that requires a repetitive physical process needs a defined thought process, a Mental Program. This process helps simplify the thoughts of the individual so they can accomplish the action without getting in their way.

Some individuals struggle with when the Mental Program is supposed to begin. I’ll use golf as an example. Most players go through a checklist of items to develop a strategy for the shot requiring a broad and somewhat complex perception of their environment. It is advantageous for the player to go into the shot without thinking about their form or the outcome. To help with this, we have a defined start point of when the thoughts should start to narrow. We call it the “Point of Initiation.” This step begins the Mental Program, as well as preventing the player from rushing into the shot. This is achieved by using a physical trigger.

A physical trigger is a planned, practiced behavior by the player to help signal the start of the Mental Program. It can be anything the player chooses to use as long as there is a pause in their movement. This short pause is doing two things for the player. First, it provides them with something to think about, that is separate from the action. Second, it allows them to go into the shot with a controlled rhythm.

Some examples are twirling the club, tapping the club on the ground, taking a deep breath, tugging the shirt, pointing the club to the target, or waggle the club side to side. The options that a player can come up with are many. I have seen players use tapping the club on the ground, to tapping their foot, to touching the brim of their hat. It doesn’t matter what the player uses, so long as it’s the same every time.

Once you come up with an excellent Point of Initiation, you can feel confident that you will begin your Mental Program consistently.