Sunday, January 25, 2015

What's Your Story?

We all live in our own world of stories.  If you are a recruit, what's your story?  How do you tell your story?  Do you know how it's going to end?  Will it be an ongoing saga?

If you've had high school composition, you already know that stories require a protagonist (you!), other characters (parents, pro, teammates, competitors, rules officials, friends, etc.), action (golf and life), etc.  Here is a great outline of it from the Michigan State website.  You can check out the entire article here.

INDUCING REALITY The Holy Grail of Storytelling

 by Ken "frobber" Ramsley

 (My interpretation is in blue to relate it to recruiting.)

1. A central premise.

 You want to be a great player!  You want to play college golf and perhaps on tour, too.  You want to win!

2. Strong three-dimensional characters who change over time.

 You, your parents, your pro, your teammates, your friends, your competitors, your coach, etc.

3. A confined space -- often referred to as a crucible.

 Let's say the golf course in any given tournament.

4. A protagonist who is on some sort of quest.


5. An antagonist of some sort bent on stopping the hero.

 Your choice - perhaps a rival, an official timing you, the weather, the course designer, etc.

6. An arch in everything -- everything is getting better or worse.

 Which direction are you going?  This can change daily in golf.
7. And perhaps most important -- Conflict.
 This might be the most important part of your golf story, too.  How do you handle conflict?  How do you handle challenges?  How do you write your story during or after a tough day?  Do you check out?  Do you make excuses?  Do you learn and grow?  Do you blame outside factors or the antagonist?  Do you accept or deflect responsibility?  Were you grateful for the opportunity?

As coaches, we are interested in your story and how you're writing it.  Two years ago, I found perhaps the best place possible to figure out the story recruits have and how they are telling it.  It is by working at College Golf Camps.  It is an opportunity to talk with players and get a feel for the story telling going on by the kid.  This is tough to do through email, social media or even skype.  Often, those communications are directed by parents or happen in safe places where it's easy to be on your best behavior. 

Competitions aren't safe and are great places for us to watch players and learn, but then it is all our interpretation of what we are seeing.  We have to figure out what body language means and we fall into our personal preferences, which might discount a player's intentions.  I've learned over the years that when I watch my own players, who I know well and make assumptions about what I see, I'm right only about half the time.  If I don't know recruits, how in the world can I truly evaluate their actions?

One thing I have gotten skilled at over the years is asking questions about actions or behavior and listening to the answers with a critical mind.  That doesn't mean I'm critical of the player, but critical of the information I'm getting.  Does it match the attitude I'm seeing?  Is it truthful?  Is it surface stuff or deep and reasoned?  My players don't always like my questions, but if they trust me and open up, they can use me to grow as a player and a competitor and learn about themselves and the craft of competitive golf.  In the end, it's all on them to think things through, be honest, commit to the attitudes that will help them and tell a story of success.  I'm simply a person who helps them write a few chapters.

Homer is pondering the question.

At College Golf Camps, I can do the same thing with players.  I can ask questions and get a feel for their stories.  My questions follow the same line above.  Who is the protagonist?  In junior golf, it is often the parent, not the player.  That is important to learn if you're a coach.  What is the quest?  If the quest is a scholarship, the player might check out as soon as the NLI is signed.  Which way is the arch heading?  Is the player improving steadily?  Is the player's love of the game increasing steadily?  Finally, how does the player handle conflict?  Does the player seek it out and sign up for tournaments on tough courses and play in bad weather?  Can she fight through the flu on a tournament day?  Does a bad round signal the end of the world?  Does a bad shot cause drama or resolve?

I love kids with a big engine to succeed.  A big engine means a lot of heart, resilience and a focus on the future.  In our world of recruiting players at young ages, that is more telling than their ability as a sophomore in high school.  Of course, that engine also needs a strong work ethic and athleticism to translate to the highest level of D1 golf.  Finding those kids is rare, which is a good thing since we only sign one or two kids a year to play at our school.  We keep our team at SMU small, which keeps our team tight and focused.  Our culture is one of unity and our goals are present throughout the lineup, not just the top few players.  I have a team full of players with big engines and I love them.  My goal in recruiting is to continue to find that in the future.

If you're a recruit and you're paying attention, here is your next action.  Decide what your story is and how you want to tell it.  Then look for schools that fit your story and coaches that will help you write it.  There are a lot of them out there and college golf is full of very caring, skilled and talented coaches.  Better yet if you can find a team with teammates who will provide you with conflict on the course and support off of it.  Get used to telling your story.  Offer it to people to get them into it.  Watch yourself when it goes astray and becomes one of blame, excuses or disinterest.  Finally, own it!  This is your story, not your pro's, not your parents' and not your coach's.

We are currently recruiting a player whose scores wouldn't get our attention, but guess what, her story did!  It's one filled with athletic achievements, chosen conflicts competing against boys, a late start to golf, a love of the game, etc.  She is the one telling it, not her Mom or Dad.  Last November, we signed two players telling great stories.  They both talk of love of the game, hard work, big dreams and close teammates in their stories.  One is already highly ranked, but the other wasn't.  She got a late start to golf.  However, she has a big engine and is writing her own story daily.  She has gone up 450 spots in the rankings since her commitment to us, but that number isn't as important to us as is her story.

I love a good story!

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