Being at your best for a performance, regardless of the sport, is not something that just happens. There’s a lot of preparation prior to the event. And it’s never been more difficult for young athletes to keep focused on what matters. Why?
Part of it is the environment, and a good part of it is what we are now immersed in but barely notice. Let me explain. I did not grow up with ESPN’s Top Ten, or the type of sports coverage and commentary that we witness daily. YouTube did not exist, nor did cell phones, Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. I grew up playing in the streets of New York, and the radio or being in the cheap seats was as close as I could come to the “inside” of the process of sports development. And youth sports was managed by volunteers until the pinnacle which back then was representing your high school on the field of play. Showcase teams and paid coaches were not the centerpieces in most sports for most of the time.
This is not good or bad, it just is— and what you do with it matters. Technology is neutral, but it is all how you use it. Any tool has tremendous value if used in the right manner. Having the information and resources can be the difference along the arc of developing as an athlete.
Today at the PGA championship, several golfers are bunched at the top and have the opportunity to win one of the year’s four biggest prizes. If you are watching and a fan or a competitive athlete, there is a lot that can be learned today as a spectator. One of the gifts of human experience is the ability to use other’s triumphs and mistakes as part of our learning. Today, someone will be just a bit sharper, a bit more centered on and aware of what matters most. This is more mental than physical and a place of great leverage.
But there are two stories unfolding and this is where it is much different today. Unless you are at the Bellerive Golf Course in Missouri taking it in up close and personal, you will receive the experience through technology. The announcers will tell a story, directed by a producer pointing cameras where the drama is. That is one story, one that does an athlete no good at all for the lens is focused on the drama that is scripted by those who are spectators on this day.
In the trenches, there is another story—one with a very different script, one that unfolds in the moment. The athlete who does not tell stories in his head on this day will be focused on playing and executing. On the other hand, the golfers telling stories in their head will be creating unnecessary pressure for the narrative is in the past or the future. Execution is in the present.
So, the greatest leverage an athlete has is awareness. Awareness of who they are in the moment and what the moment requires. Try watching this last round with the sound off–at least for a while. While it may not feel as dramatic, you will get glimpses of the competitors who are prepared, playing, and saving the stories for after the round.