Our first qualifying round was tough. We played the short course and it was firm and fast. The small greens are hard to hold down wind and the ball seems to pick up speed as it rolls off the turtle back greens. As a coach, it was just what I wanted to see. I don't want to see my team fail necessarily, but I do want to see them work hard to figure out how to score in tough conditions. I've long used the example of pilot training as a comparison for playing golf in tough conditions. When you board your next flight, do you want pilots who were trained on blue sky days with perfect equipment and no challenges? They will be confident and calm as they fly. However, what happens when they get a bird strike, an equipment failure or horrible storms? Will the confidence they built on blue sky days matter? I'd prefer to fly with pilots who've spent countless hours sweating in the simulator figuring out how to safely get a plane on the ground with things going wrong. I want a pilot who's been shaken, white faced and shouting out commands and learned from that experience. Confidence doesn't come from ease; it comes from overcoming adversity and I doubt any pilot would necessarily call it confidence. They would just call it experience.
Watching our qualifying yesterday was enjoyable even though I saw many mistakes, because I also saw positive body language, consistent focus and the desire to do the best on each shot. I didn't see head hanging, anger, disgust, sadness, lethargy, rushing or give up. If the team continues to play with good attitudes in tough conditions, they will figure out how to score better. They will figure out how to work on the things that were missing, such as distance control in the wind, picking smart targets and using the ground on chips to firm surfaces. We made qualifying even tougher by doubling the scores on the first three holes. Our goal at practice isn't to build confidence. It is to build strong golfers.
Here is a list of what I hope my players learn from adversity:
1. Stay calm. Panic is the enemy. It effects you physically and mentally. Your breathing quickens and becomes less effective. Your heart races and your mind races. Your thoughts go to possibilities and outcomes instead of staying with the process. Instead, stay with your pre-shot routine. Breathe deeply. Take things one act at a time. Focus on a small thing that needs to be done well and do it.
2. Stick with the game plan. Don't become more aggressive and go for it. Don't become tentative and play it safe. Instead, stick with the plan of choosing the best target for each shot and committing to it.
3. Keep perspective. If it's tough for you, it's probably tough for everyone. Learning to save one shot here or there will often be the difference in tough conditions. Players who lose their perspective often lose a lot of shots because they lose their fight.
4. Win the attitude contest. Decide to have the body language of a champion. Find positive things to say to yourself. Lift your playing partners' spirits. Smile and find humor in a positive way.
5. When you leave the course, sit and think about how you could have done things differently to prepare, play or adjust better. The best in every sport prepare for adversity and are the quickest to adjust for what they face in competition.