Getting better at sport (Part 3)

[You might want to read Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, if you haven’t already]
Sometimes I write posts with specific people in mind. Whether they realise that’s the case is up for debate (in my experience the people who most need to heed advice are the ones that are the hardest to reach), but I never name them – that’s just a step too unnecessary. However, in this case I’m about to, partly because it will be obvious who it concerns since they were the one that prompted the previous two posts, but also because they are integral to the story behind them.
A few weeks ago my folks came up to London for the day. Mum again expressed frustration at her progress in golf, and again complained how I and another friend that she plays with seem to find it so easy. I tried to explain again why this was – my martial arts background gave me the understanding of the mechanics involved and also the appreciation for the practise required.
I told her about how I relayed her story to a friend who also trains in martial arts, and that he interrupted me as I did so to say “it’s all in the hips”, thus justifying the point I made about mechanics in the first part of this series. And I told her a story of my own – that I finally did a move I’ve been trying to do for nine months. Nine months! Trying to do the same thing! I suggested she goes to the driving range twice a week to practise, she said she just wants to be good and to play a round on a course and not spend all her time practising. I’m not sure she took any of what I said on-board, and actually spoke about quitting
Well here’s the thing – for the most part, practise is the sport. Yes, there are opportunities to use your skills – to play a round of golf of a weekly game of football, to compete in a karate competition, or to impress your friends at the park with your pull-ups, but for 90% of the time it’s all just practise – you do what you do and you do it again. And again. And again.
If you don’t enjoy your practise, then you really need to have a serious think about what you’re doing. Practise is what makes you good, it’s what refines your skill and enables you to progress. Without it you will never move forward, and if you’re not moving forward in life then you’re just not living. Enjoying and being engaged with this practise is vital. As you do it more and more you open up all the nuances – the little tweaks you can make to improve your technique, the errors you’ve been making reveal themselves, and eventually you will settle into a place where it almost becomes meditative – the repetition becoming a calming and steady influence in your life. I know that anyone who regularly practises any physical (or even mental) activity would agree with that statement, whether it’s weight-lifting or writing.
So, Mum, I’m sorry for calling you out in public (although really I’m using you as an example to illustrate a point which applies to many many people), but you need to change your attitude and start looking at things differently. Don’t focus on the destination, but on the journey. Look at the smaller steps, not the big picture. And just take my word on it that the more you practise the more you will reap the rewards, not only in golf but also in your mentality.

I’ll leave you with this picture from the Bar-barians, showing possibly the strongest guy in the game, Zef. The 6 minutes it refers to are the Bar-barian requirements*, but the point it makes is much bigger than that (even though it slightly ticks the box as being one of those inspirational slogan pictures I hate so much ;)

* 5 muscle-ups, 25 pull-ups, 45 dips, 55 push-ups, 5 muscle-ups in un-broken sets within 6 minutes.

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