The Good and Bad of Youth Sports in One Golfer

I was intrigued by an article titled “The Bubba Watson of High School Girls Golf” despite my disinterest in golf. Bubba Watson is famously self-taught, a contrarian in the world of golf. The article about¬†Lyberty Allexis Anderson has a couple great points.

Anderson is described as the anti-Michelle Wie, and says:

“Personally, I prefer to go out and play nine holes,” she said. “Playing allows you to get different lies, different shots, and mentally prepares you for whatever may happen on the course. If it’s slow out, I will drop a few balls around the green or hit different shots on par threes, that’s my version of practicing.”

That shows a certain sophistication. It also contradicts what everyone supposedly knows about being great at golf, namely the hours that one must spend hitting balls at the range.  Practice is good, but too much block practice ignores the reality of the game: Every shot is different, and often it is the adaptable athlete who succeeds through creativity and experience in a variety of situations.

“Lyberty, like most kids these days, gets up to the tee and rips it a mile (regularly over 300 yards). Sometimes into the trees, but always a mile,” Boodie McGurn, multiple champion of the RWGA, said. “And she is never worried about her next shot. Like Bubba Watson, if she has a swing, she has a shot.”

That is such an important and often overlooked attribute of sports success: The ability to play in the present and not allow one bad play or one bad shot to affect the next play or shot. This shows a certain confidence and swagger. In basketball, a shooter says, “The next shot is always good.”

The article also says that she wears “Velcro straps around her knees that she’s been wearing since basketball-induced tendonitis struck in the seventh grade.” While tendonitis is certainly not a positive, and probably a sign that something was amiss in 7th grade, the statement demonstrates that a lack of early specialization has not hindered her development into an elite golfer.

However, the article also had comment that caught my attention:

“I took that loss hard, but it was the best thing that ever happened to me, because it made me want to get better and win next year,” she said.

She said this about a loss when she was six-years-old. That is certainly not a normal attitude. Children tend not to differentiate between effort and success at this age. Taking a loss hard at six could be a sign of too much pressure or some other negative. However, maybe that type of competitiveness is what it takes to become elite. Of course, maybe at the time she did not really take the loss all that hard, but her current success has changed her perception of it as she looks back at her childhood.

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