Tuesday, April 2, 2013

What's It Like to Play Great?

Yesterday we had a team meeting and we reviewed our beliefs and talked about how important they will be as we go into our last four tournaments of the year.  These tournaments can define us as champions or we could fall short of our goals.  The key will be to remember what has helped us all year and be great at our three touchstones.  The dedication to our touchstones will lead us to success.

Love each other.  We need to remember to be good to each other.  We need to take a breath and not be petty or mean-spirited.  We need to lift each other up.  We need to be there for our teammates.  We need to appreciate the unique qualities that each person brings to the team.  We need to remain a tight unit of eleven people until the last putt falls.

Have a learner's mindset.  We need to continue to be open to possibilities.  We need to strive to improve daily.  We need to play as a child and remember to have fun, have wonder and have appreciation of what we have, what we do and what we love.

Play with freedom.  The last touchstone is the one that we spent the most time talking about.  I asked each player what she thought or felt when she played her best round this year.  Here are some of the answers I received:
Happy, Free, Proud of My Attitude, Peace, Clear, Nothing, Calm, Simple.

There is a lot to learn from these responses.  None of them talked about golf swings or shot making.  They all answered with their state of mind.  When I asked them what the common thread was with their answers, they told me "chill" or calmness. 

Bubba hit the shot he saw and felt.  He trusted himself.

None of their answers were about how focused they were or their level of concentration.  On great days, you don't have to focus or concentrate, it simply happens for you.  By thinking about your focus and saying over and over what you need to do with a shot, you will lose the freedom to swing.  Instead, on great days, you see what you want, you feel it, trust it and let it go.  Simple!  The conversation turned to our "Try Scale".  On a level of 1-10, with 1 being no try and 10 being to try as hard as possible, they said that on their best days, they were at 2-5.  One player even admitted taking her putting down to a 1 and finding success on the greens. 

Our talk then turned to how to proceed into our last four tournaments.  How do you handle it when you really, really, really want something?  Our instinct might be to try harder, focus more, work on mechanics and be more controlled.  Instead of those things, figure out how to take it down a notch, not up.  As you prepare, do it calmly with a goal of finding your best self, not your best swing.  As you prepare and play, allow yourself to let go of results.  Be completely accepting of what you brought to the course on that day and love yourself unconditionally.  Ohhh, this is a tough one, but to be truly in your happy place, you can do it!  If you have a bad swing or a bad shot, don't try harder, don't tighten up, don't focus more and don't become more determined.  Instead, breath deeply, find a calm thought and become friends with SFT* once again. 
Can you picture your favorite place and allow it to put you in the right frame of mind? 

How can you channel yourself into the right state of mind?  It is up to you to figure this out.  Some players keep their minds busy by chatting and engaging their playing partners.  Some are quiet and think of their favorite place or a significant other.  Freddy Couples used to remember his best shot with the club he was about to hit.  Fuzzy Zoeller whistled as he walked down the fairway.  Rosie Jones used to look at the greenness of the grass under her feet to stay in the present.  However you do it, find something that calms you, focuses you in the now and allows you to be open to your next opportunity.

Here is a great Golf Digest article from the best, Dr. Bob Rotella. 

It's that time of year!  April and May are why I absolutely love to coach.  I want to help my players use what we learned throughout the year to shine and be their best.  Can we See It, Feel It, Trust It?  YES!  Can we channel our best golfing self when we need it?  YES!  Can we rely on the touchstones of Love Each Other, Have a Learner's Mindset and Play With Freedom?  YES!

I love this commercial.  It says it all!

Finally, golf is golf.  It is a game to be played.  Whether it is the NCAA Championship or a dew sweeping round with your best friend, it is the same game.  To keep that in mind is the key to loving it and playing it with freedom.  As a coach, that is also what needs to stay in the forefront of my mind.  PLAY!  HAVE FUN!  LOVE THE GAME!


*SFT = See it, Feel it, Trust it.  From Dr. David Cook's writing in Golf's Sacred Journey:  Seven Days in Utopia.

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