Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Learning the Intangibles

in·tan·gi·ble  /inˈtanjəbəl/

Unable to be touched or grasped; not having physical presence: "cyberspace or anything else so intangible".

We had an unofficial visit yesterday from a young lady and both she and her mother asked me what I look for in a recruit.  We get this question a lot and it isn't easy to answer.  My first answer is "low scores" and I guess it is an obvious one.  However, I have signed a lot of players over the years who might not have had the lowest scoring average, but I trusted that they would improve.  In order to sign an athlete like this, I have to watch a lot of rounds and be convinced that with coaching, the scores will go down.  The coaching usually involves course management and short game.  Those are two skills that are often learned at the college level in women's golf.  

what are the other things I look for?  They are usually the intangibles.  Things such as determination, work ethic, competitiveness, mental toughness, attitude, love for the game, friendliness and respectfulness.  Each of these qualities is important to a college golf team.  What scares me away?  Body language that indicates poor confidence, disrespect toward fellow competitors, parents, officials or the golf course and a bad attitude, which can mean a lot of things. 

If I am like most golf coaches, we are all out there hoping to find a player who scores low, has nice technique and possesses a lot of the intangibles listed above.  Are these qualities learned or are they something a player has naturally?   If you believe as I do that what we do is based on our habits, then I would guess most of the intangibles are learned behavior. 

That leads to the question, who is teaching these intangibles?  Parents, high school coaches, golf pros?  Who is helping the junior golfers to be accountable for their attitudes, body language and respectfulness?  How do kids work on mental toughness, determination and confidence?

A kid grows up a lot faster on the golf course. Golf teaches you how to behave.
- Jack Nicklaus

If you have a young golfer, I would urge you to keep more than one score for each round.  You can keep the actual score and you can keep an additional score.  Here are some ways you could score the intangibles:
          Respectfulness:  Your junior gets a point if you witness him/her shake hands prior to the match and another following the match.  You could give points for having a shirt tucked in, wearing a belt, having clean shoes and clubs and the bag zipped up.  A point could be earned by gently laying the flag down on the apron or fixing an extra ball mark on the green.  You could notice when your junior helps others find their golf ball or help with a ruling. 
          Determination:  You can keep track of bounce back stats.  After a bad hole, is the next hole better?  After a bad shot, does your junior hang his/her head or keep it up?  Does a bad day lead to more or less practice?  Can your junior talk about good shots no matter what the score?
          Competitiveness:  Does your junior appreciate the value of each shot?  You could score this by whether or not he/she does a pre-shot routine on each shot.  You can give a point for keeping a steady pace all day and not rushing through shots or dragging after a bad one.
          Focus:  Focus is the basis of mental toughness.  We actually keep a score for it that is the responsibility of each player.  If she Sees it, Feels it and Trusts it, she gets a SFT point.  The outcome of the shot doesn't matter, but the process of visualization, rehearsal and commitment does matter.  This tends to overcome thoughts of results, mechanical thoughts and loss of confidence.  It allows the players, especially the perfectionists, to control a score that can be perfect.
          Love for the Game:  This is the most important thing to track in my estimation.  It could be a scoring system for the parents alone.  How many times a day does your junior mention golf?  How often does he/she ask for a ride to the course?  How much fun does your junior have at practice?  How many shots does he/she tell you about after a round of golf?  If you are the one who mentions golf, forces your junior to practice or talks about the mistakes made during a round of golf, the love for the game score won't be very high.  Instead, urge them on by scoring on statements such as, "Hey Mom, watch this!" or "I can't wait to play today."

Golf is a game that teaches players to have good character, but I don't think we should assume that it happens automatically.  There needs to be mentoring that includes accountability, encouragement and modeling.  We have to teach the good habits of the intangibles as well as the good habits of swinging and chipping. 

One of the most fascinating things about golf is how it reflects the cycle of life. No matter what you shoot - the next day you have to go back to the first tee and begin all over again and make yourself into something.
- Peter Jacobsen 

Earl Stewart College Am

You never know who is reading the blog, so I thought I would invite you to play in our Earl Stewart College Am on April 4th.  We are using the tournament to raise the funds needed to host our Dallas Athletic Club Invitational, which takes place April 5-7.  Some of the best players in college golf will be here to compete for the trophy, including the defending NCAA Champion, Chirapat Jao-Javanil.  Chirapat or "Ja" as she is known to her friends, is a junior from OU and is currently ranked #9 in the country.

Other competitors ranked among the top 60 who will be competing at the DAC Invitational are #2  Kelsey Vines of Oklahoma State, #10 Lindsey Weaver of Notre Dame, #33 AC Tanguay of OU, #41Tonje Daffinrud of Denver, #55 Emily Collins of OU,  and SMU's Jenny Haglund at #57.

Here is a link to our fundraiser.  I hope you can come out and play with some of the best players in the nation and support our venture to bring the best to Dallas every year.

Earl Stewart College Am Brochure

If you can't make it to the College Am or the Invitational, you can follow us on

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Practice Schedule #6

It has been awhile since I posted a practice schedule, so here is our schedule this week.  We were paired with OU in the final round at the Clover Cup last week and I took note of what made them one of the best teams in the nation.  Their wedge play and course management was the difference between our second place finish and their win.  We have a few weeks to focus on wedges before our home event and we will work to tune them up.  Tuesday is about being clear on your distances and then owning them with landing the ball on your target.  Wednesday has a lot of wedges within a round of golf and Thursday is focused on all facets of short game, with a clear intention of getting the ball in the hole. 

Putting is also a big part of our focus at practice.  We had 43 birdies as a team at the Clover Cup, which is a sign that we are on the right track with our hard work.  With the goal of making birdies, we had a fun qualifier on Sunday.  It was a one-day shootout from the front tees.  Most birdies earned a spot in the lineup for the top three birdie makers.  The team had 38 birdies and 2 eagles (1 ace)!  Four birdies wasn't enough to get into the lineup!  It was also a great way to work on course management and wedges.  I saw a lot of course management mistakes off the tee on a golf course the team has played countless rounds of golf.  Our ability to think through our distances, conditions and wind needs to continue to improve if we want to effectively manage the golf course. 

Since it was a shootout, the mistakes only hurt in that they took away an opportunity for birdie.  Scores didn't count.  That created a lot of really positive body language.  Players didn't carry one mistake to the next hole.  I loved it!  I also saw a lot of shots and putts getting to the hole.  These are all things we coach and it was great to see them in practice.

SMU Women’s Golf           
March 19, 2013
P.S. #6

Work with a partner today and do the following:
1.  3X3 Wedge Work-
Use three wedges.  Hit 3 shots with each wedge and ½ swing (waist high).  Have your partner put a towel down in the middle of the landing area of the three shots.  Laser it and write it down.  Now hit 7 more shots to the towel using your routine.  How many times did you hit it?  Repeat with a 2/3 (chest high) swing and a full swing. 
Now do the same thing with your other two wedges.  When you are finished, you should have distances for nine shots. 
Your full swing should be controlled and ear high to ear high, not like a driver swing. 
Your technique should have your biceps and chest working together through the swing.  Your feet and legs should be quiet and your turn through to the target should be full.  If you aren’t hitting shots as you want, take a few swings and feel your swing keys and then go back to the ten shots.
This is also a great drill for tempo.  Great wedge players control their tempo and look smooth and unforced.
2.  Cross Country Putting –
On the big green by Blue #1, play 18 holes with your partner.  Choose holes that are all the way across the green.  Talk through the read by breaking the putt into 1/3’s.  Fewest 3 putts in 18 holes win.  Can anyone play the game with none?
3.  One Putt Wonder-
On the big green again, play 18 holes with your partner.  Choose the closest hole to you.   Most 1 putts wins the game.  How many 1 putts did you have?
4.  3 GREAT Shots –
Start with your PW and hit 2 great shots with it.  Then hit a great low shot once.  A great shot is one that matches the SFT you had prior to hitting it.  Choose targets, go through your routine, See it, Feel it, Trust it!  Now hit the 9 iron and do the same.  Go all the way through your bag.  When you get to the 6 iron, you may substitute the low shot with a draw or fade.  Can you do the challenge in 33 shots?  Are you focused and committed to each shot?

Play Day at Lakewood.  Play front tees on 5s, middle tees on 4's and tips on 3's.  Drop a ball on each par 4.  Use the 3X3 distances.  Drop a full wedge, a full sw and a full gap or lob wedge, then a 2/3 shot for each and finish the last par 4’s with a ½ shot.  If you have someone behind you, please don’t hold up play with extra balls.    

Today’s theme:  Get it in the hole!  All shots will be putted out!
1.  Get 10 balls up and down from the fringe on chips of 45 to 60 feet.  Please use your routine and SFT!  How many shots did it take to get 10?
2.  Get 10 balls up and down from the greenside bunker.  You may only hit 2 balls at a time to each hole cut (total of 4 per turn).  Alternate target holes with each shot.  Please use your routine and SFT!  How many bunker shots did it take to get 10 up and down? 
3.  Get 10 balls up and down from 30-50 yards from the green.  You may only hit 2 balls at a time to each hole cut (total of 4 per turn).  Alternate target holes with each shot.  Please use your routine and SFT!  How many pitch shots did it take you to get 10 up and down. 
4.  Get 5 balls up and down from 50-100 yards from the green.  You may only hit 3 balls at a time to each hole cut (total of 6 per turn).  Alternate target holes with each shot.  Please use your routine and SFT!  How many pitch shots did it take you to get 5 up and down?
5.  Get 2 balls up and down from 100-120 yards from the green.  You may only hit 3 balls at a time to each hole cut (total of 6 per turn).  Alternate target holes with each shot.  Please use your routine and SFT!  How many iron shots did it take you to get 2 up and down?
6.  Get 1 ball up and down from 135 yards.  Same deal as above.
7.  Get 1 ball up and down from 150 yards.  Ditto

Spend some time putting with a teammate.  Challenge her to a few games.  Talk through your SFT with her prior to putting. 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Body Language

I love it when my mind is busy with a subject and I start writing and writing and then I come upon the perfect answer to my question.  Here it is:

Amy Cuddy:  Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are

As coaches, we know this stuff is not only true, but a key to success.  Here is the best thing Ms. Cuddy said:

Sadly, I often see the opposite.  I see players hang their head, slump their shoulders, slow their pace and scatter their confidence behind them.  I see players with tight mouths and tight shoulders who can't step over an emotion, be it anger, frustration or helplessness.  I see players with quick reactions to shots who aren't into what they are doing but focused on the results of their efforts.  I see players who go inward and walk the course without ever seeing the trees or birds.  They are busy fixing their faults, not playing the game.  Most of what I do as a coach is based on body language.

When players are rolling, I let them roll.  A focused golfer sees the golf course.  Her head is up and her eyes are clear.  She has a smooth forehead and a relaxed mouth.  She might feel anger or frustration, but lets go of the emotions and keeps her focus.  She watches her shots with little or no reaction.  She takes her time when she is in trouble and quickens her pace when she needs a little energy.  While I coach individuals who are unique, these things are fairly universal.  Body language speaks volumes.

Picture your favorite competitor.  I'm a big fan of Drew Brees.  He is one of the smallest guys on the field, but he demands his teammate's attention.
He shows positive emotions on the field, including gratitude.

He is focused and patient when the action is happening.
If things aren't going well, he is determined.
When things go well, he celebrates!

It's time to start your own highlight reel.  Go ahead and practice your walk, your talk and your celebrations.  As Amy Cuddy said, don't just fake it 'til you make it, fake it 'til you become it!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Take a Step Back

It's that time of year.  The time to take a deep breath and a step back.  I need to remember that I have really good people on this team.  They are working very hard to play good golf, to please us, to get good grades, to pull their weight in the classroom, to figure out life and to have some fun.  When I was a younger coach, this would be the time of year when I would push harder, coach more and talk longer.  I just caught myself doing it again!

Instead, I have to remember the lessons learned over the years.  The players will "get it" when it is time for them to get it.  Pushing them and explaining it 100 different ways probably won't make it happen faster and will actually probably get in the way.  Another thing I need to remember this time of year is to let them figure things out for themselves.  It isn't about me or my coaching, it is about them.  We have lead them to the water and when they are thirsty, they will drink.

It's also good to remember they are all different and they all need to be on their own time.  They are at the age of figuring out who they are and part of that is challenging our ideas and our authority.  I need to support their challenges, because in the end, it will help them figure out their own path.  It will probably make them zig zag for awhile, but straight paths are generally pretty boring.

I wrote this blog for myself to remind me to back off and allow the learning to sink in.  Let them take ownership of what they are doing and how they are doing it.  Let them figure stuff out on their own.  I will be here as a sounding board and ready to do what is needed, but this group is good and headed the right direction.  If I can have some patience, support their independence and encourage them through any results, we will definitely get there.  

Enthusiasm or Dread

We had a great camp with 10 junior girls this past weekend.  We focused our time on how to practice, how to prepare for competition, how to ...