We are often a misguided society these days. We greatly want our children to be confident and successful, so we hand them awards, accolades and recognition for the smallest of effort. Yet, true greatness takes great effort. There is a lot of failure in greatness. There is also loneliness, silence, sweat, resolve, disgust, frustration, calluses, soreness, sun burns, bug bites, shanks, tops, hooks, lip outs, beat downs, worst-day-evers and tears. Greatness, the kind achieved by Annika Sorenstam, Lorena Ochoa or Jack Nicklaus, didn't happen because those players were the most confident. It happened because they had the sort of drive and desire that could handle that long list of things they dealt with on the way to greatness. Their parents probably supported them by telling them tomorrow is another day and here's a band aid. Really, that's about all that's needed when kids get down. Add an ice cream cone and the mood change is complete.
Parents often ask me questions with the idea that there is a right way or a wrong way to capture success. The worry that their kids are in the wrong tournaments or not high enough in the rankings. They worry about what other parents are saying and doing. They look at the recruiting process as an end-sum game that they might lose out on. They're in a hurry, they're worried, they're pushing their kids and they don't know why. They do know they want their child to be ranked high, because that leads to college scholarships. They know they want their child to get a full scholarship to that school, because that's where the best players go. They know that success is measured, because we've all been told that a million times and they're working so hard to figure out what measurement is the most important.
Here's the deal folks, golf is a great game that takes a lifetime to master. Everyone goes along at their own pace and finally wins when they've figured out that what they have is enough if they trust it for 72 holes. Sure, I know that makes it sound super simple, but honestly, the road to greatness and winning is this: add skills, keep score, figure out what isn't good enough, add skills, keep score, figure out what isn't good enough, add skills, keep score, figure out what isn't good enough, etc. Kids who start adding skills at an early age have some advantages and might figure out how to win at an early age. They might have one skill that is superior to all the other kids their age and they capitalize on that power or putting to win. As they move up the food chain, they quickly figure out everyone at the next level has that skill, so now they need to find other strengths and shore up some weaknesses if they want to win at this level. It isn't about confidence, it's about skills. The confidence comes from the knowledge that they can learn, they can improve, they can compete. Those are the keys to walking down the road to greatness.
So, if you're a parent and you want your child to be great, quit worrying about the awards, the accolades and the recognitions he/she is getting or isn't getting. Instead, figure out who can help your child add skills to his/her game to help him/her win in her age group. When that happens, push them up and let them fail. Point out what the other kids are doing better than them. Help them have the confidence that they can learn new things. They can improve their skills. They will learn to compete at the next level. That is what confidence is for and what will propel your child to success. Learning is painful. You look foolish when you try new things. You get blisters when you change your grip. It will take a lot of bad shots before the good ones happen. This is when your child needs confidence.
How do you help with this confidence? You tell them that tomorrow is another day and you hand them a band aid. You might even swing by for an ice cream cone before dinner on the way home. You support the effort and don't belittle the results. You praise the steps made and you never compare them to the players ahead or behind them. You urge them to work harder even with a blister. You notice how resilient they are and you mention how proud of it you are. This is how you grow confidence. Not with trophies, but with support. Not with recognition, but perspective. Not with admonishment for poor scores, but praise for great attitudes. Confidence comes from noticing and rewarding character, hard work, helping others and sportsmanship. Confidence is not built from results only. Everyone who works hard toward a dream will find their confidence at their own time and it won't be because of results, but because of the time that went into making the results happen.