Tag Archives: Jordan Spieth

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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What Archers and Coaches Could Learn from . . . Jordan Spieth

If you follow sports at all you cannot have missed the story of Jordan Spieth who prior to his 22nd birthday has been burning up the Professional Golf Association Tour. So what could a golfer have to share with an archer that would be any help. It turns out to be “a lot.”

Consider any very capable serious competitive archer today. Most of these are compound archers so I will use them as an example. If you have any desire for making a good showing at a major tournament (I will use Las Vegas as it provides the most context), you have to prepare for this event seriously. So, most shoot many practice rounds prior to the event, make travel arrangements and register well in advance of the event. They fly in, check their equipment over to make sure nothing got damaged and try to get in some practice the day before the event.

During the event, they often run into friends and arrange meals around the shooting times to be able to catch up. After dinner, they may park themselves in a bar for awhile for a drink or two and talk with archery buddies. (In Vegas, there may be a bit of effort at “the tables” or “the slots,” too.) Their tactic for the event is to shoot one quality arrow at a time and to say in the present. The results will take care of themselves. Then it is hope for the best.

Sound familiar? Most of us have done this.

Mr. Spieth, on the other hand is more strategic. His goal in being prepared for an event is to perform at a high level at events preceding so he will be high in confidence when he begins. He arranges for living quarters out of the fray. This may be a rental house or in the case of the British Open Championship, he rented two. One he slept in, the other, just a few steps away, is where his friends and family stayed and communal meals were shared. When Mr. Spieth was in residence, the rules are: no TV and no talk about golf (none).

Before he steps foot upon the course, he has a detailed strategic plan of how he is going to deal with each hole on the course. His coach, caddy, and others may contribute to this plan, which includes possible weather variations especially if the winds are variable. His entire focus on the course is on how to execute his plan. His warm-up routine is extensive and includes two putting sessions, putting being one of Mr. Spieth’s strengths. The routine is varied depending on whether he has an early or late tee-time.

While playing Mr. Spieth is in control of his emotions which is to say that he is not a robot. If he makes a bad shot, you can hear him shout “Come on, Jordan!” But shortly thereafter he is back in focus working on his next shot. Because he is in control of his emotions, he seems to perform under pressure as well, if not better, than when he has less pressure.

Win or lose, he is focused on what he can learn or could have learned from his experience and how he can work to improve on what he has been doing. Improvement is recognized as being incremental and to keep it going he requires input from his coach and caddy and then plans are made to make those improvements.

He knows that, as a golfer, his form is built around “feel” rather than technique, so has set up practice and warm-up activities accordingly. Self-knowledge is a foundation stone of his approach. Knowing who he is and how he performs is key to his approach. There is no fantasizing involved. There is no “go out and have fun” involved. Instead there is an immersing into and engagement with what he is doing on the course. The fun is in the winning. On the course, there are light moments but they seem to be of the “isn’t this a beautiful spot” or “aren’t we lucky to be doing this” variety, almost always just with his caddy, a former elementary school teacher, who is temperamentally suited to helping a young archer keep on his chosen path.

Mr. Spieth is aware of where he is in the history of the game of golf, but doesn’t indulge in thinking about that when he is at the course. In this manner he compartmentalizes his thinking as he compartmentalizes this personal life. A time and place for everything.

Now, the young Mr. Spieth has made many millions of dollars in his short professional career and will make countless more millions, so he has more resources than you are I. And that is irrelevant when it comes to planning, thinking, strategizing, and all of the other aspects of an effort he makes to win a tournament.

So, is there anything to be learned from young Mr. Spieth’s approach to the game of golf which has allowed his to soar to almost unmatched heights at the age of 21? You be the judge.

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