Saturday, February 28, 2015

A Steady Diet

Last week, we brought in an expert on nutrition to talk with the team about how to stay energized and hydrated while running through their busy days or playing 36 holes.  We traveled to an event and we got better with each round we played and I'd like to think that Brittney Oliver's talk helped us compete at a higher level.  We fueled ourselves with nutritious food.  We hydrated at a level that allowed us to have stamina.  We paid attention to what we put into our bodies and it allowed us to perform to our talent level.

I just got off the phone with one of the young professionals I work with and what she said really got me thinking.  She was talking about both the future and the past.  We went through some goals and some recent results.  Then, she said something that really hit home.  She said, "The difference in my belief in myself took time.  It took a steady diet of thinking and doing the right things."

She equated the thoughts she had, the goals she made, the actions she took and the belief system she chose as nutrition for her head and heart.  She made a decision almost 24 months ago to fuel herself with nutritious beliefs that allowed her to perform to her talent level.  She hydrates with constant reminders to work, believe and think in ways that lead to success and that has given her stamina.  How you fuel your mind and heart is equally as important as how you fuel your body.

There is a very fine edge between good and great at the highest level.  If you look at every level of competitive golf, you will see a multitude of talented players who are good.  What is it that transforms a person from good to great?  Perhaps it is the fuel that a player gives to her mind and her heart.  This was the subject of our team talk after our 36 holes played at Santa Ana Country Club.

We have a great team, but I'm not certain that they always know they have greatness.  At the end of our long day, my message to them was how enjoyable it was to watch them play and how wonderful their games are.  However, if they spend time on the course beating themselves up for mistakes or worried if they are up to the task at hand, they will only be good, never great.  The fuel they need on the course isn't just nutrition, but also mental swagger.  Here is the definition of swagger from Urban Dictionary (one of my favorite sources)

How one presents him or her self to the world. Swagger is shown from how the person handles a situation. It can also be shown in the person's walk.
Mental swagger is how you present yourself to yourself, not the world.  That is my definition.  Can you handle any situation you face with the knowledge that you are up to the challenge?  Greatness on the golf course, whether it is an individual or a team, can be seen in the walk.  Mental swagger allows for purposefulness, confidence, competitiveness and resilience.  It isn't fake, boastful or cocky.  Instead, it is determined and self-assured.  It doesn't mean that you will be successful in all you do or overcome all challenges, but it does mean that you will give all your effort to be successful.  It means you won't give up on a challenge simply because you are overmatched or have personal obstacles in your way.  Mental swagger comes about after a steady diet of feeding your mind and heart the right messages.  It means you are in the moment and in the fight.
This was what I asked of the team for the final round.  Believe in yourself more than anyone else.  Believe in your teammates and the strength you have together.  Know that you won't always be successful, but that you are up to whatever you face.  It isn't about success or failure on the course, but simply competing on each shot.  Find a way to tap into your greatness on the course and believe in it at all times. 
It's time for you to fuel yourself for success.  How can you begin a nutrition program for your mind and heart?  Here are seven steps:
1.  Believe in your dreams.  Dreams and education are two things that are wholly yours.  No one can steal them from you once you commit to them.  No matter how far-fetched they seem, they are yours and yours alone to reach.  Work on reaching them every day. 
2.  Set small goals and look at them often.  Decide to hang your hat on being the best at some skill or process.  For example, if you're a good ball striker, have the goal of being the best at hitting greens on the team, then in the conference, then in college golf.  Figure out your strength and use it in a way that gives you a boost.  
3.  Set small goals and look at them often.  Yes, I know I said that already, but let's also look at it from a weaknesses standpoint.  Figure out a weakness that holds you back and figure out a way to get a little bit better at it every day or week.  For example, let's say you often make two or three bogies in a row.  Figure out why and be honest with yourself.  Decide the action you will take the next time you make a bogey.  Keep track of your ability to make this action or of your bounce backs during the next round of golf.  The why of stringing bogies might be that you are working to make up for a mistake and start thinking of your swing instead of your target.  Perhaps, you work to make up for the shot lost and get too aggressive.  Whatever it is you do, decide what to do instead and script your action.  A small goal might be 100% bounce backs today.
4.  Feed yourself good thoughts.  All of us have minds that wander to the past and future.  The past usually begins with "what happened..." and the future with "what if..."  You aren't unique if your mind goes there.  You need a plan with what you will do with your thoughts when that happens.  A simple mantra, such as tempo and target might get you back on track.  I've seen players who have a physical trigger to get them in the present, such as hat tug or club tap.  The message is trained that a club tap means be in the present.  Rely on that mental swagger to tell yourself you are up to the challenge.  Remember why you play golf and know that you are where you want to be.  Review your preparation and understand you have what it takes to perform.  Be your own best coach!
5.  After a round, you are allowed an honest appraisal of your performance, but during the round, don't go near self-judgment.  Competition requires complete focus and as soon as you slip into analysis, appraisal or judgment, you are giving up focus.  If you spend time on the course analyzing your swing or your ability, it is a lot like eating sugar.  It will make you feel good for a little while, because you will feel like you are doing something important.  However, you will soon crash and be without energy, because you've lost the ability to be in the present.  Your attitude is fueled by where you place your attention when you're competing, just as your body is fueled by what you put into it.

6.  Script your actions.  Prepare your mind and heart just as you do your swing and short game.  Know your own truths and hold them dear.  Here are some of the truths players I've coached have held that have helped them: 
"I hit shots out there when I play my best.  I must remember to hit shots." 
"I'm going to keep it simple.  One fairway and then one green and then one putt at a time." 
"I'm going to do the best I can from where ever I am." 
"Roll the rock, baby." 
"Fairways and greens today."
"I'm going to commit to the shot with all I have on every shot." 
"I don't need to be perfect to play great."
"What I have is enough." 
The thing about these truths is, I remember the ones that my best players had, because they repeated them to me often.  They believed in their truth and held it dear.  They fed it to themselves as they played and leaned on it under pressure.  They all understood that their truth was more important than the careless self-talk that comes out under pressure.  Their personal truth was food for their souls.
7.  The final and perhaps most important fuel for your success is to rely upon your own opinion of yourself and not what others think.  What you think of yourself is within your control.  What others think of you is outside of your control.  Spending your precious energy trying to change minds, worrying about opinions or proving yourself to others is a worthless pursuit.
Start today to feed yourself a steady diet of what you need for greatness.  Instead of whole grain, give yourself acceptance of what you've done.  Your vegetables might be a lot like your practice and preparation.  They make you healthy.  Fruits are tasty in the same way as trust is under pressure.  Nothing better!  I'm sure you get the point.  Feed your body, your heart and your mind in a way that gives you stamina and energy.  Remember, there is a fine line between good and great and creating mental swagger might be all you need to push yourself over that line. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Who are you Competing Against?

As a coach, I want my team competing against the golf course 100% of the time.  That means that a player is constantly asking herself, "What is the best I can do from here?"  This question works whether you are on the first tee, in trouble or facing a 10 footer for birdie.  The question allows a player to form a plan for the shot.  It allows for simplicity.  It allows you to manage your game and the course.  It allows for the focus to be on the ball and target.   All of these things are crucial to competing during a round of golf. 

A lot of players think they are competing when they play, but are they?   When a poor result occurs, their thoughts often go to, "How did I get here?" instead of "What is the best I can do from here?"  As soon as the thought process dives into the past, a player goes from competing to searching.  That search will take the player to answers that include poor mechanics, poor choices, poor attitudes or simply poor bounces.  Any of these might be valid answers to the question of, "How did I get here?" However, will they help you compete and make the best score possible on the hole? 

Another trick of competition is a player who is competing against her perfect-self instead of using what she brought to the course that day to compete for a score.  This player is thinking of the words "should", "could", and "would" instead of the reality of the day.  This player is also in a searching mode instead of a competing mode, but she is searching for the game she wants. The time to search for that game is when you are planning and executing your practice, not when you are competing for a score.  These players are often inconsistent, because when things are going well, the perfect self is present and accounted for.  However, when she disappears, the idea of "What is the best I can do from here?" turns to "How do I hit this shot?"  The focus turns from ball and target awareness to self-awareness and the competition turns inward.

The final trick of competition I see is when players decide to compete against another player's skills.  They get caught up in the fact that the girl they are paired with hits it long or makes everything.  Now, instead of thinking, "What is the best I can do from here?", they start thinking how much easier it would be if they were 50 yards in front of the ball or if 20 footers fell easily.  This is a world of make-believe that takes a player from her own game and puts her focus on others.  It is another way of failing to compete with the golf course. 


The next time you go out to play golf, just ask yourself this question prior to each shot:  "What is the best I can do from here?"  See if this one question helps you to compete for all 18 holes of your round.  I know it has helped others do just that. 


Where do you place your awareness?  This is a gigantic question, because there are so many things, thoughts, people and conditions to be awa...