Friday, August 24, 2012

A Great Start

We got off to a great start this week at SMU.  First of all, we started building our habits.  We got into a bit of a routine, although with all of the meetings and extra stuff, that will shake down a bit more.  We discussed our touchstones and the direction we want to go this year.  We wrote in our journals about what we wanted to focus on at practice and how it went.  We had a great Thursday Team Day with very good focus and we accomplished a lot.  I saw a lot of 30 footers drop, which is fun stuff. Good habits are the key to good performance and we are heading the right direction in that regard.

Our theme for our Team Day was putting and more specifically speed control.  The more I read what Geoff Mangum writes, the more convinced I am that he is a genius in our field.  However, as with any genius, I have to read his stuff a lot to "get" it.  The better I understand it, the simpler it becomes.  We are going to be the best putting team in the nation.  That might be biting off a lot to state, but hey, that is what we want and we will do what we have to to achieve that goal.  Here was our team's practice and also a link to Geoff's site so you can also share in his wisdom.

SMU Women’s Golf
Thursday Team Day

1. Team challenge
     A. 9 balls in a row within the circle from 35-45 feet.  If you make one, you cover one of your teammates misses. 

2. Speed and green reading presentation.

3. Touchstones
     Love each other
     Keep things simple
     Remember what's important
     Be your own best coach
     Be free to play
     Possess a learner's mindset

4. Individual challenges
     A.  Putt to string until you earn 10 points from 4, 6, 82 points within 1 foot past the string. 1 point within a foot of the string short. 0 point all other putts. How many putts did it take from each distance?
     B.  Put an iron down 2 feet past a hole. Putt from 25, 30, 40 and 60 feet. Get 5     balls, in a row, to end between the hole and the iron (don’t let the ball hop     over the iron). If you make it, it counts as only one.  At 60 feet, your goal is 5 out of 10.

5. Competitive games.
Lag putting round robin
9  holes of competition. Putt must be at least 30 feet. Match play. Closest to the hole wins.  Two losses and you're out.  
Partner Game
Find two holes 20-30 feet away from each other. Each of you putts to the other's hole until you make it. Then switch and continue. Winner is first player to 5 makes.

The speed and green reading presentation wasn't extensive.  It was simply a talk about looking and letting your hands work, as you do with all measuring you do in a day.  Your hands are constantly figuring out how to measure distances, whether its to open a door, toss an apple core into the trash, or shake hands.  There isn't thought involved, but simply a spatial reaction to what your eyes tell you that you need.  Thought about a putting stroke creates tension and a lack of rhythm and momentum.  We talked about a link between your eyes and your hands and getting the brain out of the loop.  

We also noticed that the circle around the hole shouldn't have the hole in the center.  As soon as we moved the circle to the high side, with the hole being closer to the low side, the team made a lot more putts and had more success with keeping the ball in the circle.  It took us about 30 minutes to successfully complete the challenge and while it might seem like a lot of time standing around, that is golf.  We want to create situations that are realistic.  In golf you face pressure to perform every 2-3 minutes.  It is great to have everyone's eye balls on you at practice and to know you are one of the keys to completing a task.  

Today, we are playing 18 holes and the team is going to keep track of how many feet of putts they made.  I can't wait to watch more 30 footers drop!

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Problems We Face in College Athletics

“Pride, avarice and envy are in every home.” Thornton Wilder

College athletics are no exception.  Joe Paterno once said, “Besides pride, loyalty, discipline, heart, and mind, confidence is the key to all the locks.”  Pride was the first quality he noted as important to success.  Pride is also the quality that lead to his and Penn State’s demise. 

We are taught as young athletes to have pride in our teams, our performances and ourselves.  Pride becomes the code for never quitting, putting team first and always giving our best.  However, the definition of pride isn’t any of those things. 

Pride [prahyd] 
1. a high or inordinate opinion of one’s own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in bearing, conduct, etc.
2. the state or feeling of being proud.
3. a becoming or dignified sense of what is due to oneself or one’s position or character; self-respect; self-esteem.
4. pleasure or satisfaction taken in something done by or belonging to oneself or believed to reflect credit upon oneself.

These are four of the twelve definitions that lists.  All four of these are reflected in the actions of Penn State University.  The leadership at Penn State took pride in their school, their athletic program and their place in the community.  Because of this pride, they were lead to protect these things and ignore the wrongs within the their institution. 

“In general, pride is at the bottom of all great mistakes.” John Ruskin

The problems at Penn State seem unbelievable to us, because men we held in high regard protected their institution instead of protecting innocent children.  Their actions were faults of human nature that both runs through all of us to some degree and is also taught and nurtured in athletics. 

How can we address and change this culture of pride, greed and envy?  First, we need to think about the quality that opposes pride.  It is humility.  Does humility have a place in college athletics?  Can a coach teach her players to value modesty and to be humble in their pursuits?  Does this approach to coaching fit with the will to win?  I believe it does.  When I was young, I remember seeing an interview with Bruce Jenner following his win in the Olympic Decathlon.  When asked what it felt like to be the best athlete in the world, he answered that he was certainly not the best athlete in the world.  He was merely the best in that competition in that time period.  His answer so impressed me that I have carried it with me all these years.  He was a gold medal winner, yet incredibly humble.  Winners can possess humility.  However, it must be modeled, taught, rewarded and it must come from the top and be instilled at all levels of competition to truly change college athletics.  We must all swallow our pride and learn to value humility. 

A very successful man, Ross Perot, said the following,  “Something in human nature causes us to start slacking off at our moment of greatest accomplishment.  As you become successful, you will need a great deal of self-discipline not to lose your sense of balance, humility and commitment.”  This quote speaks not just to our efforts or physical exertion, but also to our character.  The news is full of examples of these lapses of character; coaches who cheat in recruiting and on their wives, players who take money when they know it is wrong, steroids and speed made available and taken, commitments given and not kept and a focus on winning that recognizes little else.  As we read the news, we shake our heads at the indiscretions, but fail to see that we are all weak and just one step away from losing our balance as well.  Then, we turn the page and lament the coach who lost another game or the athlete who missed the last second shot.  We question their effort, their knowledge and their will to win.  The questions instead should focus on our balance, humility and commitment as educators, competitors and leaders.  

My point isn’t that everything is wrong with college sports, because I am a big fan as well as a piece of the puzzle.  My point is that we need to do a better job of recognizing character driven leadership.  Men and women throughout college sports are stripped of their jobs, despite being strong leaders.  The simple truth of sports is, there are winners and there are losers each and every time you play.  Losing is not something anyone wants, but it is part of sports and life.  It teaches us that we need to change, adjust, work harder, be stronger, be smarter and keep going.  It is but one stop on a journey, not the final destination. 

If the NCAA wanted to truly make a difference, it would quit putting its emphasis on oversight and punishment and shift it to education and training at every level.  Our goal should be to train college presidents to be above the politics of disgruntled boosters.  It should focus on teaching athletic directors to lead departments with more yardsticks than wins and losses.  Academics, peer leadership, service and becoming an integral part of the community are all measurements of the success of a program as well as W’s.  Coaches also need training in focus, judgment, ethics and balance and how to impart character ideals to their student-athletes.  Finally, athletes need training in more than their sport.  The NCAA works to prevent student-athletes from signing with agents, making money on the side or taking steroids.  Can the NCAA change its approach and begin to develop our student-athlete’s ethics, principles and honor instead of working to offset them?  College sports need a shift and it must be from the top down.  We must ask ourselves what do we want, how do we achieve it and what is holding us back.  My hope is that the first answer is education, character and ethical leadership throughout college sports. 

In the end, college is a place of learning.  If we continue to teach pride, greed, and envy, we will continue to have the problems we see now.  If we can figure out how to be humble and modest while remaining successful, we will be on the right path.  Further down that path, we must learn to value our leaders who have character and don’t rely on only wins to define themselves.  Finally, we need to all recognize that our human nature is common and only by being uncommon can we truly effect change. 


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