This summer I turn forty and baseball, and a lot of other sports, have taken their toll on my physically. My knees are in some trouble and my back hurts more than I wish it did. Baseball is out of the picture and I don't really enjoy the softball teams I've played for in the past decade. But the sport of my last fifteen years has been disc golf.
Frisbee golf or "frolf" to some, disc golf involves hurling discs around a park towards a basket in the fewest throws possible. Just like in "ball golf" it's DRIVE FOR SHOW, PUTT FOR DOUGH. A perfectly thrown drive is a joy to behold, whether I threw it or one of the people on my card did. But the mental game of putting is still the hardest part for me to completely control. Bad putting ruins all but the best drives and great putting makes up for a lot of poor shots off the tee.
|Me making a perfect putt at a disc golf tournament last year!|
1. Mark my drive, put away my disc and pull out my putter (Yes, we have different discs for different types of shots).
2. Put my foot in place and rotate the disc so it feels good in my hand.
3. Look at the basket, feel for the wind and take into consideration possible dangers to missing a normal putt (water behind the basket, a slanting hill that could cause a rollaway, any branches or obstacles to avoid).
4. Once I have the feel of the putt I want to make in the existing conditions, take a deep breath while raising the disc in my hand and pointing it at the basket. Pick the link on the chains I want the disc to hit.
5. Open my mouth, relax my tongue and drop my shoulders. This comes from various mindfulness exercises and usually helps my whole body relax. It's difficult to make a complex athletic movement perfectly with tenseness in my body.
6. Wait until I feel a "Zen Moment." It sounds kinda of corny but an empty mind leads to better putts for me. The distracting thoughts I have about my score, movement of the other players, or memories of missed putts are the worst. I almost always have bad putts when I allow those thoughts to remain in my head. If I recognize that I have negative thoughts and they don't just flow past and out or my brain, I'm working to step back and start over.
7. Zen moment achieved. That's my trigger and I move into action. My eyes take a quick glance down to the ground and then back to my link of the basket. This hopefully puts my brain and body into reflex mode and refocuses me on my target.
8. As I see my link again, I move my weight onto my back foot and bend my arm to bring the disc to my belt. Once I'm loaded, I shift my weight forward and extend my arm, lofting the putt towards the basket. In a perfect putt, steps 7 and 8 are pure reflex and allow the muscle memory of all my practice to take over. No thinking required.
If all that goes as planned, it's a perfect putt, no matter the result. There will always be mistakes my body makes, an unexpected wind gust, or the occasional basket that just spits your putter right back at you.
But there is nothing else that feels so perfect to me these days, as watching a putt fly true to the basket and knowing it's going to bang the link I focused on.
My class of twenty-three middle school students is slicing as well! Here is the link to the class blog where they are linking up daily. Cheers!