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Actions speak louder than words
By: Andrea Furst (profile)
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This month’s article is dedicated to Adam Scott’s recent win at the Masters. Adam Scott is the first Australian to ever wear the green jacket.

It would be un-Australian of me to not dedicate this month’s article to Adam Scott’s recent win at the Masters.  Adam Scott is the first Australian to ever wear the green jacket.

From a psychological perspective it was a triumph in many respects.  This article discusses a few of the psychological skills that were on display at Augusta National on April 14th 2013.

It was an action-packed final day and Adam Scott did something special for himself and his team, as well as for Australian golf. 

‘Actions speak louder than words’ is an apt description of Adam Scott’s magnificent display over the past 12-18 months, culminating in the Masters win.  People can be critical of those that let their performances speak, feeling as if they are owed more of an explanation than players want to give… Adam sometimes fell into this category of player.  However, he has done it in his own way and all criticism can be shelved.  He has done what no other Australian has been able to do in golf’s long history.  Ever.

So, if we are to emulate Adam’s success how do we do it? 

Be resilient

The term bounce-back is relatively well understood in sporting circles.  It’s inextricably linked with a person’s resilience.  Adam Scott displayed the ability to bounce-back in the finest form, resulting in winning of one of golf’s most treasured trophies. 

After the much talked about near-success at The Open, the bounce back and sheer determination required from Adam to trust that it is in fact possible to win a major championship, was phenomenal. 

It’s fair to say that most of us know that bouncing back is a key skill in success in the majority of avenues pursued in life.  However, to experience such disappointment and criticism less than 12 months ago for what was described, amongst various descriptions, as Scott ‘squandering a four-shot lead to lose the Open’ or how Scott ‘threw away the Open Championship’, and then to be wearing the green jacket at Augusta is the pinnacle of bounce-back-ability!

He now joins Rory McIlroy in recent times to show us what bouncing back really means!

He handled that gut wrenching defeat with the same dignity that he has displayed throughout his entire career.  Furthermore, he pledged to finish stronger if given another chance.

"Next time, I'm sure there will be a next time, I can do a better job of it," he said that day in July 2012.

Moreover the optimism he drew from his experience at Lytham was an exemplary demonstration of his character and emotional intelligence.  “Lytham gave me the belief that I could win a major championship…I felt like I won…” 

The fact that he mentioned that he felt like he could win after the disappointment of The Open is a true sign of resilience. 

Adam’s response to the disappointment shows the ability to take all of the lessons learnt and use them to his advantage the next time the opportunities presented themselves.  This is resilience at its best and it will win out more times than not. 

Make a decision to react to tough and testing times with a resilient mindset.  These times are character-defining and if you choose to respond by viewing them as opportunities to learn and to do something different or better next time, you too will become a resilient player.

Be in the mix…

Yes, there were doubters.  However, there were also fans that had very few doubts that Adam’s time would come.  He had come so close on a few recent occasions in major championships.  More specifically, he was a joint runner up in this same event with fellow Australian Jason Day in 2011.

The more you put yourself in those positions and reflect on how to do it better next time, the greater the chance you have of pulling off the win (or whatever you are trying to achieve).

Whether or not you believed Adam choked in The Open Championship, the fact remains that typically you have to be in a position to win to experience the choke…

Regardless of whether he in fact choked, he had an opportunity that he did not take, however it is clear that between now and his most favourite Sunday to-date in April, he learnt and fine-tuned strategies to do it better next time he found himself in a similar position.

It would seem that being in amongst the best to win in 2011 as well as last year’s Open Championship gave him the belief that he could win a major championship.

There are many ways to build confidence however one that undoubtedly helps a player’s confidence is being in the mix.  Trial and error is a common and effective way to learn on and off the course.   Aim to see errors as the best way to learn and you too will give yourself the chance to be in the mix…

Be in the moment but more importantly be opportunistic and seize the moment!

‘Be in the moment’ gets thrown around as advice all too often.  Although it is effective advice, it’s not all that is at play.  The fact that Adam was able to recognise the moments of opportunity during his final shots demonstrates that there is an awareness of the meaning of those moments to then grab them as your own…

In one interview Adam said, “This is the putt that winners make”, when referring to putt on 72nd hole.

The emotional release on the 72nd hole was unique to Adam’s typical composed demeanor.   His animated response clearly showed how much he wanted it and how much it meant to him… only to have to continue to play more holes when Cabrera took the event into extra time. 

Adam demonstrated enormous self-regulation in these final minutes of play.  Within minutes he had to manage a range of emotions from the response to the thought of winning to then be back at square one in the play off holes.  To let emotions ‘out’ and then to be able to reset and to execute is the epitome of performing when it counts.

When approaching the putt on the 10th green, the final play off, hole Adam recalled his inner dialogue, “That was my chance.  That was the moment I had to seize.  I knew the outcome.  If I make it, I will win.”

Furthermore, it was proof of process conquering emotion.  He let his body do what it does best – it took over and his mind was put at ease… “I tried not to get too bogged down with thought… I just thought, go with instinct…just swing the putter”.

Combine being in the moment, knowing the meaning of the moment, and seizing that moment through doing what you practice all those hours for – let your body show off its skills, and allow your mind to trust that it will do the job for you.

Be powerful

The body language that Adam displayed at the winning moment still gives most golf fans goose bumps!  The open, large physical presence that he assumed with his hands high overhead as the winner of the Masters was powerful.

His body language has always been a strong feature of his presentation on and off the course.  His appearance is noted worldwide; comments are made regarding his attire through to his physicality.  The commitment to how he acts has now paid off.  And, more power goes to him.

Despite being an advocate of effective body language throughout his entire career, there is something that becoming a major winner adds to the confidence and a player’s aura…Subsequent interviews have shown a somewhat more relaxed Adam seemingly more comfortable in his own skin. 

The professional life of athletes has numerous ups that are there for the world to see.  However the inner sanctum, a professional athlete’s confidants, know that there is enormous pressure from within to succeed which is difficult to manage at times.  Winning a Major is a clear goal for the likes of Adam Scott and all of the talk regarding his inability to do so can play havoc with a player’s psyche… It must be nice to now have that in his cupboard.  He deserves to be very, very comfortable in his own skin.

For some wonderful insights into body language and the type that he displayed on that final green be sure to watch Amy Cuddy on TED Talks.  Behaviour matters… Adam has shown us that his entire career and he is now rewarded with a major championship.

Be grateful

The last of the actions that have also resonated through Adam’s career is that of being grateful.  Amongst the ‘important’ people in his life, both Greg Norman and Steve Williams received several mentions in his journey towards and actualisation of his dream of being a major winner.

"There was one guy who inspired a nation of golfers, and that's Greg Norman.  Part of this definitely belongs to him."

The protégé has now become the master, and one with enormous gratitude.

Steve Williams has a good track record as a caddy.  However, it is rare for players to make specific mention of their caddy and their impact.  But it was Steve Williams, again, who has teamed up with another major winner.  Adam openly acknowledged his contribution in the final moments on Sunday.  It’s wonderful to see credit given to those that have been a part of his success.

Adam also talks highly about his team and the team he has in place to help him get the job done.  More than anything, he has displayed that it takes time to work out exactly what and who works in the pursuit of greatness in golf.

The humility and patience during his journey with his team and those that have inspired and supported him have paid dividends.

Actions speak louder than words

Adam Scott is a fine example of an athlete who has tweaked his skill-set as a professional golfer such that it now includes nerves of steel.  He has acted as a champion in the most intense of circumstances in the most impressive sense.    Keep on doing Adam…!

 

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