How to Avoid Tensing Up When Hitting

answering your polo questions polo swing technique & stickwork May 19, 2022

Do you hit the ball nicely but in a game situation, when you under pressure, tend to tense up when hitting the ball & then not hit the shot well? 

 Why you are doing this? Let me explain & give you a few tips on how to fix it.

How to Avoid Tensing Up When Hitting


Gav, next question is how to avoid tensing up. This is a major block to improving, especially as I'm a consistent hitter, but under pressure things change. That is the next question that came in.

Okay. So, tensing up with the swing or tensing up with your body, I'm not quite sure what the question is asking. But so often it's that strong arm, that people want to hold the mallet so tight.

And one of the real fixes for that, for me, is just to go off and play some practice chukkas, where you push the mallet so far into your hand, that your back finger is actually holding the strap of the mallet, it's no longer under that little raised ridge. So, you're holding it with three fingers.

Now you can hold it as tight as you want, and you still, you'll feel there. You've got to keep your arm slow. You've got to let the mallet do the work. So, just do that and start to feel how that mallet actually has a life of its own, that you carry it up, correctly, you can balance it like that easily.

And now you've got to use your body to make that swing. You know, you can swing as hard, the harder you try and swing it, the mallet won't respond because you're not gripping it. Okay.

And you start to feel that mallet drop and go, and you're your arm is just a connection to your shoulder. There's no tension in it. You've got to have that nice, lovely, soft arm coming down.

So, how do you stop yourself doing that? Hitting, that's one way that I would suggest that possibly might help you.

But the other thing is, if you pay attention to...our first video was talking about being more effective on the field. If you already own the man, you've got now time to relax and to play the game.

Where, if you're getting there late, you're trying to win the ride-off, everything's tense, everything is quick. And that adds to the tension of what you're doing and you don't have time to make the shot.

So, now you grab the mallet to make the swing. All of that's working against you. So, you've got to go back to that man-line-ball principle, man first, line second, and ball third. Own the man.

Don't go for the hook if the balls ahead, go for the ride-off. Now, when you've got the man, you've got time to actually get your thoughts right. And you will find that you're able to talk yourself into playing smoothly. Okay. 

Without it being this last minute crisis, crash and bang, and that's what's putting tension there. So, I don't know any other way that you would do it.

Okay. No, I think that answers it nicely Gav, excuse me. I think just, again you know, I think the tensing up is part and parcel with the confidence question, in that, you know, in practice, you know, when practicing or sticking and balling, I presume, the person who asked the question is able to hit an nice long ball.

And then in a game, he loses that confidence slightly, or is too rushed and starts tensing up on the ball, and actually, not just using a nice, easy swing. And again, that's just getting the basics right. And, and practicing.

I also think Rob, as we've said before, you know, and we put videos out there, how to practice. That you've got to have cones out on the field, because the problem is this lovely sticking ball and it's free, and easy, and I'm just hitting a long ball, and it doesn't matter really where it goes, as long as I've got clean contact.

And suddenly I've got to hit it to somewhere and now it's a totally different story. So, if you're going out there and you've got cones around field, and maybe four or five balls, and you're hitting a neck-shot here, and an open backhand there, always at a cone, okay. Now when you go and play, you're used to having to hit the ball in a direction.

So, again, it takes that anxiety away. It's how you're practicing. I suppose also, you know, when you talk about, make sure that you are sticking and balling, it's you know, at higher speeds as well, because you never, you never hitting a ball on the polo field, in a game, just in a nice, easy hand canter. So, the same thing.