I’ve been in the applied field of Sport Psychology for 10 years, 3+ years entirely as a full-time professional, leaving academia to pursue my passion and start my own business.
My major types of clients are professional golfers, and I have caddied on tour since 2006. Caddying was a natural fit because it was a way to morph into an “on the field” coach during actual competition; no better feeling in my opinion.
In 2012, I am caddying for my client during the last PGA Tour event of the year. He is playing well, 1st place after the first round, and although he moved back a bit during the other rounds, he still had a chance to post a top-10 finish.
Fifteen minutes before each round, we always had a coach-up session, where we devised our mental and course game plan. Every day we had the same simple mental game plan because simple is powerful and simple works. Thus, before the last round, he approached me and I laid it out for him (hence the big mistake).
In the past I have used the following game plan and mentality, and it has been successful, so I wasn’t freewheeling at all. However, there is a lot of intuition with coaching and sometimes coaxing. So, when he asked, “what’s our game plan,” I replied with, “It’s your day.”
He walked away immediately shaking his head in disapproval and mentioned how he didn’t really like it and asked if I had anything else? So, ten minutes before tee-time, I tried to justify, defend, and explain my mantra…. What else am I going to say at that point, “It’s NOT your day?” I said it, believing that good things were going to happen and staying with our process that had worked.
He teed off and proceeded to hit the ball in a hazard, took a drop, hit it in the middle of the green, and 3-putted for a double bogey. Walking on to the 2nd tee, he mentioned to me “yep, it’s my day all right.”
Only after a delay in the middle of the fourth fairway, did we have a chance to backtrack and re-focus. He played solid the rest of the day, but in a sport with large purses and where every shot counts, the damage had been done.
It’s Your Day!
The mistake was that I “got in the way” of my athlete. Perhaps, I inadvertently put the focus on factors outside of his control, believing that it was going to be a good day and that good things were going to happen. I also couldn’t account for the fact that he had heard this phrase a long time ago and played horribly.
Nonetheless, I made a mistake. Less is (almost) always more and I broke it. I tried to get creative and go off menu with my coaching style at the moment. It’s still a fault of mine; there are many tools in the shed and I want to use them all, when just one would do. It takes a genius to keep it simple.
Lastly, it was a costly mistake and if we are in a field of coaching and helping people, we are going to make mistakes. It is one true system of really discovering what methods work and what doesn’t in applied settings.