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Inleiding: In dit artikel wordt uitleg gegeven over de balans tussen de linker- en rechterhelften in het brein en hoe het je de performance verhoogt als je die balans kunt bereiken.
 

LEFT BRAIN - RIGHT BRAIN: Get the BALANCE right

Debbie Crews of Arizona State University believes one key to athletic success is getting the left and right hemispheres of the brain in balance. Her theory is that, in sports, the left hemisphere — the analytical, verbal side — is quite busy telling you what to do. To perform well as you swing a golf club, for instance, the left hemisphere must calm down. So the right hemisphere — which controls rhythm, timing, balance, coordination, creativity and imagery — steps up its activity. In the last second before you move, then, the two hemispheres achieve a state of balance. In ‘Brainy Putting’, Crews uses Alan to illustrate her theory, outfitting him in a cap with electrodes to pick up his brainwaves. Then she asks him to putt. Rating each of his own putts on a scale of 1 to 10, Alan averages about an 8. Then Crews puts him on a balance board, forcing him to get his body in balance in the hopes that his brain will follow suit. It's tough going at first, but Alan finds a way to do it by imagining himself as a cloud. As an EEG will reveal, Alan's use of imagery puts his brain in balance. Once he stops trying to figure out how to balance — a left-brain activity — and lets his body take care of itself — helped by his right-brain imagery — things get easier. Alan's rates his putts again after his stint on the balance board. This time, he gives most putts a 9. But just as Alan gets used to the idea that relaxing and letting go is what's important, Crews puts him on a stationary bicycle and gets him all pumped up. 

Alan's game improves with a balanced brain. Despite his revved-up physical state, Alan's brain remains pretty well balanced. Crews hypothesizes that the aroused brain has more energy with which to focus. And it works. Alan continues to rate his putts high and appears to gain confidence in his game.

Finally, Crews ups the ante and pits Alan against professional golfer Tina Tombs, offering financial reward to the winner. Surprisingly, Alan, with his balanced brain and low expectations, outperforms Tombs. With her unbalanced brain and high expectations, Tombs can't seem to find her groove.

CHOKING - What is going on?

After seeing Greg Norman blow a six-shot lead in the final round of the 1996 Masters, Dr Debbie Crews from Arizona State University decided to investigate why some golfers choke.

In golf, choking occurs when the muscles tighten, the breathing becomes shallow and performance suffers. Crews wanted to find out what happens to brain activity as golfers endure an increasingly stressful game of golf. Crews undertook an experiment. She got 10 amateur golfers and asked them to hit twenty 2.5 metre straight putts on a flat green to see how many they could make. Then pressure was added to the equation: the golfers were asked to hit 20 more putts, but were told that they were being filmed for a current affairs program and would be seen by a national television audience. Then their stress was bumped up even further: the golfers were told that they would receive $300 if they matched or beat their first score, but would lose $100 if they did not. Crews then measured their self-reported anxiety, heart rate and brain activity as revealed by an electroencephalograph.

LEFT BRAIN - RIGHT BRAIN 

All players showed a similar increase in brain activity as the situation became more stressful. However, the five who did best and won the $300 showed an interesting trend in brain activity — their brain activity was evenly distributed throughout both sides of the brain. Whereas in those who failed, the left side of their brain was doing most of the work. This suggests that involving the more creative right side of the brain is crucial in getting a good result when coping with stress.‘Imagery and target awareness are created in the right brain’, Dr. Crews told Golf Magazine. "When the left brain is dominant, the golfer becomes self-aware: What am I doing?’ ‘How is my stroke?’, ‘Am I aligned correctly?’ and so on. That kind of thinking usually leads to trouble." There are several mental cues, says Crews, which are useful for engaging both hemispheres of the brain to enhance performance. These include visualising your target, recalling a favourite song, imagining the feeling of "yes" (as in, "Yes I can!"), and picturing a sense of being finished.

DISTRACTING DISTRACTIONS

Is there a crucial moment when a golfer is most vulnerable to being distracted and put off his or her game?

Troy Baker, a psychologist at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) specialises in monitoring the performance of elie players. To find out if golfers have a particular weak moment in their performance he distracted players using a tone made up of two notes (low, medium or high) in different combinations. In 40 separate trials, a tone was played either during pre-shot, while initiating the backswing, while initiating the downswing, or not at all, with the golfer not knowing which one to expect. The level of distraction was measured by asking players to identify the type of tone they heard. The more accurate they were, it was reasoned, the more the tone must have distracted them from their play, and therefore, the poorer their concentration at that moment. Baker also measured how close they came to hitting a target. He found that these elite athletes were not easily distracted during the pre-shot phase, with most failing to correctly identify the tone, indicating they were concentrating more on their golf. They also performed well at hitting the target. However, when the tone was played during either the initiation of the backswing or the downswing, many more players could recall the tone, showing it had distracted them. The players were most distractible of all during initiation of the downswing.

Why were they so easily distracted at this point? Baker says it has to do with what's going on — or rather not going on — in your mind. "The problem with this point in the swing is that there's not as much need to focus on what is required, and this creates a kind of empty space in your mind which allows distractions to get in.


Foto:Leida Dullemont