Go with the flow


Researchers have recently applied the psychological concept of “the flow state”, a highly focused mental state, to improving athletic performance.  These results have important implications for how you can improve your pickleball game.

Let’s say, for example, you want to improve your serve and ask a friend, who you’ve noticed has a terrific serve, to give you some pointers.  He/ she tells you to position your feet in a certain way, bend your knees, swing your paddle from high to low, and follow through your swing.  That seems to make sense, so you try to incorporate all of these four changes into your current serve.

After trying your “new” serve with a dozen balls, you become frustrated for several reasons.  You already had a certain serving motion that your brain was accustomed to executing without much conscious thought at all, using the “muscle memory” you’ve built over the years.  Now you’re trying to remember all four of the serving changes that your friend recommended while mixing them into your old serving motion.  Learning a new serve this way is going to create anxiety, and be frustrating, so likely not effective.  How can the Flow State Theory help with your serve?

Start with just one change at a time.  After incorporating that single adjustment after many repetitions, you can begin to feel the comfort and satisfaction of the flow state.  Your brain can quickly help you incorporate that single change to see if that change is helpful, without a lot of confusion and anxiety.  

If you try to make too many changes at once, your brain is too distracted trying to remember how exactly to execute each of the changes, how they’re connected, and how they interact and merge into an athletic motion.  In other words, your brain is not really trying to improve your serve, it’s just trying to figure out what you’re doing!

To improve your game, make one change at a time.  Making several changes at once is likely going to be frustrating for you.  Next time – “go with the flow.”

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