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 

1 comment:

  1. Great ideas, since we are trying to teach our little ones the rules and love of the game.


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