Golf - A Blue Line

You can tell a lot about a persons character by playing a round of golf with them. It's a game where if your confidence is high you can hit a good shot nearly every time. 

Love a game of Golf, preparing to hit the ball 'straight down the middle' in Portugal.

Love a game of Golf, preparing to hit the ball 'straight down the middle' in Portugal.

It's how you respond to a bad shot that is the interesting aspect for me. Can you get over it and move on or does the thought of the bad shot linger in your mind and you loose confidence and then that affects your next shot, which turns out to be a bad one again. You then become frustrated, and become unable to hit another good shot. You loose heart in playing the remaining holes of the round, especially if your partner is having a good round, and can't wait to get off the golf course and into the 19th Hole - The Bar !

When I was the Manager of Scunthorpe United, we had just won League 1 in 2007 and had been promoted to the Championship for the first time. The second tier of English football had only been reached many years previously in 1958 and lasted 6 years until 1963 before relegation. I knew it was going to be a challenging task. A very small budget compared to the rest of the division. Average crowds of 4,000, which was good for the percentage of people who actually lived in the area.

I needed something to keep the players confidence high during what is a long, demanding and relentless division, with many games coming thick and fast. Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday. Week after week and month after month.

I was introduced to an idea by Jon Finn who was working with us as a Psychologist at the time. Jon was excellent during the time he was with us and is now the Founder of 'Tougher Minds'

Using an example from golf, Jon used the world famous Tiger Woods as the example. Tiger would use a pre-shot routine before hitting the ball. On his approach to the ball from his previous shot, he is already gauging what shot to hit next. How far is the ball to the hole. What is the lay of the ball like on the ground. Once he had selected the club he was going to use and visualised the type of shot he was going to hit, for example a fade into the green, the next stage was when he actually placed his hand on the club and drew it from his bag.

Jon, who later worked in golf with the PGA, would say that once Tiger had committed to his club selection his timing to actually hitting the ball was within a second every time he did it during a successful round. 

Now how many amateur golfers who hit a good shot automatically and quickly reach down to pick the tee up off the floor on which the ball had been placed and not look at the ball in flight. How many golfers look longer at the bad shot, that is for example hooked, to see where it has landed so they can find it.

If you look at the flight of the ball on a good shot, it is embedded in your memory for the next time. Maybe a bad shot is also embedded in the mind. How many times and for how long have you been thinking about the bad shot. Which one is likely to be playing on your mind the next time you play a shot.

So Jon's suggestion was this, that Tiger Woods, the leading world golfer at the time, would after hitting his shot, walk for 4 steps and then cross and imaginary blue line. That in his mind was the end of that shot and then onto his preparation for the next shot. 

We used this idea at Scunthorpe United. It was our way of attempting to keep confidence high. Our way of moving on from one game and onto the next one.

I'd asked the players what a training ground environment looked, felt, smelled and sounded like when confidence is high and you are winning games. Remember we had just won League 1 and as Champions of the division knew what it was like to win. We knew what that feeling was like.

Scunthorpe United with that winning feeling. Champions of League 1 in 2007.

Scunthorpe United with that winning feeling. Champions of League 1 in 2007.

Following a game I would debrief it a day or two later with the players. We would go through what had happened in the match and what lessons we could learn from it. Video analysis has many benefits now. Anyone would then be able to get anything off their chest about the game.

I wanted us to Flourish, I would ask the players for 5 positive and 1 negative experience about the game and write them on a flip chart, and then I would draw a Blue Line underneath the name of the team we had just played. We would then move on with our preparation for the next game.

I continued to use it at Southampton, Reading and Sheffield United. 

I've also found it a beneficial way of being able to move on.

Flourish - 5 Positive and 1 Negative from the 3rd Round FA Cup game over Blackpool.   A Blue Line -  move onto the next game in Southampton's League 1 promotion winning season 2011. 

Flourish - 5 Positive and 1 Negative from the 3rd Round FA Cup game over Blackpool. 

A Blue Line -  move onto the next game in Southampton's League 1 promotion winning season 2011.