The great American basketball coach John Wooden once said that sportsmen and sportswomen should focus more on their character rather than on their reputation. Wooden remarked that character was ‘what you are’, whereas reputation was merely ‘what others think you are’.
In nearly two decades of working in golf with PGA Professionals and elite players I hear a lot about pressure and see where coaches and players become overly worried about their ‘reputation’ rather than knowing and trusting in their own ‘character’. Here I witness the limiting beliefs people have about themselves and the perceived consequences of poor results.
Often players will underperform because they feel pressure about how they might be viewed by others if they fail. This can also affect coaches as they sometimes feel their own reputation is determined by the performance of those they coach, when in reality performance has so many variables, and the coach only contributes in specific ways.
In essence being overly concerned about your reputation creates instability as it is not under your control as it involves the perceptions of others.
Knowing the impact of limiting beliefs should give you the motivation you need to change them for yourself or to help players when you sense this is an issue. A healthy belief puts you into the right frame to have the best chance of success. It is also true that negative beliefs and thoughts have a huge impact on performance, so if we find it difficult to be positive then we must at least learn ways of managing negative thinking to keep it to a minimum and hence give ourselves a chance.
In the previous two articles I have written about the need for effective listening in coaching. Particular words to look out for are must, should and got. For instance, ‘I must make the cut; ‘I should beat this opponent’; or ‘I’ve got to win’. These words reveal very rigid, inflexible beliefs and create unnecessary pressure as they result in patterns of ‘all or nothing’ negative thinking. It is much better to frame performance beliefs with a prefer approach. For example, ‘I’d prefer to make the top ten’.
Often these beliefs hinder players’ views of themselves, their golf, and of their potential success. So in future improve your coaching by listening carefully to the words your players use. They will reveal much about their thinking patterns and the performances that follow.