Educate May 2019

How Champions Think


Written By: Steve Tufts

Many years ago, I was the definition of a golf freak. I read everything I could find about golf, studied the golf swing, watched golf incessantly on television, pounded balls regularly on the driving range, practiced my short game, created solitary putting practice challenges and played three to four times a week. I actually improved to a single-digit handicap and coached a high school golf team to an undefeated state championship.

During this time, I was surrounded by golfers of all levels of capability. I played golf with guys that could break par as well as high school girls who celebrated breaking double par. The thing that I noticed about golfers of all skill levels was that their thinking, maybe more than their skill, dictated their performance.

This concept was chronicled extensively by a famous sports psychologist, Bob Rotella, in his popular books “Golf is Not a Game of Perfect” and “Golf is a Game of Confidence” as well as numerous others. Rotella was the chairman of the Sports Psychology Department at the University of Virginia, considered to be one of the best in the nation. He consulted with famous golfers like Davis Love III, Nick Price and Tom Kite along with corporations such as General Electric, Ford and Coca-Cola. I have read most of his books and studied his concepts deeply.

In one of his later books titled “Life is Not a Game of Perfect,” he combines sports success stories, corporate success stories and life success stories into a search for common factors. In this book, he concludes that real talent is “brilliance of a different sort” that is developed over time by the way people think. As a result of reading virtually all of his books, adding a few of my own ideas and using the concepts to coach others, I have learned that there are some simple concepts that will improve the probability of success:

  • Do what you love. Are you in your sweet spot? Are you passionate about what you do?
  • Have courage. Nobody ever accomplished anything huge without having the courage to take the first step … and the second … and the third.
  • Be persistent. Success is sequential and the result of doing the simple, sometimes boring, fundamental tasks every day. Don’t quit.
  • Handle adversity. Adversity is nothing more than an opportunity to build character, develop endurance and learn. If adversity crushes you, success will evade you.
  • Find a safe place to practice. Make your mistakes and develop your skills during practice. This will lead to both confidence and reliable technique when the real competition begins.
  • Get a coach. Virtually all champions have multiple coaches. You need at least one, maybe two.

Rotella recently wrote another book titled “How Champions Think.” I bought it, and I recommend that you do too. Learning to think correctly will lead you to greater levels of success. Think like a champion, and you’ll have a better chance at becoming one. 

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