To start with, lets define benchmarking: Benchmarking means the process of comparing your current performance with your peak performance. Multiple aspects of your game can be benchmarked: the quality and accuracy of your nearsides, for example, the conversion rate of your penalties or even your ride offs. The point of benchmarking is to rate your performance in comparison to your best ability and to identify the single steps that lead to delivering your best ability. This shall help you to make that perfect shot or play replicable for you.
Now how do you do that, what is the process? To start with, you need to know exactly, what peak performance means for your level of skill: what is the furthest or highest, most angled you can hit? So think of your perfect shot: wide, high up in the air, straight to the target. Great! But can you repeat that exact shot on command?
Chances are you can’t.
To make it clearer, lets have a look at 30 yard penalties, as an example. Shooting penalties is a so called “closed skill”. It means that nobody is blocking you or pressuring you, taking the ball off you or hindering you to do your part and hit a wonderful shot towards the goal. It is only about you and your skills – perfect for a benchmarking exercise!
To benchmark your perfect penalty shot, you need to analyse yourself very closely, and take notice of all the single elements that make that shot perfect for you!
Here are some examples that shall help you to divide the shot into its different parts:
- Did you canter or walk up to the ball? If you did canter, on which leg, at which speed?
- What was your breathing doing? You breathed in or out or held your breath?
- How tight did you hold the stick – on a scale from 1 – 10?
- Did you do a pre-swing?
- Did you do a full or just a half swing?
- How slow/how fast did you swing – on a scale from 1 – 10??
- Did you feel the impact when the stick touched the ball?
- Had you been in the half seat all the way, or did you get into it just right before the hit?
- Was something going through your mind? Did you maybe tell yourself a mantra or some encouraging/discouraging words?
There are many more details to note, but I guess you get the point!
Watch yourself when you train and try to figure out what makes a particular shot perfect for you. Once you have that figured out, you can rate all other shots against it and you can point to WHY that shot wasn’t perfect, which element of the above wasn’t as it should be. Now repeat the above for all other shots and penalties!
You think this is tedious work? Well, rather than just training different shots and hope for the best, this exercise shall get you in position to hit your best shots, on COMMAND, not by chance!
Try it out and let me know, if it works for you!
About the author:
A 0 goal rated Polo Player, Kristin Grube is a Mental Game Instructor, certified by the International Mental Game Coaching Association, as well as a Sports Mental Trainer, certified by the Zentralstelle für Fernunterricht in Germany. She continually undergoes training to gain new knowledge of the latest state-of-the-art techniques in the field of Mental Training. She has coached Polo players, as well as Golf and Rugby athletes and also trains Executives to reach their peak performance. As a player herself, she has competed in the UAE, Argentina, Germany, the UK and Thailand – both on horses and elephants. She can be reached through her website www.polomentalcoach.com