FocusBand:.10-Week.Training.Odyssey

Golfers interested in FocusBand:  What you need to know

  • Learn what “quiet eye” is, and how to get one!
  • Learn how World #1 PGA tour pro Jason Day uses mental training and FocusBand to control his emotions, be more resilient under pressure and excel in competition.
  • Learn what being in “the zone” means and how to get there
  • What is the difference between a swing in the zone and not in?

Through a combination of extreme curiosity and will, I taught myself to use FocusBand over a 10 week period, seeing only a few videos on the subject by the inventor team and a few golf professionals/instructors.  This summer (Oct 2016) just ended was my first full season of turf golf play since my spring 10 week Focus Band program conclusion.  I dropped from being an erratic ball-striking and surprisingly bad putting /15 index 2015 to a 13.4 today (which would be lower with 3 low Canadian rounds GHIN won’t let me post), with only 15 rounds and one single 2 hour practice, no lessons or pro oversight all season.  Note I am never more than 9-15 rounds per year over the last 9 years playing, and have never gone up or down index-wise more than +-1.0 max. prior to this year.  So few rounds are a barrier to improvement.

If you try to research FB and it’s benefits online on youtube etc you won’t get a sense of what it really does, in my opinion, unless maybe you are an experienced meditator, but then even only in part, as the gaze training/quiet eye is new to most people. Bottom line, ONLY using FB on my sofa/NOT on a putting green or golf course/range, I still figured out Focus Band’s benefits on my first outing hitting balls after 10 weeks of using it.  I had fewer errant shots and emotional control on the greens resulting in fewer “wide misses” and 3 putts.  Also- the more fluid, relaxed swing begets more comfort and better still muscle recruitment in the swing, making it more powerful and consistent.

What you are supposed to achieve with FocusBand: 

One of two “happenings” using the FB free application on your iPad, iPhone or Android device is an alert that you are holding your gaze still, moving < 3 degrees for at least 100ms.   Teaching just how surprisingly hard you need to lock on to a single dimple of the golf ball with your gaze, is probably very difficult, if not impossible, without such a device:   The FB tells you when you have achieved the coveted and invaluable Quiet Eye (Excellent article in The Atlantic on NBA players who have it, and those who don’t, and how it affects their performance on court).   Not only is getting a quiet eye key for your brain to map connecting ball and center of your club face, it turns out getting a quiet eye seems to trigger the brain to get “In the zone”, or the optimal physical and mental states for athletic performance.  This is commonly accepted as a truth among the foremost expert in this field (Dr. J Vickers) and her peers, according to her book.  Also it is widely held that elite athletes have a varied but superior ability to access the zone (vs. weekend athletes), achieving a right-brain, more athletic shot execution.  Basically, with a rock-still gaze, you don’t flood and distract your brain with new images/data to interpret, leaving it to be your best brain and perform at its highest level, on squaring that face on the target with that ball.

From Peception, Cognition, & Decision Training by Joan N. Vickers

From Peception, Cognition, & Decision Training by Joan N. Vickers

vickers-1

Joan Vickers talks about using quiet eye to facilitate being in the zone.

The second “happening” when using Focusband is achieving right-brained thought, which means thinking about your breathing, and nothing else self-critical, no judging yourself or having analytical thoughts.  If you are standing at address, you are supposed to be staring at the ball and thinking only of the ideal ball flight or landing area/target, while breathing sufficiently to keep you in right brain mode (a brain not flush with Oxygen goes into analytical/survival left-brain mode).  The benefits of handing the fate of your shot over to the right brain:

  • The right brain performs up to 30mm functions per second, the left brain can only perform 40 functions/second if operating at high efficiency.
  • The right brain is necessary to execute a “pure” or “smooth” golf swing because recruitment of all of the many, many small muscles necessary.
  • A left brain swing (the casual/weekend golfer) only generally recruits the very crudest and largest of the muscle groups bringing the club down from the top of the back swing- too often achieving the over-the-top swing flaw which plagues 95% of golfers.
  • PERFORMANCE ASIDE: An athletic (right brain) swing is a natural movement, with the signal from the brain by-passing the prefrontal cortex.  The prefrontal cortex is where memories are created (explaining intermittent lack of shot memory & shot-count fails???).  Players report that a round played “in the zone” where brain impulses bypass the PFC are for whatever reason more pleasurable.   Such swings are free from swing-key thoughts and unwanted left-brain attention.
FocusBand, integrated with latest generation of Flightscope products, screen shot showing right-brain dominance and "quiet eye" or optimal, sub 3 degrees deviation in eye movement, condition indicated with the green pyramid.

FocusBand, integrated with latest generation of Flightscope products, screen shot showing right-brain dominance and “quiet eye” or optimal, sub 3 degrees deviation in eye movement, condition indicated with the green pyramid.

How specifically does the FB improve the quality of your play?

The thinking goes among FocusBand advocates that you cannot SIMULTANEOUSLY envision your ideal ball flight/landing target and judge yourself re the OB you had to the right side on 17 last week/round.  Forcing your brain to answer the question “What does this shot I want look like” with an action is easy to do if you can develop a way to block out emotions from past outcomes/current fears.  The FB lets you practice blocking those thoughts and being purely in the here and now.  Laying a quiet eye on the ball and asking yourself what the ideally targeted landing area and/or ball flight to the landing area looks like both blocks the normal swing fails caused by crowding out emotions like fear of a dreaded hazard or OB, AND makes your body answer the question with the shot.  No swing thoughts are good when attempting right-brained shots, and fears of a hazard in a swing thought are of course not a good head-mate with our right-brained plans at every ball strike.  The left brain thoughts seem to be detectable using FB, and once detectable, able to be banished with practice.

The initial impact on my game post FB was with ball striking:  Fewer errant shots and far more consistent outcomes with less tortured and less time-consuming pre-shot routine, and much better club face path with increased distance.  Next I focused on putting and that quickly improved.  Focused on quiet eye and dwell time after striking the ball, now I am making “some” 10-15 foot-plus putts and closer to 50% on 6 foot putts.  Never and hardly ever was my recent past on those two skills, sadly (putts 3′ and in were even problematic)…

*Golfer Avatar showing "right brain" thought, with gaze and mind fixed for optimal performance while using FocusBand, as used by Jason Day

*Golfer Avatar showing “right brain” thought, with gaze and mind fixed for optimal performance while using FocusBand, as used by Jason Day

How do you know when you have achieved some level of mastery at using FocusBand?

Since I never previously learned ever about how/where I should gaze at a spot on the ball (top or rear is convention) growing up, just learning it is “mission critical” offers some level of improvement to people like me.  10 weeks into a program where I was using 3-plus times per week, 15-25 mins per session (only having access to it 2-3 weeks per month), I started to be able to maintain a quiet eye for minutes at a time when I got deep enough into it after 4-7 mins of warming up.  As I push my “baseline” up, I try to keep it challenging, so I push further into/closer to the zone, going for higher mushin scores and more persistent quiet eye streaks.  Considering I find a baseline of just 43 very challenging, I have much work to do!

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