Figure it Out?
I'm a fan of the PGA tour and love the current state where many great "young guns" have made a name for themselves. Players like Speith, Mcllroy, Fowler, and Dustin Johnson. One of the many impressive parts - beyond the shear talent they have- is they are simply nice young men. They show great sportsmanship to each other as well as to the fans who crowd the fairways to watch them play. At the same time, we still have the pleasure of watching some of the more seasoned players like Mickelson, Kuchar, Poulter, and of course the recent "resurgence" of Tiger Woods. The photo above is Phil Mickelson practicing on the range with his swing coach at this year's Master's. BTW, he's not alone in having a swing coach on the range. Still, how many times do you think Phil has swung a golf club? What do you suppose they're talking about? When Phil asks for help I doubt the swing's coach's response is "you figure it out!" Back to this thought in a moment...
Recently I've had the honor of visiting with elite athletes who are at the top of their game. It's always a pleasure hearing their stories about how they're managing their careers. In some cases, the athletes are at the Division I level while in other cases the athletes are playing club sports on nationally ranked teams. As you can imagine these athletes have many admirable qualities like focus, tenacity, mental toughness, great work ethic, grit, to name a few. Still, these elite athletes also hit moments in their game where they're just not "feeling it." While we were talking about these moments, I asked them how their coaches responded. I was surprised by their stories. In too many cases, these elite athletes were disappointed with their coaches and truth be told, they were angry with their coaches' during these "not-feeling-it-moments." In several instances they shared how their coaches became impatient and literally yelled "you figure it out!"
As we know, there are always two sides of an experience and I'm sure these coaches could explain how the circumstances led them to the point of giving up on their athletes. What I would say (and encourage) any coach (at any level) is to register the picture above in their minds so they can draw on that image when they're frustrated. PGA golfers practice hours upon hours a day at their craft and if they still need the voice, encouragement, and insight of a swing coach, it's reasonable for athletes at any level to also lean on their coaches for an "instructive voice," especially when they're in a slump. A "you figure it out" response just doesn't seem like the best coaching strategy even a coach thinks an athlete should have figured things out "by now." I doubt the number of repetitions surpasses any PGA golfer who's had a 20-year career and still needs a swing coach.