While following the BNP Paribas tennis open in Indian Wells and the Arnold Palmer Invitational that started last Wednesday I was struck by the advice coming from the 20-somethings in the fields at both events. It’s advice that every high school athletes can use.
As I was catching up on the matches of the day at the BNP Paribas last Tuesday evening several really good Quotes of the Week were uttered by Tennis Channel commentators Ted Robinson and Tracy Austin. “Amnesia is good for a tennis player, then,” quipped Robinson in response to Austin and James Blake who were helping call the matches. Their intent was that if a player in any sport can just forget about the mistakes they just made and get out of their own way, they can turn an entire match around. Those are words we can all live by.
The conversation then turned to the younger set of American players, men and women, who are playing with a sense of fearlessness. They are taking on some of the world’s best ranked players and are forcing some who may have perhaps fallen into a comfortable mode of play to ramp their games up a notch or two. The end result was another gem for a gym bag for reference: “There’s a fine line between fearless and reckless.”
Playing with a fearless quality is much different than playing with recklessness. Being fearless can mean you have the utmost confidence in your game while recklessness often comes out of frustration and the realization that your day on court, golf course or baseball diamond is about to come to a screeching halt. Errors occur, mental sharpness is replaced by anger and frustration and everything about your game falls apart.
Don’t let that happen.
Who knows this better than anyone? None other than the Great One, Wayne Gretzky. He and his family were in the stands watching Canadian Genie Bouchard. Gretzky was also spotted during last season’s PGA Tour watching soon-to-be son-in-law Dustin Johnson vie for the title at the Masters and several other key majors. No pressure there. Just playing in front of one of sport’s greatest.
I also tuned into Wednesday’s Arnold Palmer Invitational Pro-Am. The King of Golf, as many of the players were calling Palmer. Just the respect he still commands from the most recent generation of players. Mr. Palmer, they all called him. Tiger Woods calls Palmer, Arnie, but not Zac Johnson and amateur player Bryson DeChambeau. To them, Palmer is golf; the Legend, the King.
During one televised segment on the Golf Channel they pulled out Palmer’s Persimmon hand-crafted driver used in the 1960s and had them hit balls. “Wow, that’s about as stiff as my current driver,” one unidentified quipped. “The King’s Club,” another said with clear respect. “Pretty cool.”
DeChambeau got to have a one-onone in Mr. Palmer’s office. He’s already had his tournament made no matter what score he shoots. The young amateur also offered up a bit of wisdom, wise beyond his years. I may not have it exactly word for word here, but it’s pretty close: Failure helps you learn. Thomas Edison learned 2,000 times how electricity doesn’t work before he figured it out.