So this last month, I have decided to take up Golf. A complete random decision and not a sport I have particularly followed – in fact I have to admit to finding it boring and never really understood how walking around beautiful courses in the most beautiful locations hitting a ball every now and again was ever deemed as ‘athletic’ or a true sport. Now, in my 4th week of playing – I take that all back!
In my desperation of needing a break from coaching without actually breaking from coaching, I decided I needed a new hobby, something I can squeeze into my week when and how I want and something that involves learning a completely new skill that my brain has no conditioning of. So, Golf became that thing, and I absolutely love it! I haven’t got as far as going on a Golf course yet (in fact I’ve been warned off that by my Golf instructor who advised me I could cause injury due to my horrifically inconsistent swing!) but I have been spending time at various driving ranges trying to perfect my skill (or lack of). I have probably been about 10 times now and it was in my last attempt that I had my eureka moment…let me explain…
As a person and a coach, I am guilty of worrying, of focussing on negatives and of looking too far forward into the future. It is a habit that stopped me progressing as an athlete as I never managed to master ‘the mental side’ of sport in my youth and it is something I am always conscious of not wanting to pas it on to my own athletes. So whilst I have perfected the skill of not showing on the outside my worry as a coach, I certainly haven’t mastered it on the inside.
I have read numerous books and articles on the importance of meditating, focussing on the present, forgetting the negatives and being ‘mindful’. You hear top athletes all the time telling you they won because they focussed on the moment and didn’t think too far into the future and I am constantly telling my athletes to do the same. This ‘mindfulness’ and ‘presence’ comes hand in hand nowadays with ‘success’ and a winning mentality and I really believe that coaches need to work on this as well as athletes.
However, I’ve never been very good at it! I can’t meditate because I fall asleep, I struggle to let go of negatives and am too worried about my athletes to be mindful…and then Golf came along.
The first thing my golf coach said to me was ‘you get distracted too easily during your swing’, meaning, I was focussing on other things rather than what I need to do when swinging. I have to only think of one particular instruction (in my case, finishing the swing) and always celebrate the good hits and don’t let the emotion of a negative hit consume you for the rest of the time you are there…and that is exactly what I need to do as a coach.
It’s still going to take me a lot of time to ‘master’, but now I have a tool to improve myself as a coach and as a person. During practice, I am forced to think only positive thoughts, be mindful of my thinking and as a reward, I hit a great shot. I go there either first thing in the morning when most are still asleep and the sun is still rising or if I have had a particularly tough day in the office, I go last thing as night and hit away any negativity from the day.
If you haven’t tried golf before, I can’t recommend it enough – even if you never get onto the golf course!
Bio: Coach W is a Track & Field and Weightlifting coach from Europe who has coached both male and female athletes from child to senior success. Her career spans over 20 years and has taken her all over the World working with a variety of athletes and teams. She wants to remain anonymous in order for her to express her opinions about the world of sport.