ADHD Golf: Three Steps into Mindfulness Tee Shots

Ben Driver Target Release

While working with my son, the fact that his inconsistency was caused by he mental state he was in was very apparent.

As I watched the videos I would see that when he was anxious his posture was very squatty. However when he was calm he could maintain a more upright posture. (more on how anxiety can effect posture in a later article)

These videos taken 2 years ago, show an worry free more upright practice swing and a more squatty anxious swing at the ball.

Then in 2014 my son had an additional diagnosis of a generalized anxiety disorder. Since I am from the generation that was diagnosed being ADHD through our children, I went to my ADHD psychiatrist and he said ”Yeah you too!”

I realized that I could not releasee a complete ADHD Golf product for preadolescent ADHD kids unless I had some solution for anxiety. Although the numbers vary, on average it is claimed that roughly 50 percent of ADHD people have an anxiety disorder at some level.

Steve Carlton

I was well aware of the effectiveness of mindfulness in ADHD adults and late teens. In fact my childhood idol Steve Carlton, a Taoist, was a master of using mindfulness techniques in his preparation for each start also known as “Win Day”. It just so happens that mindfulness meditations are heavily rooted in Taoism.

Steve Carlton in his preparation turned pitching into an advanced form of catch with the catcher. He never knew who was hot on the other team. He never looked at the batter AT ALL. He made sure that his focus never waned from executing an action based on the signal from the catcher.

You see, anxiety in a nutshell, comes from when your brain is predicting consequences of future events. Steve Carlton never allowing his neocortex’s predictions to wander into the future. For him it was simply there is the pitch, there is the target, release.

If Johnny Bench, who hit Lefty better than most, was stepping into the batters box and Steve Carlton’s eyes gave a quick glance at Mr. Bench, his neocortex would wander into the future even though there was not a single thought. Just by that one glance his neocortex starts predicting future events including consequences. His emotions would elevate. Even if the emotions elevated slightly, that could be the difference between a confident care free pitch vs a pitch that was a little more steered.

Mindfulness and Neuroscience

The previous scenario is even more true in golf. A mere glance at houses or a lake can make your brain wander into the future and elevated anxiety is the result. 

The problem with preadolescent ADHD kids is that it widely known that mindfulness meditations are not effective due to the fact it very hard to get ADHD kids at this age to sit still.

So attacking the mindfulness problem using the rigor of the research of Jeff Hawkins and his group at Numenta, helped reveal a solution that was very simple. In fact, Shawn Clement had drills that had a mindfulness like components without naming it as such. I realized that I could get Ben to start with a mindfulness breathing exercise, and the rest would be medicine ball drills and perpetual motion drill (PMD) with a golf club while I or the golf instructor played the role of a yoga like instructor, calmly directing the young golfer to a state of awareness of the moment.

Changing the Goals

The key was that I had to change the goals. Before I would ask Ben to do a medicine ball PMD with the goal of 5-10 repetitions. Often he would rush with Rock’em Sock’em Robot like stiff arms. Now the goal was to get his head into a place where he was totally aware of the motion of his arm ball unit in relation to his body turn and subtle squat.

By framing the goal to Ben by saying “ I want you to do the Medicine Ball PMD until I feel you are totally aware of the moment. I will guide you there and when you have done enough reps with your head is in the right place I will tell you when to stop”. This results were instantly positive with my son having a quiet head.

So now we needed to add a component where Ben would execute to the target with the same mindset that Steve Carlton did during his best years with the Phillies.

All we did was simply add a soccer cone for the target. So now the goal was framed for Ben by saying “I want you to swing back and through to the target without stopping with same effortless grace as you just did. But this time you will also need to maintain target awareness. I will then tell when it is ok to toss the ball”

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The results were amazing. His accuracy was lights out even though he was not looking at the target when he released it. We now had a method of breath, immerse yourself in the moment, acquire the target and release.

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We then repeated the process doing the perpetual motion drill with a golf club followed by the PMD plus a golf club throw.

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The above method allows an ADHD kid’s neocortex/brain to be quiet and then only to take one and only one step into the future. That step is to build a target where then all one has to do is maintain target awareness and release. This process helps prevent Ben’s anxiety from coming to the surface since has he trained his brain in a melody of “mental states.” that prevents his brain from wandering into predicting future consequences.

Having these sequences of drills had a side benefit of bleeding into his routine. Now for every tee shot, Ben does the PMD to be aware of strain free rhythm, find the target, align and release to the target with the same quiet head that Steve Carlton exhibited on the mound. Ben added this to his routine all by himself simply because it felt right.

In this video it is hard to tell that Ben is ADHD at all. He is calm, quiet and care free but is still focused on the target on every shot. Notice how he does the PMD before every shot. This is not a practice swing. It is a method of anchoring his head into the feel of a strain free, well balanced back through swing.

The cool thing is that this three step method works for kids of all ages too whether they are ADHD or “normal”.

Addendum: While this method works and has been reproduced in others, humbly this is only the first step. Think of it as ADHD Golf Mindfulness 1.0. We will continue to refine this process as time goes along.

Keep watching/reading to stay updated!!!