PMA: A Way of Thinking for Student Athletes

Written by on April 30, 2023

The topic of mental health has grown exponentially in the past decade. Being mindful of one’s mental health, and making sure to take time to take care of it, is now the new norm. This point of view manifests in different ways for different environments, especially for student athletes. 

Fort Collins freshman Alex Burns is a member of the Kansas Wesleyan University Men’s Golf team, and has a model he likes to use to help his way of thinking.

“PMA (Positive Mental Attitude) is a model that I was taught in middle and high school. It’s kind of like a mindset that a lot of teachers and coaches taught student athletes on how to be successful,” Burns said. “It’s basically changing how you view certain events that happen in your life, and trying to make everything more positive will help your efficiency on the field and the classroom.” 

Burns says that the PMA method has helped him more in golf than other sports, citing that on occasion golf is more mental than physical. 

“You’re (at the course) for four hours, sometimes longer. You have to be locked in the whole time, and if you lose concentration, even for a couple of minutes, it’s going to cost you,” Burns said. “It could cost you a shot, it could cost you a hole.” 

Earlier in the semester, Burns used PMA to help get his head back into the round. He was looking to move on into a secondary qualifying round against two upperclassmen and a sophomore as one of two freshmen in that round. 

“That day I had a personal best going. I had never really been in a position like that before, where I was leading the group. With seniors, it’s intimidating because they’re really good,” Burns said. “I was teeing up on hole 16, and I started to kind of get nervous. My palms were sweating and I started shaking. I just had to back off of it and take a few deep breaths. 

“The biggest thing you can do to help your score is to focus only on one shot.”

“I needed to remember things my coach had told me. He knows about PMA too and he said, ‘The biggest thing you can do to help your score is to focus only on one shot. There’s 60 other shots behind you that you can think about, but you just have to think about the shot you’re hitting right in that moment, and block everything else out,’ and that really helped me.”

Even though PMA was taught for student athletes, Burns sees it as something that any student can use. Outside of golf, Burns plays bass for the KWU String Orchestra, and applies the model when working on solos. 

“There was a time in the first semester where it was my final performance of the year. I had done three solo performances prior, and the first two had gone great, I was really happy and confident. For the last performance, I skipped a line of music and got completely off from the accompanist, Dr. do Carmo,” Burns said. “We had to fix it in the middle of the performance, it was really noticeable. When that happens, it’s real easy to beat yourself up and doubt your playing ability and how good you are. But you have to think about how nobody’s perfect, and that it’s just one bad performance compared to the other successful ones. It was just a fluke, and easy to fix.”

For students at KWU, Burns hopes that the Positive Mental Attitude model is one that they can incorporate into their day-to-day lives.

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