Thursday, September 26, 2013

Did You Give Up Today? 10 Questions to Ask

Here are some questions for young athletes to determine if you gave up today.  Most young athletes think giving up means to quit trying, but it isn't based on trying or effort, it is based on belief.  You are your own best or worst asset on the golf course.  If you don't believe in yourself, your preparation or your abilities, then you have given up.

The idea of today's blog is to show you the choices you face throughout your day.  All of us face these choices throughout our days in relationship to our goals and effort.  We can commit to what we want and pay the price or we can give in to what is easy.

If you are a golfer, here are some questions to ask yourself about the choices you are making.

1.  Did you warm-up for the round with the goal of getting loose and having a good day?
Did you go to the range or practice green and focus on bad shots, bad swings, poor tempo or pressure?

2.  Did you decide what you would focus on throughout your round, such as target or tempo and stick with it? 
Did you go to the first tee wondering what sort of day you would have and hoping it wasn't a bad one?

3.  Did you decide what you wanted to do with each and every shot and commit to that decision and execute it?
Did you try not to miss the shot, not to hit into trouble or not to make mistakes?

4.  Did you rely on your preparation and situations to choose your targets and create shots?
Did you over-analyze situations and try for perfection on your shots?

5.  Did you forgive yourself for mistakes and focus on your ability to bounce back?
Did you beat yourself up for your mistakes and create more problems?

6. Did you appreciate the golf course, your fellow competitors, the beauty of the golf course, the birds in the sky and your chance to play golf?
Did you walk along wishing you were somewhere else, that the day was over and that the people you were playing with would just shut up?

7.  Did you compete?  Did you do as well as you could with each chance you were given?
Did you fail to focus on each shot, because it didn't really matter?

8.  Did you have positive self-talk that got you pumped up and refocused?
Did you have negative self-talk that made you feel angry, sad and defeated?

9.  Did you choose the fun of the challenge and know you were up to it?
Did you think you were unlucky and getting bad bounces and feeling powerless? 

10.  Did you believe in yourself?
Did you give up on yourself?

When I'm out recruiting, these are the things I'm looking for in players.  It is tough to see from the outside, but body language, focus, routine, attitude, and bounce backs are good guides.  If you can answer each question with the first option, you are a fighter.  If not, you need to learn to be one.  That is the only option if you want to be a player!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Art of Misdirection

I love to watch Ted Talks.  You can find them on youtube or at  They are short, but usually thought provoking.  I watch random ones looking for new ways of looking at old problems. I found one today called The Art of Misdirection.  It is by Apollo Robbins, a world class pickpocket.  He shows the audience how he can easily control a person's attention and predict their behavior.  He explains that what you choose to attend to is what you are aware of.  His job as a pickpocket is to control your attention and he tells us that your attention is a limited resource.   Watch it!  It is both entertaining and enlightening.

Apollo Robbins plying his trade

If your attention is a limited resource, where would you choose to place it when you play golf.  On the first tee, what do you attend to?  Do you notice the tee markers and where they aim you?  Do you feel the wind's direction and strength?  Can you feel tension in your shoulders?  Is your breathing slow and deep or fast and shallow?  Can you clearly visualize the shot you want to hit?  Can you focus on the target?  Can you feel your pre-shot routine being rushed or slowing down?  Do you notice the people watching you?  Does your coach or dad or fellow-competitor make you nervous?  Are you remembering the shots you hit on the driving range during warm up or the shot you hit here yesterday?  Are you thinking about how tough that hole location will be unless you hit a perfect second shot?  Did you notice how the other players' balls flew in the wind?

Oh my!  There are so many things you could pay attention to in any given moment on the golf course.  Your job is to figure out how to use this limited resource in a way that helps you stay in the present, focus on the shot at hand and keep the faith that you possess the skill needed to perform.

Apollo's job is to distract a person's awareness and perception of what is happening and to use this distraction for his gain.  Golf's job is much the same.  The game works constantly to distract you from the moment and take you away from attending to what will truly help you create, learn and score.

Those three areas of the game, create, learn and score, need to be approached by attending to different things.  To create shots, you need to have an awareness of what the club is doing and how.  This is a big segment of today's teaching since Trackman and Flightscope have shown us how our impact creates shots.  To learn the game, you need to have an awareness of what your body is doing and how.  This has been a big focus in teaching since t.v. was invented and we were able to document what players did to hit the ball.  To score, you need to have an awareness of what the ball is doing versus the golf course.  This is how golf is learned by all players eventually, if the score matters.  You might laugh at the last part of that sentence, but there are players who would rather hit it long or swing the club perfectly than score well. 

All three areas are important and require you to pay attention to different things.  As coaches, we often see overlearning in one area, which leads to attention problems in other areas.  For example, players hit a bunch of balls thinking about what their right arm or left knee is doing to learn the proper movement, but continue to turn their attention to it on the golf course, when they would be better served being "outside" their bodies and aware of the golf course or conditions.  Most great tournament players focus on the ball, the course, the conditions, the club and themselves in that order.  If a tournament player flips the order of attention, she is in trouble of losing track of what is happening in the round.  As coaches, we are amazed at players not feeling the wind, playing break or seeing that a shot or putt is downhill, but the reality is, attention is a limited resource and where a player places it during a round of golf is completely under her control.  Our job then becomes to train players where to place attention to be most effective at playing the game.

Another way that a golfer can have her attention pickpocketed is by leaving the present and going to past memories or thinking about future events out of her control.  In the film, Apollo talks about asking a question that focuses his mark's thoughts inward, effectively taking away his perceptions of what is happening around him.  He says that you can access memory or you can be aware of the present, but you can't do both effectively.

Think of the questions you ask yourself during a round of golf and how quickly you can turn your attention inward.  Do you recognize any of these?  What's wrong with my swing?  What is my problem today?  How many times am I going to leave it short?  What am I going to shoot today?  When you ask yourself these questions, do you search for the answers inside?  Are you distracting yourself and losing your perception of the reality around you?

How about asking yourself different questions such as; Where is the landing area?  What is the wind doing?  What is my ball flight today?  Which way will the ball bounce?  How much break does this putt have?  Is this putt uphill or downhill?  Will this chip shot roll out or check?  Will my ball spin from this bunker lie?

It doesn't have to be all about the outside.  You can check in on your self-awareness as a player, too.  You can ask yourself questions that will help you attend to yourself as a player.  How is my tempo?  Am I tense?  Is my head up so I see the green before I get to it?  Am I focused on what will help me?  Can I relax a bit between shots?  Any and all of these questions are appropriate ways for you to check in on yourself as you play.  If you are in control of where you place your attention, it might be appropriate to check in once in awhile and make adjustments when needed.  Self-awareness is not the same as self-consciousness.  Awareness means you understand what you need to be successful, while consciousness means you can think of little else but yourself.

The point to all of this is, you need to be aware of your attention and where you are placing it.  You need to control situations differently depending on your needs.  You need to understand that attention is a finite quantity and if you have just a little bit to focus on, be careful how you use it.

Lack of attention can create a spiral that gets away from a player quickly.  For example, I often ask players during warm up from which direction the wind is blowing.  If I don't allow them to check before answering, they often can't answer.  Yet, I am witnessing them work to offset the fade that the wind is creating.  By not having awareness of conditions, they could disrupt their swing, their alignment or their club choices.  Warm up for a round of golf quickly becomes a worrisome session of "fixing" when in fact, paying attention was all that was needed. 

As a coach, my job is to teach you to pay attention to what you pay attention to.  Got it?  If you walk down the second hole paying attention to the putt you just missed on the first green, you are already in trouble after only 15 or 20 minutes of golf.  However, if you are walking down the second fairway, taking note of the breeze, the hills, how the green looks in front of you and your pace, you are paying attention to all the right stuff. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Mission, Goals and a lot of Heart!

SMU Women's Golf 2013-14

Our morning workout today was a brutal one.  We are 12 days from playing a tournament at 8000 feet on a hilly golf course, so I've asked our strength coach to get our legs and lungs ready.  The team ran gassers today and they really impressed me with their work ethic and heart.  They ran as hard on the 10th as they did on the first with burpees, squats, lunges, wall sits, sit ups, push ups, etc in between each gasser.  What I witnessed brings me to talk about an article I sent to them yesterday.  In the article, the author talked about a visible culture that was consistent and constant in a group.  Each person seemed to reflect the culture in all they did.  To me, that is the mark of a group that believes in what they are doing.  It is the definition of total buy in.  It is what I see in this team.

In a small group dynamic, such as a golf team, leadership comes from every member of the group.  While there may be more vocal leaders within the group, modeling is equally effective as a leadership tool.  We believe in the equality of each in the group and this year we designed our leadership and communication to reflect that belief.  We asked each person to give a touchstone that reflected an important value of the team.  Each week, anyone can award that touchstone to a teammate who demonstrated the value.  It can also be used as a teaching moment by awarding it to a teammate who needs to commit more attention to a value.  We spend time talking about our week as a team and we pass a talking rock to make sure that we all have a voice. 

Next, we set our team goals in much the same way.  Each player and each coach offered one goal that we wanted the team to reach.  It lead to one of the more powerful goal setting meetings I have seen in my coaching career.  The differences are due to the ownership each player felt during the meeting and the emotional tie to the goals that were presented.  I've been through many a meeting with fewer goals that were set without much attachment, but this was different.  Each player explained her team goal and why it was important.  Eleven goals are a lot for a team, but they are very diverse and each will accomplish a different aspect of success, including competition, cooperation and attitude.

Finally, the team set their mission.  This is the only thing I want to share in public, but my hope is that it is shared visibly in all we do.  It took a few minutes of discussion of what we wanted to stand for and how we could define what we did and how, but in the end, the team decided that one word would do it.  SMU Women's Golf Mission:  We are ONE!

Now that we know who we are, what we want and what is important to us, all that is left is the work of achieving all of it.  The work won't just be on our golf games, but also on our relationships, our values, our beliefs and our mission.  Together, we will achieve great things.  We are ONE!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Mustang Golf Practice

8:00 AM practice at DAC and the team is focused already.  We have two putting goals on today's practice schedule and it is our team's culture to begin each practice on the putting green.  Our goal is to be the best putting team in the nation and our priorities for practice reflect that goal.

We now have four competitive rounds in the books and we have some good statistics to study and use for planning practice and formulating game plans.  We have a week of practice prior to the next competitive round of qualifying.  The coach's focus for Tuesday is improving the team's bunker play, getting ready for Red Sky's large greens with some long chip practice and as always, making putts.  

Thursday, we are going to work on a skill that we have seen lacking, which is learning to hit less than full shots to the prescribed distance or hitting punch shots from trouble to a certain distance.  We played a wedge game last week that was 3-fold.  First, they were asked to lay up to a certain yardage and record how well they did with that task.  Second, they were asked to hit their preferred wedge shots into the green and finally, they were asked to get that shot up and down.  What we found out was, we weren't very good at the first skill, which greatly effected the second and third skills.  This is also what we often see in competition.  

Players practice their "go-to" shot from 80 yards, but when in trouble, they have a hard time punching out to 80 yards.  Their punches often travel 20 extra yards into the far rough or even into more trouble.  In addition to learning to punch the ball or control trajectory, Thursday's game will help them learn the little things that help you control your distance, such as gripping down on the club, taking a shorter swing or laying the face of the club open and playing a cut shot.  We will keep score and compete and it will be a fun way to learn a new skill.  The truly competitive players will read ahead and practice what they will do and further their learning.  The determined players will leave the course and go to the range to improve upon what they did during the 9 holes.  The mark of a great team is finding the challenges of each practice and working until they are mastered.

Tuesday Team Practice from 8-9:30 AM: 
(4) 20 minute segments:
1.  Bunker – Use 9 balls in the bunker.  Hit 3 to each flag on the green.  You must get 2/3 within your wedge’s length to finish the set. 
2.  On the green over the hill, hit chips from the bottom to two towels.  Hit 3 balls to each towel.  You must get at least one ball to settle onto the towel and one ball to be within a wedge length of the towel.  The 3rd ball must be within 2 wedge lengths.  If you get it done prior to 20 minutes, hit to downhill targets.
3.  Put 5 tees in the ground around the hole at 4 feet.  Use a hole with a lot of break.  Make 10 in a row.  Use your routine, putt one ball from each tee and then work your way back around.  No do overs from the same place.  Focus on speed and using the high side of the hole to help you.
4.  Do the Mustang Drill - Put 5 tees down around the hole at 10 feet for each tee.  Putt from each tee once.  Use your routine.  When you make a putt, move the tee back one putter length.  When you have moved a tee twice, pick it up when you make the 3rd putt.  Play with a teammate to make it more fun.
                                                9:30-11:00 Work on what you need or go play.


On the 1st hole, use 1 more club than you normally would from that distance.  On the 2nd hole, use 2 more clubs than you normally would from that distance.  On the 3rd hole, use 3 more clubs than you normally would from that distance.  On the 4th hole, use 1 more club than normal and follow that pattern.   Work on controlling your trajectory, tempo and swing length to take a little off the shot and control your distance.  After play, we will have a team goal to reach prior to leaving practice.

Friday, September 6, 2013


Let's talk about nerves.  You step to the first tee and everyone is watching you.  The fairway looks like a bowling alley and you can't get the ball on the tee without shaking.  What you have is a case of nerves. 

Nerves are normal to anyone asked to perform.  The first tee is a lot like the opening line for an actor or hitting that first note for a musician.  Once the beginning is underway, nerves will usually subside.  Why?  Because nerves are just energy, nothing more.  Think of your nerves as a big swarm of bees.  They are scary, they fly around and they make an annoying noise in your head.  As soon as you figure out that you are prepared for the beginning of your performance, you can take that energy and focus it into what you need to do or say or sing.  The bees are still there, but you have placed them inside the hive and the buzzing is faint and centered. 

Ali knew that bees represented focus.  He also how to couple it with the grace of a butterfly.  Can you play golf feeling as though you float between shots and sting your shots at the target?

The next time you feel those nerves, whether they are on the first tee or over a tough putt to win, imagine your belly button as the entrance to the hive.  Invite the buzz in, channel it into what you must do, focus on your preparation and place your energy where you want it.  Nervezzz are normal and as soon as you figure out that they represent extra energy at important times, you can focus them into action. 

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 ...