In today’s episode, I want to talk about this human versus the athlete concept in golf mental game coaching. I think it’s such an important one, and we often forget that athletes are also humans, so from your perspective, have you got any stories or anything you want to share on this concept?
Yeah, this one is a very, very important episode for me personally. To share with listeners. I grew up in a very sports minded household, played four or five different sports before I ever played golf. So fast forward, I’m playing Division One college golf, and I was, to say the least, miserable on the golf course. I was a hothead, frustrated.
And there was this one round of golf that I had with one of my mentors who was a PGA member, and she was very influential in my life. And after the round of golf, we came off and she said, I’m never playing golf with you again. And it’s like, What do you mean? Am I a good player? I mean, I was like, she goes, I don’t care how good you are.
You are miserable. You make everybody around us not wanting to play golf, and we don’t enjoy it. You’re slamming clubs you’re saying, you know, and that was my aha moment of, you know, performances. You know, shooting a certain score is one thing, but how I behave is quite another thing. And I had to look into the mirror and say, wait a second, why was I behaving like this on a golf course?
Why wasn’t I able to deal with a missed putt? Or why was I getting fired up real quick and I would get down on myself and people couldn’t talk to me. And I was just miserable, OK? And so when we look about how that was created because I did create that, even it was subconscious came a lot from my identity as a person slash golfer.
Now, I put Slash there because at that time I did not have a differentiation between who I was as a golfer. And who I was as a person. And so as I got better and better at golf, more and more people knew me as a golfer. And their first question was, Hey, Rick, how did you play today? Not How are you doing or how’s life?
Or it was always, how are you playing? And then my definition of who I was was wrapped together with my golf. And if it was a good round, of course, I would have a smile on my face. And I want to tell everybody about how great it was.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t always the case. And now when it was poorer or when they could see my scores in that time, a magazine or a paper, they’re now looking at it like, hey, what happened there?
What happened? And it’s like, oh, now I have to tell people what happened. And Oh, my gosh, it didn’t happen. So do I make excuses, right? And so I was wrapped into the where my identity was literally just who I was as a golfer.
And if that didn’t go well, I did not have good coping mechanisms to deal with those down rounds or those poor shots or so on and so forth.
So what ended up happening is not only was my identity tied with my golf game, but my self-esteem, my confidence. And if I played poorly, it did affect me off of the golf course. It affected me as a student. It affected me as a friend, and I went to counseling, OK?
So I went to not necessarily be a sports psychologist, but I went to counseling to say to share that with because golf had become so important and the results had become so important, I forgot that who I was was more important than.
And then the score. And that’s really what helped me go down the road of mental game performance is identifying that, yes, I want to play good golf but I want to be a better person out there, too.
And the behaviors now are something that I like to coach more than sometimes the results. How do I want to be on a golf course?
Me as a human, I want to be composed, I want to be joyful, I want to be focused. Right. And so that wake up call helped me go down this different road, which I’m extremely proud that I’ve gone down because it was going down a dark, dark road for a long time. So back to, you know, the human versus golfer.
I was just a golfer. And when I could look outside and say, wait a second, I am more than just my golf game. I am more than just this score, that’s when I actually became a better person. But here’s the key. Everybody, I started playing better golf when I started to think about how I wanted to behave.
So that’s my story in that it was some dark times and I did get help for it and got to look at the perspective of golf versus life. I’m very fortunate and it sounds weird, but I’m very fortunate that I went through that when I did because I think I give a good perspective, too, to my clients now.
Who put a lot of pressure on themselves and they and I get that and then you want to win and stuff like that. Yet there’s the differentiation of who they are as a golfer and who they are as a person starts to unfortunately become one. And I think that can cause some health issues, mental.
Health and obviously what we connected on so closely was that, look, yes, we want to create better golfers, but ultimately we want to also create better human beings because we know if someone becomes a better version of themselves off the golf course, that will always benefit on the course as well. So it’s absolutely essential. Couple of things you mentioned there that are really interesting actually this kind of works both ways.
So your life off the course impacts your performance on it. But then also very often for a lot of people, your performance on the golf course also affects your life off of it. That’s really important to become conscious of. And something that you hear so often is that and this is a strange analogy maybe, but a lot of people say that money’s neither good nor bad.
It’s just that magnifier of who you really are. I kind of see golf similar to some extent. Golf’s neither good nor bad. It just magnifies what kind of state you’re in off the golf course.
In my opinion, if you are very stressed, if you are very anxious, if you are very kind of, let’s say, uptight individual, the chances are that when you get onto the golf course, because there is so much good luck, bad luck, so much up and down roller coaster kind of.
It is a roller coaster environment and it’s really life condensed into 5 hours. It just kind of magnifies some of those emotions even more sometimes.
Yeah. And yet I’m going to go on a little bit of a sidetrack here. A lot of people who knew me and still know me to this day say I can’t. I can’t imagine you being that hothead. I can’t imagine you doing that. And here’s the challenge I had, though, from an identity standpoint of a golfer and golf mental game coaching.
I believed I was supposed to be intense and serious and all these types of things. And I started to embody that on the golf course when I don’t believe that’s as much as who I am off the golf course. And so this mentor I was speaking about says, why aren’t you just who you are? Well, off the golf course.
On the golf course. And I didn’t think that that was going to create good golf. I didn’t know that having fun and being focused and being childlike and stuff that I do like to have fun with wood work because I thought everything was about seriousness, right?
So I know where you’re going with this because I believe on that side of the equation, too, is that I’ve had people who are a certain way they’re already stressed in life.
You take them on the golf course and they have a very short fuse and their trigger and it’s like, boom, there they are, right? I was reading a book years and years ago and they were talking about what’s inside you, right? Would come out in a stressful situation. So it seems like a silly thing to say, but if you squeeze an orange what do you get?
You get orange juice, right? So if I squeeze somebody on the golf course, I stress them, right? What’s going to come out? Well, if they are already stressed on the outside of golf and they’re bringing that to the course and stuff like that, there might be somebody who is stressed, somebody who’s frustrated, somebody who’s angry and such like that.
So I think it can go both ways. But I do agree with you that of course who you are and you bring it to the golf course, it can get stressed and triggered quite quickly.
And then the other side as well, taking what’s happened on the golf course into your life. One question that I speak to a lot of my clients about where I ask them is, who are you without golf? And it’s actually a question that gets a lot of hesitation to begin with.
There’s really kind of a lot of uncertainty on, wow, I’ve never really asked myself that question because I just see myself as a golfer.
And it’s something definitely with a lot of my clients. Again, I’ve had some quite deep conversations discussing, well, in terms of the relationship you have with your loved ones, your parents, your friends, your family, how much of that stems from your golf performance?
How much of that conversation that you have with them is all about how did you play it, golf today, how was golf, how was practice, how was training, how was this all around golf?
So all of a sudden, especially those that are aspiring to professionals, they feel as though everything is about their golf game. They play golf, they come off the golf course and everyone’s asking them all the conversations they have around golf.
And equally are all of their perceived love and pride that they get from maybe their parents or their siblings or their friends is around golf and their golf performance.
And that can be a really difficult challenge for people to overcome. One of my clients, actually, our member, is a fantastic story, but I was speaking to one of the parents and he said, actually, but they have never no matter if they win the tournament or lose the tournament, they have a role that the entire family doesn’t speak golf at the dinner table.
And I absolutely love that role. And it’s something that not everyone needs to implement. But I would definitely recommend a lot of aspiring professionals to just consider implementing it into your family dynamic if it’s possible, because that can be so powerful you’re forced to have conversations around things that aren’t just golf.
So all of a sudden you start to believe that that relationship is built upon more than just your performance on the golf course.
And I think that’s a lot of what we’re talking about.
Yeah, I want everybody to rewind that because when we get off the golf course, we’re highly emotional about whether we shot really low or shot really high. And now how are you going to communicate? How are you going to interact with other people at that point if you’re not a golfer anymore, right? You’re now a human, right?
You’re a human being. You’re either a spouse or a friend. And you have it. That’s very tricky, right? Because you’re reactionary to what the results were because that’s who you are as a golfer. And you want to either tell people or defend what you just did. And I think having a cooling off period is very important. Yet I talk about roles in life.
What role are you in? And I think if you if you finished your round of golf and you get in your car and you’re driving back to your family, you better in that next 22 hour, however long that commute is shift yourself back into I’m a family person I’m a and what role is that is different than I just came off the golf course and it was miserable.
And I can’t wait to tell my my wife that oh I got a bad bounce here it’s like whoa I don’t think they really care yet you know we’re already wired that way so I like to transition roles and I think you have to be clear on
what your roles are. And I think that’s what you’re mentioning. Also is that you’re a friend, you’re a spouse, you’re a brother, your sister, you’re your fill in the blank and embrace that. And sometimes it’s not all about golf, right? And have other interests that I think are important.
And I think that works from both sides and that works from the player perspective. Like you said, driving home from this event, they’ve not played great. Do they take that experience into the house or to wherever they’re going next?
That I think is important. I’m sure we also have a lot of parents listening, Rick. I know you work with a lot of juniors and obviously one of the most spectacular junior development coaches in the world, obviously with the journey you’ve been on with Colin.
But I know how much of an impact parents have on the identity and essentially also the love and the love that this junior feels. And I think that’s so vital not for the player to take ownership of what role they have, but also I guess for the parents.
So could you share a bit about that and your experience and how maybe any parents that are listening can ensure that they provide the best support possible to create an identity inside their child, that they’re not just a golfer, they are also this human being and that they can get love and appreciation and pride from their parents in other ways other than their performance on the golf
Yes, this is near and dear to me for many reasons because I’ve seen some top juniors get burned out. I’ve seen them quit golf, I’ve seen them perform poorly because of the interaction with their parents and you and I are about what we’ve always said, play better golf, but enjoy it. Be a better person, use golf as a vehicle.
It’s one of many things that you’re going to do in life. Do it well, but do it with joy and so on and so forth. So I made some rules up a little bit with my parents, and I said, I have three children. So I’ve been through this maybe not with golf as much, but other things. And my role is as a parent, I believe I have a role that how my children behave is more important than what they achieve.
OK? And so if somebody who has a parent who has a 12 year old and all they care about is did they win that tournament or not, to me, that’s problematic. Because if little Johnny wins, but his etiquette is poor, he treats rules officials poorly and rudely and stuff like that to me, that’s the human side that is not being developed because all that they care about is the end result.
OK? And so I want to make sure that on the juniors and I said, hey, little Johnny, as your coach here, I’m letting you know that your parents have every right to tell you if your behavior is not where it needs to be, but they should not get on you. If you three putted the last hole OK, so those are the things that I try to to get into is that how do I want little Johnny to be?
Could be I want him to be respectful and composed and, and focused. And those are these different skills that you and I both coach yet if we just define him as did you win or not? OK, here’s the big medal around. You will put that on Instagram and oh, we’re so proud of you because you won. We have to be careful with that.
But if we can say we’re so proud of you for being so resilient on the last few holes when you got some bad bounces and this like that, to me, that’s going to now create a better human. And I think that that’s where it gets a little tricky because parents are so wrapped into it. I get it.
Yet we do have to see what’s best for the child.
Love that noise is praising human behaviors rather than necessarily the athletic achievements. That’s the difference. I love how you discuss that, how you share that. I think it’s so powerful for any parents that are listening. Also, I guess we spoke a lot about golf and actually people making sure that their entire identity isn’t tied into golf.
But we have a lot of listeners that are also maybe in the corporate world or actually trying to sell businesses potentially. And I think it’s exactly the same thing.
You can substitute golf for, say, entrepreneurship or for a business career that leads you to move through the corporate world as well, because definitely from my perspective, it’s something that I’ve had to learn to do very, very deeply and very try and do it successfully anyway.
And it can become difficult. It actually also might mean I’m getting too tied into identifying as a specific company that I’m trying to build or grow or as a specific project.
For example, I remember one of my mentors actually sharing this with me, and it really helped me distinguish between identifying as that project, identifying as that business, and then actually appreciating that it’s about growth and what he wants to achieve.
So I used to visualize specific projects as the entire path from where I am now to where I want to get to, to my destination. Actually, the really clear distinction was that the project isn’t the path, the project is the vehicle that sits on the path. So that project might take me from here to halfway and the vehicle might break down.
And that just means that I’m halfway to where Halam wants to be. Halam has bigger goals, bigger visions, and I then have to pick up another vehicle that takes me slightly further along the path that may break down, and I may then need to find another vehicle.
And I continue on this path towards what I want to achieve as a human rather than what I want to achieve as a business person or as a coach or anything like that.
And that was really, really valuable for me to make that clear distinction because it helped me understand that Hello, Morgan is a human, has goals and things he wants to achieve, and that could be certain behaviors that can be that I want to experience certain emotions more frequently.
And then I have to ask myself the question of is this current vehicle taking me closer towards those things?
And I actually have spoken to some of my clients about golf, actually perceiving golf. Also, even if you’re trying to reach the top level, you have to remember that golf is the vehicle. Golf isn’t the entire path. And it may be for some people that golf is an eBay or an end or it’s not the future, it’s not what they actually need to do for the rest of their life.
It’s not what they’re going to do for the long term future. It’s just a vehicle that’s getting them closer towards where they want to be. But it may not take them the whole way. And that’s again, I’ve worked with clients where we’ve actually decided and the players decide themselves. So you know what? I’m not going to continue with this journey of trying to become an aspiring total professional.
And that might sound strange from a coach saying and actually guiding someone down that route, but it’s very much where we discuss, look, you’re bigger than golf, you’re a human being. What do you want to achieve?
What kind of future do you want to create as a human? And is golf moving you closer towards that? Because if the answer is no, there’s definitely some conversations to be had.
Yeah, and you and I have certainly talked about goals and values and identity in the past. And I think you bring up a very good point: we all love golf and people listening here obviously love golf. And you’re right. Is it a vehicle to achieve things?
Certainly it is, but it’s a vehicle for me to learn to be maybe a better person or patient or you know, we know that we’re, of course, biased, but golf is the ultimate and that’s teaching us, right?
We can teach patience, we can teach resilience, we can do the little white ball that doesn’t know who you are and where you’ve come from, but we can with our own behaviors, be able to push ourselves and learn and and such. And you’re right, if it’s not if it doesn’t resonate with you the same way, then fine. OK, not not forcing it.
Right. So back to back to college days, I was forced to be a certain way because I thought that’s what golf was.
And I thought instead of saying, wait a second, I can use golf as a vehicle to be joyful, I can be creative, I can teach myself about composure and dealing with stressful situations and not being happy with not meeting my expectations.
And now golf is the one of the biggest ways that I can learn to be a better human.
Love it, as you say, golf. Maybe it’s not the only vehicle, but it’s kind of like comparing a Bugatti. Byron would be golfing. There may be if we talk about some other sports that we don’t, they’re kind of more like your Ford Fiesta or something like that. Maybe they’re both vehicles, but we believe that.
We’re going to get some, we’re going to get some bad comments or something.
Get it but something that’s really, really interesting there. And I actually had this week you shared that with me the other day. Dr. Otis Bender’s interview with At My Left, again, recommends not pushing people away from all podcasts, but I recommend people go and listen to that, too.
And he said about actually setting goals based around the emotions you want to experience rather than always the material things you want to accumulate.
And I think that’s kind of what we’re talking about here to help create that distinction between the human and the athlete. Yes, set those goals off. I want to lift that trophy. I want to get to world number one. I want to do X, Y, Z, but also don’t forget about setting the goals around yourself as a human.
The behavior is that you want to instill, the emotions you want to experience and all those kinds of things. And that helps you get that really good balance of human versus athlete.
Yeah. Can agree to love it more.
Great episode again, Rick. I think this one’s such an important one. I’m sure we could go a lot deeper on this.
We may do a future episode where we talk even more in detail, but really, really important one for everyone, especially those, in my opinion, those that are aspiring to be total professionals and create golf as a career because it can be a real danger to create your entire self esteem around your performance on the golf course.
So yeah, I really love that one and look forward to the next one.