Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Bottom Line

Tonight, I have the chance to speak to junior golfers and their parents at the Lone Star Girl's Invitational. Even though I didn't like my econ classes very much when I was in college, I guess I took something away from them.  We are going to talk about some economic principles in terms of golf, recruiting and education.  Those concepts are bottom line, market economy and zero-sum economy.

Golf is a bottom line sport.  It starts on the first tee.  If you have an 8 AM tee time and you're late, you will be penalized or disqualified.  If you have 15 clubs in your bag when you hit your first shot, you will be penalized.  Every time you swing the club, you count the shot.  At the end of the day, they put a number next to your name.  Golf without a score isn't really golf, is it?

I hear a lot of stories about golf.  They go like this:  The winds were high.  The greens were bumpy.  I didn't feel well.  She played well except for those two doubles.  She hit it well, but the putts didn't fall.  The girl I was playing with was slow.  My all-time favorite is I played great, but didn't putt well.  While all those things are probably true, the score is the bottom line.  If you didn't win the tournament, that means someone else handled the winds, putted well enough on the bumpy greens, didn't make doubles, did enough well in her game and most importantly, didn't equate good play with poor scoring.  The farther along you go in life, the more you will understand that if results matter, then the bottom line is important, not the story you tell about coming up short.

Thinking of the bottom line while playing the game doesn't work very well.  Instead, you have to focus on the process of playing the shots, not on the results of the shots.  This is an important lesson you can apply to so many things in your life.  You will almost always be responsible for results in some way, but getting caught up in them as you go along won't help you.  If any of you have a math test next week, remember not to worry about your grade while solving your algebra problems or your brain will quit working.  If you make a poor grade, it means you didn't work hard enough in preparation.  It isn't the teacher's fault if you didn't understand the questions.  The bottom line is, you're responsible for your grade in math, just as you're responsible for your golf score.

How hard you work and how well you prepare is usually the key to good results.  That seems pretty obvious if you are talking about your math test or your golf score, but not as obvious when you talk about the recruitment process.  The reason coaches call it a process is, we hope to use our time wisely and learn as much as possible about our recruits prior to offering them any opportunities.  Your work and preparation needs to be based on what you think is important, what your goals are and the relationships you build.  Even though a school might need only one or two players per year, the recruiting process isn't a zero-sum game. Zero-sum means someone has to lose for you to win.  Everyone can be successful if you do your preparation correctly.

One high school golfer I knew wanted to go to medical school.  She wasn't wealthy, so her goal was to find a full ride so she could start med school without loans.  She ended up at UMKC.  Yes, she was a Texan and she went north to play college golf.  She went to a school that was nowhere on her radar when she started the process.  The school she chose fit her criteria.  She wanted a school that had a strong science college, where she would play right away, where she could balance school and golf and where she would receive full aid.  With that list in mind, she went to work to find a school that fit the criteria. The reason that recruiting isn't a zero-sum process is, there will be a place for you.  Someone doesn't have to lose for you to win.  There may be limited spots at a few schools, but there are hundreds of schools that compete in golf.

Your other role in your recruiting process is to build relationships with coaches and future teammates.  Whether or not you choose school A or school B, you should walk away with strong relationships with both coaches.  That means you have the responsibility to communicate, to ask questions, to provide them with what you'll offer them, and to make or accept the tough call with the coach who doesn't sign you.

The process doesn't owe you anything, nor are there any guarantees.  You have to jump in and do a lot of work.  If you approach it with your bottom line in mind, you will have a chance to find your place.  However, you have to understand the final principle in recruiting, which is much the same as golf, it's competitive.

That brings us to the next economic concept. Recruiting is a market economy.  There is supply and demand, it's competitive and it is a free market.  You want to play at the best school or the most competitive school.  You want as much scholarship as you can get.  Coaches goals are to sign the best possible candidate for their team while spending the least money possible.  The budget is six full scholarships to build a team that wins.  Coaches carry their bottom line into the process just as you do.  Some use rankings to determine it.  Some only sign AJGA winners.  Some look for power, some for consistent scoring and some for potential.  Most won't sign players who don't measure up to their bottom lines.  Bottom lines can include grades and intangibles, such as attitude or character.

 When I address a group of young players, I'm not allowed to talk about our own school, nor do I want to, but I will tell you that my bottom line in recruiting is completely different than when I was a young coach.  Character might have been second or third on the list then, with winning and scoring number one and two.  Now, I choose players with character and trust that the goals of winning and scoring will be reached through the process of hard work and our shared belief.  It takes more risk and more patience, but both those are two traits I possess.  Since you're going through this process once, hopefully, you will have to figure out what traits will be important for you to embrace and think of whether or not the amount of scholarship, the competitiveness of the program, the coach, the teammates, the reputation of the school, the proximity to home or where your friends are is the most important thing to you.  Once you decide, accept it and go to work to find it.

Good luck tomorrow.  Remember, no one wants to hear your story, they just want to know the number you shoot.  If you play well, be humble.  If not, decide to play better by working harder.  Pay attention to your preparation, your attitude, your strategy and your focus.  Learn and adjust after every tournament round.

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