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"Trust but Verify".....Ronald Reagan

I certainly hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas! I did for sure, simply because of opportunity to be with family, over eat, and watch tons of football. I was also fortunate enough to engage in a conversation with my son that lead to this blog.

First, I need to get 3 qualifying statements out of the way:

  1. I am not a great golfer but love to play.

  2. I am not that parent who thinks their kid is perfect.

  3. My son and I do have conversations about things other than football.

Now that I have those out of the way I can get to work.

I had the blessing of coaching my son as a high school football player. There were many times that I was given the opportunity to both learn and teach life lessons as a result of that experience. My greatest opportunity to teach a life lesson to him was after we lost in the state championship his senior year. Of course, he was devastated as was everyone. As the clock ran out I saw him going to the locker room instead of getting in the handshake line. I chased him down and explained that he would expect the opponent to shake his hand had he won so he was going to man up and do the right thing himself. I explained that handling defeat is a skill that has to be learned and this was the best opportunity EVER to learn how to handle defeat. I made sure he knew that handling defeat and being defeated are 2 different things! In exchange, I learned from Kobe and several of his teammates that explanations of "Why?" were not as simple as "Trust the process" or "This has always made us successful." Standard ways of rewording, "because I said so" simply did not work to create buy in for anything his group was doing.

Yesterday while playing golf with my son, I had a ball that was on the right side of the fairway on a sharp dog leg right hole. I was about 230 yards from the flag and had a good wind at my back. We drove up to the ball, I took out my 5 iron, and promptly walked up and hit my shot cutting a huge chunk of yardage off by cutting the corner on the hole. The wind helped a lot and I ended up right next to the green. When I got back in the cart Kobe said,"Dad, I can't believe you hit that shot. Were you not afraid of hitting that house?" I honestly had never given any consideration to the house, in fact I'm not sure that I even noticed it. I asked him, "What house?" "The one you took dead aim at and hit right over," he answered.

He went on to explain that when I lined up he got nervous because he saw where I was looking. He said he could just see me knocking out a window. He also explained that he would never try that shot because he does not "trust" himself enough. Kobe is playing football in college and does not practice at golf. He just goes and plays with his buddies.

I told him that when we warmed up on the driving range, I had hit almost exclusively 5 irons because it was so windy. I also made him aware that my 5 iron is the club I hit the best and that I have hit thousands of 5 irons. I told him that I was focused on the green and my line and never considered the house because I trusted I would hit the ball well.

I then decided to spin it to a football conversation. I asked him how many times in a football game during high school was he nervous or scared of a call or situation. He without hesitation said, "Never!" I asked him why that was the case, because I know he had many situations in games that should have been way more stressful than watching me hit a simple golf shot. I wanted to know why he could be so confident and have so much trust in a game situation with real pressure to perform. His answer was simple and obvious. He just talked about practice and knowing that by the time he got to games he was confident and "trusted" his talent and ability as well as his teammates'. I asked him if I had ever called anything in a game that made him nervous and the answer was,"no". But, he was quick to point out that I had installed lots of calls, techniques, alignments, etc. that made he and his teammates scratch their heads and ask "why?" Luckily, the dumb stuff got thrown out before games and the questionable ones became unquestioned by game day. He assured me that players "trusted" me but still always wanted to feel confident in doing something because they had actually done it and not simply because I said, "Trust Me." I'm sure that the "TRUST" would have been gone if we had been putting kids on the field to play and they were not confident in what they were doing. Not just from the individual player but from the entire group.

So, I take all of this to mean that because Kobe has been raised playing ball, he understands the importance of practice and preparation. However, simply expecting him to "Trust the Process" is not very realistic. He knows I can hit a golf ball but he was nervous because he thought that shot was tough and he had no experience seeing me hit anything like that. If I had assurred him just before I took the shot that I knew I could make it with ease, his anxiety would have been exactly the same...but if I have that same shot again he will believe it is going to be fine because he has seen it play out. He also knows I practice and if I can't do it in practice I won't try it when playing. He still sees all of the potential bad outcomes in his own game when he is playing golf because he has not practiced enough to "TRUST" himself. He sees the house while I see the green. I do know he only saw the green on Friday nights. "TRUST" in coaching may not be as much about liking a person as knowing that this person is 100% committed to your success.

Even though Kobe is playing ball in college now, I will always be his coach. And like I said earlier, I have had plenty of opportunities to learn from him and yesterday was another of those. I was reminded that no matter how I craft a "Because I said so." message. The players I coach need to have enough practice at what they are doing to believe they will be successful in competition and they need to know that their teammates have the same level of preparation. If those 2 elements are present then "TRUST" starts to form. Then they need to see success actually play out! When those things happen I will have their "TRUST."

Ronald Reagan once said, "Trust but verify." I used that line a lot in the business world. I kind of figure that is what the players my son was talking about were always doing with me. When they can both TRUST and VERIFY, then I bet they can see the green and not the house if playing the shot. And have no anxiety if they are watching someone else take the shot!

You have to love quality holiday time with family and chances to listen and learn. Yesterday was an AWESOME day. My son left to go back to school today because he has a job up there. He left his clubs here...except for one he took so he can go PRACTICE. I wonder if it was a 5 iron?


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