Have you ever noticed how calm professional athletes appear when you are watching them on television?
I notice it all the time, and it fascinates me.
In fact, I am more impressed at an athlete’s ability to appear calm in a high stress moment than I am in the performance itself.
We all experience moments of anxiety in our daily lives. By definition, anxiety means “a feeling of worry, nervousness or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.”
As golfers, we can all relate to this, but relating to something is one thing, while learning to overcome it is entirely different.
Professional athletes will often explain how the game “slows down” in front of them when they are at their peak performance level. Quarterbacks see the field better; point guards anticipate the movement of their teammates and a batter can detect the rotation of the baseball coming towards the plate.
I have had the opportunity to work with a few athletes who reached the pinnacle of their respective sports.
One student of mine was a starting pitcher on a World Series winning team, while another was the starting running back and MVP of a Super Bowl winning team.
In both instances, these players have found the ability to stay calm in the most pressure-packed moments of their lives.
However, they are nervous wrecks when it comes to hitting a golf ball. The idea of this just cracks me up.
How can a pitcher can stand on a mound and throw a strike with millions of eyes eagerly watching in anticipation of the moment?
How can a running back slow himself down enough to recognize an opening in the defense and hold on to the football in the most watched sporting event in the universe?
In both cases, these athletes explained to me that they had prepared their entire lives for those moments, and they felt calm at the time.
Golf is an incredible game that offers each of us an opportunity to learn how to manage the anxiety that creeps into us while we are on the golf course. Whether it’s a professional athlete, or a professional in a different line of work, the most successful have learned how to calm their “unease about an uncertain outcome.”
When faced with a moment of anxiety, I simply remember the advice we have all been given at some point in our lives — just breathe and remember that everything is going to be OK.