A few years ago, my step-children expressed an interest in learning to golf. I’ve been playing the game for years and it’s a favored hobby of mine, so I was delighted to introduce them to the sport. Right from the start, I suggested they take lessons.
When I first started playing, I would have given anything for just one professional lesson, let alone a series, but it was years before I was able to afford anything of the sort. I started out with a set of clubs I bought at Target and a sack full of old golf balls. I practiced by hitting the balls into a large, open field near my house and then searching for them so I could hit again.
I read instructional books about the game and golf etiquette and when I felt confidant enough to play a round, I played at the cheapest courses I could find. The conditions were rarely good, but I wasn’t the only novice out there shanking balls into the woods and hitting five foot bloopers all the way down the fairway. They were great places to practice and learn. It took a long time, but eventually I got to a point where I could confidently hold my own on any course.
If I’d had the benefit of lessons from the start, I would have become a far better golfer much faster. I explained all this to my step-kids when they said they wanted to learn. As is typical for both, they initially rejected the idea. Instead, they wanted to just hit the course, believing it couldn’t possibly be that hard to play.
Both kids are incredibly smart, straight-A students with a course load of advanced classes and they make it look easy. Knowledge comes naturally to them both. A wonderful gift, to be sure, but they seem to believe their intelligence also makes them inherently skillful. As a result, they tend to try and then immediately discard activities they don’t instantly excel at.
Also, when the kids identify an interest at which their abilities are middle-of-the-road, they are content to remain there. As an example, they’ve taken music lessons for the past six years, yet neither can play a complete song on their respective instruments. It’s not because they lack the ability. It’s because they lack the commitment, drive and patience to put in the work.
You might be reading this and thinking, “Geez, harsh much, evil step-mother?”
Sorry, but I don’t agree. If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t bother to have an opinion. And because I care, I refuse to blow smoke up anyone’s ass. As is my approach to parenting my own biological son, I believe it’s important to prepare the child for the road and not the road for the child.
I think most anyone would agree that it takes work and effort to be successful….at anything; hobbies, careers, relationships, etc. But like most of their generation, neither kid has yet to experience what’s it like to be denied something because it wasn’t earned. Sorry kiddo’s, but eventually life stops handing out gratis trophies. Personally, I think it’s a travesty not to prepare them for that reality.
So what does this have to do with golf? Well, my step-son announced this past spring that he wanted to try out for his high school golf team in the new school year. I was more than a little surprised. He likes the sport and I’ve taken him out to play a number of times, but he’s a hacker at best. Having rejected the offer of lessons, on numerous occasions, I’d assumed his interest was negligible.
Upon hearing he wanted to try-out for his school’s team, I told him he needed to get his butt in gear and prepare. From his grip, to his understanding of which clubs to use and when, to the very basic of rules, he needed a lot of help.
Fortunately, he had the entire spring and summer to work on it. But he didn’t. When he had opportunities to fit in lessons, he was too busy playing KanJam and floating in a tube to make time for them.
In the four months he had to get ready, he made room in his busy schedule for only two, 45 minute lessons. Both of which happened in the week directly before his try-out’s. During the first lesson, the instructor said, “Oh, man! When are your try-out’s again? Next week? (laughs) You need a lot of help!”
See, I’m not the only one.
Two days before the try-out’s, we played back to back rounds together so he could work on applying what he’d learned. There were things he did better, but overall, the outings were rough.
At one point, he said to me, “Maybe this is a sign that I shouldn’t be trying out.”
I told him, “No, it’s a sign that you should have put in the effort before crunch time.”
The try-outs have since come and gone. He didn’t make it past the first round of cuts. I am not so harsh as to have said, I told you so. In case you were wondering.
In fact, I think it was really brave of him to have gone through with the try-out’s knowing that he wasn’t fully prepared.
He was obviously disappointed that he didn’t make it, but to his credit, he is not deterred from trying again. The experience seems to have been a humbling one and the rejection seems to have sparked a bit of a fire within.
I’m really proud of him for that.
And yes, I told him so. In case you were wondering.