"Act Without Expectation"
A Golfer's Mantra
I hate the phrase. I hate the word – Choke. Nothing bothers me more than hearing an announcer mention choking in sports as he attempts to explain what is happening to a player or team that appeared to have the game, match or tournament in hand. As I watched the British Open this summer it was painful to see Adam Scott finish with 4 straight bogeys. He obviously didn’t handle the situation as best as he could. But it isn’t as simple as it appears. Being a golfer and having competed at a high level, I have had my fair share of letting the magnitude of the situation get to me. I’ve allowed myself to get out of the moment and allowed my emotions to dictate my performance. It is usually a snowball effect. When I think back to Adam Scott at Royal Lytham, if he had made the 4 footer on 16 I feel he would have won the tournament. He had just bogeyed 15 and now bogeyed 16.
For a golfer with a large lead when faced with small adversity if they can make a key 4 footer, hit a good chip or hit a ball on the green after a poor drive they feel as if “I am going to get this done, it is my destiny and my day.” When the short putt lips out, the second shot sails over the green into a tough spot, they start to unravel and feel out of control. It then affects their decision making. When Adam walked onto 18 tee, Ernie Els had just birdied to tie him. He made a tactical error in hitting a 3 wood. He either should have ripped a driver as he had been doing so well all week or hit an iron that couldn’t get to the bunkers. He hit into the only area he couldn’t hit it. He then played a great shot and gave him a chance for par but missed the putt.
Everyone will say he choked and unfortunately it will be hard to refute, but as I mentioned earlier it is a series of events that lead to it. If he could have made one par on those last 3 holes before 18, he pars 18 in my opinion and wins the championship. Choking is just a situation where our focus gets more on the outcome than the process. We realize where we are and what we are about to accomplish. If we could always the play the game with the process in mind and be a kid we would choke less. We must learn to program our minds to go back to that place where we went out and played for the love of the game. It is a difficult thing to do but the best lose themselves in the moment and just do what they can control. Next time you are playing for your Y league or on the course with your buddies and have a chance to win the match remember why you are there that day. It is what you enjoy doing. Have fun, be a kid and let it go.
Do you want a college athletic scholarship? Do you have a son, daughter, family member or friend who is interested in playing a sport in college? It can be a tricky process, but if you take a few necessary steps it will help immensely in choosing the best school for its academic prowess and athletic tradition. Here are a few questions you must ask yourself. What size school would I be most comfortable? What type of degree is important? Do I want to be in a big city or college town? Does the coach need to be a supportive father figure or a Vince Lombardi clone? Is team chemistry important? Do I know the type of players on the roster? Have I engaged them at all?
These questions are just a few to get your mind in the right place to make the most important decision in your life to this point. A number of companies have popped up recently helping athletes with this important decision. A good friend of mine started the firm Scholarship for Athletes a few years back. I recommend highly their help in choosing the best spot for you. Owner Ross Greenstein played tennis at the University of Florida and he has developed an excellent program for getting the athlete to ask the right questions and understand fully where he/she would be the happiest which in turn will make them the most successful. Former Golf Coach John Brooks of Red Numbers Golf has really developed a nice program for golfers that I highly recommend as well.
When I was the assistant golf coach at UF and would be recruiting student athletes rarely were they asking questions. If they did ask questions they usually weren’t the right ones. We also received hundreds of letters and resumes from players that wanted to play golf for UF and Buddy Alexander. Very rarely were the letters creative and unique to catch our eye. If you have a school dead set in your mind to attend and want to grab the coach’s attention, do you homework. Understand what type of player the coach likes and recruits. Does your ability match the other players on the team? What will you add to the team and why would the coach have to have you?
I urge all parents and family members to be as objective as possible when evaluating their child’s talent. I also urge you to encourage your child to play lots of sports in high school. The better athlete they are the more impressive they will be to their future coach. Always remind them it’s a game and to keep the proper perspective. Getting a great education is paramount to their long term success and happiness. Very few athletes go on to play their respective sport professionally. Instill in them to live their life as if they will achieve their goals but to prepare for any and all outcomes.
Enjoy the process, it is a fun ride. Please contact me if you would like an introduction to my good friend Ross at SFA or John at Red numbers Golf. they know their stuff and have helped hundreds of student athletes find their perfect spot. I’d love to hear comments of your experience with the process as a player and a parent.
Kettle bells, you may have seen them at the gym and wondered what are those things? You’ve probably noticed guys and girls doing silly looking moves. So you ask yourself what are they and would they help me? Wikipedia gives the following definition of a kettle bell. The kettlebell or girya (Russian: ги́ря) is a cast-iron weight (resembling a cannonball with a handle) used to perform ballistic exercises that combine cardiovascular, strength and flexibility training.
They are a phenomenal piece of equipment to add to your workout. They work the entire body and improve your power and strength while increasing your range of motion. Certified Titleist Performance Institute Professional Jason Glass demonstrates three great exercises with the kettle bells for golfers. Even though he describes the benefits for golfers all athletes will benefit from these movements. After watching these movements I couldn’t wait to do them. They look simple but if done properly will get your blood pumping and heart going! I then came across Tim Ferris’ book Four Hour Body. I highly recommend it to everyone. You will find some fabulous information in the book from diet, to fitness to sleep to being better in bed. He talks a lot about kettle bells and the value of doing the kettle bell swings. He has a case study on himself and a woman who lost 100 pounds that other than her slow carb diet she just engaged once a week in 75 kettle bells swings.
I have added the kettle bell swings to my work out twice a week and I can tell you I feel much more powerful in my hips and legs. My squat movement has improved as well and I haven’t even worked up to the 55 lb. kettle bell Mr. Ferris recommends for men.
Next time you are in the gym, grab that kettle bell and perform some segmental stabilizers, then work into the kettle bell swings. Mix in both arms and single arms, really focusing on keeping your arms loose and driving the kettle bell up with your hips. Focus on deep abdominal breathing as this is an intense workout that will really get your heart pumping. Remember before you attempt the swings to warm up your hips and glutes with 20-40 hip extensions. Please share your experiences with the kettle bells and other good exercises below. Thanks in advance!
Over the years we have read and heard more and more talk about meditation and how the eastern influences have moved west. I was introduced to yoga and meditation when I was the assistant golf coach at the University of Florida in 2004. It was the off season with the team and the head coach and I set up some group yoga sessions for them. One of the sessions, we had a guest come in and introduce a lot of us to meditation and the benefits gained by a daily practice.
I was instantly intrigued. It appeared to be a great thing to do in the morning and evening and it sure seemed as if it would improve my golf performance. Since that day I have regularly meditated. I have experimented with different types and read a lot of books on it. When I started my regular meditation in early 2005 it sparked my desire to get back on the golf course and play full time. I was rewarded with qualifying for the 2005 US Open at Pinehurst.
Our breath is vital to achieving a calm focus. When we get nervous during a competition we experience fight or flight like symptoms. Breathing properly down into your abdomen immediately starts to bring the body back to a calmer state. The longer we practice meditation and learn to just follow our breath and watch and observe our thoughts, we are able to do that in our athletic endeavors and perform in a more zone like state. The greatest athletes have said that when they are in the zone they aren’t thinking, they just react, they see the ball, hit the ball, make the basket, or make the catch. By learning to put yourself in a calmer state where your brain quiets with all of its thoughts you get closer to performing in the zone.
To gain the benefits from meditation start very simple. Sit for 5 to 10 minutes with your spine upright. You can either sit cross legged or in a chair. All you have to do is be aware of your breathing. Don’t control it, just be aware of it. Also, have your awareness be on your thoughts. Don’t judge the thoughts just let them float through your head. If you find yourself going with a train of thought take yourself back to your breathing and focus on that. The more you do it, the more you will have moments where you won’t have much mind chatter. It will feel calm and pleasant and you will be immersed in the moment. Great performance comes from when we are fully engaged in the present moment. Besides the improved athletic performance, meditation has an even greater array of health benefits.
Until next time, enjoy improving your meditation practice or starting one for the first time. Please share your experiences with me!
Professional Golfer, Golf Coach, Director of Golf for SFA, #UF, #Gator Grad, sports fan, musician, student of life & all things social. Married to an amazing woman with two incredible children.