More We Can Learn from Jordan Spieth

(excerpts from NYTimes “Jordan Spieth Reassesses a Career Path From the Top, Where Time Is Short” 8-24-15)

Megastar golfer Jordan Spieth was asked to address a bevy of young archers as he was preparing for the FedEx Championship series to begin. He gave what adults would call sound advice. (Mr. Spieth just turned 22.) For example, he advised the youngsters not to cut short their education, as he did.

“‘It wasn’t the smartest choice that I made,’ Spieth said, referring to his decision to drop out of the University of Texas early in his sophomore year to turn pro. ‘I got lucky, and it ended up working out.’

“He cautioned against focusing only on one sport before one’s teenage years. ‘Until I was 12 or 13, I played more baseball than I did golf,’ he said. Spieth mentioned that he had also played football, basketball and soccer. As a result, he said, ‘I learned how to be a teammate, learned how to fall in love with golf as an athlete who plays golf versus being a golfer who tries to be an athlete.’

“Spieth ultimately chose golf, he said, because he was good at it but also because he was an adrenaline junkie who viewed contending in a major on a Sunday as the next-best thing to a free fall to earth lasting two hours.

‘Your blood starts running; you get nervous; you get the adrenaline,” Spieth said. ‘For golf, when that comes up, that exhilarating factor, you have to learn to control that for an extended period of time.’

He added, ‘I’d be somebody who’d go jump out of an airplane because it would get your heart rate going.’ He smiled and said: ‘I don’t recommend that, by the way. For me, the fact you can keep feeling that, learn how to control it and use it to your advantage, that’s something I didn’t find in any other sport.’”

In other words, young Mr. Spieth went into competitive golf because nerves from performance pressure were there. And watching golf, like watching archery, is the sporting equivalent of watching paint dry. They are not what most people would think of as a sport for adrenaline junkies. And we thought competition nerves were a negative factor! Maybe we ought to start viewing them into a positive!

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