Whether you are a player, coach or parent, we are all having to deal with the challenges of very uncertain times. All golf tournaments have been cancelled, school and college golf is finished for the academic year and the professional tours are on hold for the foreseeable future. No one knows when normal life will resume.
This week, I’ve spent a lot of time speaking with my players and hearing about how the disruption has affected their lives and how they will manage the changes. I’ve thought quite a lot about how I will deal with this myself, and along with some research into the best ways to deal with uncertainty, I’ve put together this article to help you make the most of the shutdown.
1. Accept how you feel
Most of the players I’ve spoken with since the world seemingly ground to a halt in the middle of last week are disappointed, frustrated, saddened and anxious about what is to come. Some of my students are international players and are unable to get home – with college dorms closed, they are left with nowhere to go. Just a little over a week ago, there was excitement about the season starting, the spring had finally arrived, The Players Championship had begun….and all of a sudden disaster struck. However the unfolding of events have made you feel, is perfectly acceptable. We are all feeling the effects of uncertainty in different forms and the anxiety it causes is a real thing. Accepting that is the first step in activating our coping strategies, choosing the best course of action and taking control of the situation.
2. Have A Growth Mindset
If you’ve read any of my training materials, you’ll know that an underlying factor in your success is being able to have a “growth mindset”. If you already practice this, you’ll know that you need to be out of your comfort zone in order to learn and grow. As the sayings go, “Strength comes from struggle” and “In every setback there lies an opportunity to get better”. Let’s use these challenging times as an opportunity to learn more about ourselves and become more resilient in the face of adversity. These are valuable skills to learn that will enable us to be more successful in the long-term.
3. Train Yourself To Be Optimistic
We will get through this tough time, but the perspective you have will determine how well you do so. In golf, the players who are generally more successful are able to see things from a more positive perspective and they don’t get as affected by the “negative” things that other players would fixate on. Let’s see how well you can view the shutdown as something that can positively influence your future and be a benefit in the long-run, not a hindrance. “How are you going to turn this into a positive?” is one of the first questions I’ve been asking my students this week.
4. Get into a routine and take control
With many of us working from home, having kids off school, appointments and tournaments cancelled, the normal daily structure that we previously benefited from will have disappeared. Routines and habits are always an important part of life and none more so than right now. Try to plan your day the evening before and get up at a set time every day. I have my students write into their performance journal what they will be doing the following day and I hold them accountable to it. With most people being off work and business slowing down, don’t fall into the trap that this is time to relax or be idle. We need to work harder than we ever have during this time! There’s a good book called “Make Your Bed”, which (as the name suggests), underlines how powerful having a daily morning routine can be in getting you energized and in a better state of mind to make it a productive day.
5. Find ways to manage stress and fear
Anxiety and stress will be there for all of us to varying degrees, which may cause us to react instead of respond. The uncertainty and stress caused by the corona virus gives us a good opportunity to learn how to deal better with stress for the long-term, which will help you during your tournaments. Now is a great time to start practicing meditation, mantras, deep belly breathing and gratitude – all of which will lower stress. Early morning running while no one is around is also a good way to keep your cardio and fitness going, which is also a great way to deal with stress.
6. Practice with intensity
If your golf course is still open and you can get out to practice, try to keep the same level of intensity as you would have in the normal run up to a tournament. Just because we don’t know when competitive golf will return, it shouldn’t mean you get lazy about your practice. But remember that intensity doesn’t mean that you favor quantity over quality – make sure you practice with a purpose which means fewer balls with more intention, not beating balls mindlessly. As in #4, make sure you have a good routine, set daily tasks, and hold yourself accountable for getting them done. If you are a coach, have your students journal their practice and share it with you so you know what they are doing. I find that the tool/app CoachNow is great for this.
Now is a good time to reflect upon the previous season and what you will do differently this season – what behaviors you would like to leave behind when the season starts and which ones you would like to see more of? What will you do differently with your practice, how you improve and how you behave? Decide upon the player you will become and the player you don’t want to be – and create clear intentions every day to make the changes. Use the power of mental imagery/visualization to ingrain it even deeper.
8. Educate Yourself
Using your time wisely will include spending time reading and listening to podcasts of which there are plenty that can help you perform better this season. On my reading list at the moment is:
The Alter Ego Effect, Stillness Is The Key, Introducing NLP, Adam Young’s Practice Manual, Flow: Mihaly Csikszentmihaly, You Are The Placebo, Can’t Hurt Me, Why Buddhism Is True.
If you are a coach, drip feed your players new concepts/information and give them questions to keep them alert, challenged and learning. Whether it’s via email, phone or video chat, create scenarios for them and have them tell you what they would do.
9. Stay Flexible
You don’t need to go to a gym to work out. There are plenty of good workouts available. My friend and golf fitness coach, Mike Carroll of Fit For Golf has made all his resources free for the next few weeks and many of his workouts can be done at home.
10. Set an intention for every day
As part of my daily routine, I set an intention for every day. Whether it’s an attitude that I want to have or a specific task that I want to complete, I set that intention for the day. This is also something I encourage my students to share with me daily. Remind yourself of your intention each day, write it down and put it on a Post-it note somewhere you can see it and live into it each day. At the end of the day, reflect and see whether you were able to uphold that promise to yourself. By doing so, you develop more trust and confidence in yourself.