A competitor thrives on competition, and the more the pressure the higher the enjoyment and excitement becomes. Do you feel challenged and excited by competition, or do you view it as a potential threat, the possibility for embarrassment?
As a young Junior in my home club heavy gambling (relative to one’s paltry pocket money income) was a frequent occurrence, as it was not viewed as gambling in the true sense of the word as it was seen as ‘backing your ability’. Often Ping putters would exchange hands and the unknowing Junior Organiser was often bemused at how ‘competitive’ supposed ‘friendly’ rounds became!
To have the best career you can have, whether you love competing now or not, you will have to move to a position where you thrive on competition and not shrink from it.
Competing is an attitude, a state of mind, a philosophy. Is this something intrinsic inside someone, something they are born with? Or is it something that is developed early in childhood, or can it be developed later in life?
Competitiveness is a character skill and like all character skills can be learnt, shaped and developed through time. Many tough competitors of both yesteryear and the present time were shaped through their humble beginnings. Players like Lee Trevino, Seve Ballesteros and Angel Cabrera came up through the highly charged competitive existence of winning through from the poor background of the caddy ranks. But other players such as Jack Nicklaus, Ernie Els and modern day ex US College players like Paul Casey, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods all had more privileged upbringings, but all are fierce competitors.
Players who view competing as a potential threat are often laden with high and strict expectations, and almost always have entwined their self-esteem to their performance to some degree. Start to separate the performance from the person, and the fear will dissipate, and the excitement will increase. A question I often ask students with these issues are – what feelings/sensations did you experience the very first time you played golf? Common answers are;
Fun – Excited - Challenging - Shouting to friend/parent to look when hit a good shot - Don’t care about mistakes – laughing at them
Aren’t these attributes of the perfect golf mindset? Isn’t it great to know at one time in your golfing career you had the perfect mental game. The problem is that ambitions have turned into expectations, and then these expectations have created mental obstacles for you. The solution – play with the mindset you had when you first started.
It’s worth to mention here the situation when players make the decision to pursue a career within golf. This is often a time when many players suffer a slump in their performance. Players make the decision to become ‘serious’ about their golf, and then subtly instead of playing the game for ‘fun’, they are now playing for their ‘career’. They internalise statements such as;
“Now I’m full time amateur/Pro I must play well otherwise I won’t have a career”
“I need to qualify/make the cut as I have put a lot of practise in and don’t want to fail”
“People are investing in me and my golf so I have to play well”
The effect this has is to:
The key with the great players like Palmer, Watson, Nicklaus and Woods, is that they never lost sight of the fact that golf is just a game, and the definition of a ‘game’ is something that
challenges you in pursuit of ‘fun’. That does not mean that they do not put lots of effort into their practise—but what it means is that they always play and perform with the mindset that
they are playing a game.
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