The Similarities of Sports

Borrowing Success from the Other Sports You Play

No matter what sports you used to play, or currently play (some would argue business is a sport), let’s shine a light on the similarities of sports.  Did you know you currently possess the necessary inventory of success traits you can easily apply to your golf game?

January 8, I received my weekly installment email of “Ideas that Work” from Strategy+Business. S+B is a publication that dives deep into the theories and operations of business. For 8+ years, I’ve regularly read the publication. Doing so provides me information the golf industry may not normally deliver. For instance, the nuances of business decision making and potentially how a lot my clients may process problem solving situations. The headline at the top of the email immediately caught my eye, “Scoring Under Pressure”, by Ben Lyttleton. Ben’s an accomplished football (soccer to us Yanks) journalist in addition to authoring 2 books. The article highlights the traits and best practices needed to win more soccer games determined by a penalty kick shootout. It’s interesting read of how those traits apply to a job interview or any high-pressure business situation.

Earlier in my life, I competed as a goalkeeper at the highest levels of soccer in the US. I emphatically state from experience, determining the winner of any soccer game by penalty kicks, especially those that determine who hoists the trophy, is one of the ultimate psychological wars in sports between 2 opposing players. Above all, it’s obvious Ben’s post applies to any sport that allows too much time to think between actions. Any golf shot, basketball free throw, football field goal attempt, or the soccer penalty kick, starts from a static beginning. In turn, a static start provides enough opportunity to think too much about what you’re about to attempt. Ben’s insights are dead on the mark for all sports and businesses. The values of the article rang true to me.

Hopefully, this blog post, and Ben’s article, brings to light light how the similarities of sports we used to play, and play now, create more scoring opportunities for you. With respect to Ben and his great post, here are the 5 tips he provides within his post, and how a those relate to any golfer.

  1. Practice with Purpose – All golfers are hearing this loud and clear these days from the booth announcers and from the tips you view on YouTube.  Ben mentions the success of Francisco Molinari at last year’s Open Championship, practicing putting under pressure prior to the tournament. I have to agree with Ben. If you desire to be the best, practicing under pressure is required. The next time you practice, simulate the course on the range. Or, play a “scrimmage” situation that provides an opportunity to practice under pressure.
  2. Take Your Time – Under any type of pressure, time speeds up. As a goalkeeper, when forced to defend any penalty kick, I completed a stretching ritual that allowed me to slow down time for me.  It also allowed my focus to stay centered on a particular movement of the kicker of the penalty. In turn, time seemed to speed up for the penalty kicker. I was super successful at penalty kicks, allowing less than 20% to reach the back of the net. The importance of such a ritual was conveyed to me by my first golf coach. He reminded me that the similarities of sports create a successful pre-shot routines I could rely upon during any pressure packed situation. The similarities of sports, in particular a routine, are the security blankets of success. For those who need a refresher, take a peak at a post from 2015 I entitled, Patience.
  3. Your Reactions Matter – Ever get to the next shot still furious about the shot you hit 2 holes ago? Or still jacked up from the long eagle putt you just holed? Emoting feelings for yourself is organic. Doing so can positive lasting effects upon you if properly monitored. Save your big positive moments for when they count the most, after holing a chip shot, or as you go to the last tee 1 up.  Switch the negative emotions to positive reminders of what you are capable of doing. You’ll be surprised how much energy is left in your tank at the end of the round if you learn to control the feelings of your performance throughout a round.
  4. Don’t Obsess – Ben delivers a gut shot to every golfer on the planet within his post.  He details how golfers who obsessed over their putts during a mid-way break of an experiment performed far worse the second half of the experiment. I can’t agree more. Golf needs to be reactionary, not full of thought.  Once you have all the data you need to make a good decision about the shot at hand, envision the shot, trust your gut, and allow yourself to react to the circumstance.
  5. Confidence Doesn’t Guarantee Success – We can sometimes confuse success with confidence. The similarities of sports, all sports, suggests we sometimes measure confidence by the last successful action you performed. Too much time between the present and the last time you deemed yourself successful is all it takes for anxiety and fear to creep in. True confidence is an underlying and consistent calm amidst any situation allowing you to act without anxiety or fear. Find your true confidence by remembering only the positives of your game.  Jack Nicklaus did the same on his way to a record 18 major championships.

Thanks Ben for the nostalgic ride back to my past, remembering what it was like as a goalkeeper to defend football’s ultimate pressure situation!  And thanks for borrowing from golf to prove your points. The similarities of sports is constant, no matter what sport you used to score best at. After all, we’re told golf can sometimes resemble a microcosm of life. Why not borrow from your past experiences of sport, including the sport of business, to be the best golfer you can be.

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