The venue for the last 26 weeks has been the amazing Tróia, some might say beguiling, peninsula. This peninsula hosts the most beautiful stretches of beach front you'll ever see, measuring 65 kilometres of totally unbroken sand. Located within the peninsula is one of Europe's most challenging and picturesque golf courses, designed by Robert Trent Jones Senior. On this course level par is worth 3 under around any other course.
It appears though that part of the education that we've delivered was as difficult, if not more, than the golf course. This is the Performance Psychology modules; the glue to which everything else we deliver sticks. We knew that the students, whose ages range between 18 and 21, were serious about their desire and goal of becoming world-class performance athletes, what we started doing in September was seeing how much they were willing to change in order to achieve their goals.
We have learned in the last six months that there's a big difference between wanting to be a wealthy tournament professional and then actually adopting the behaviours of elite performance athletes. This process requires the individual to go into their lifestyle and behaviours with a fine-tooth comb, putting everything they do under the microscope to see whether or not it can be improved. Then, if we find areas which can be changed and developed we set about putting processes in place which improves their day-to-day lifestyle, enabling them to adopt the correct behaviours.
In September we created a baseline for each of the students with regards to their technical proficiency, tactical awareness, strength and mobility and finally their mental wellness and emotional stability. As we expected, every student needed work in each of these areas but it was definitely around the adopting of new behaviours where the class separated into two distinct groups. The two students who embraced the new work ethic, the challenges of changing their technique, behaviour, tactical awareness and strength and mobility accelerated their development in a way that we could only have dreamed.
The same two students were able to overcome their homesickness, after all, as exciting as it is being away from home for six months or 13 weeks at a time, they are still away from home for the longest period of time that they have ever experienced. These two students were able to adapt and overcome these feelings by re-framing their position and appreciating that this was a necessary process in order to catch the very players (on the Tour) who they want to compete against and beat.
Very quickly these two College students had developed a boot camp mentality in order for them to get the most out of their time with us over the winter.
Unsurprisingly, the two students who couldn’t cope with their homesickness found their performance level out or significantly drop. The sunsets from their apartment’s balcony became a background feature, something noticed but not enjoyed. The dry sandy soil they practiced off became the usual with little or no regard to the weather battering Northern Europe.
Sometimes changing your habits are the most difficult part of improving yourself as a person or performer. Those little blind spots or seemingly simple justifications where you forgive your indiscretion, ‘just this once’ turns out to be the very difference between a successful trajectory or just remaining the same.
One of the homesick students found he was spending, on average, six and a half hours a day on their phone. Let that sink in for a minute; this elite athlete who wants to play at the highest level of the game was clocking up more than 45 hours a week screen time on his phone. That’s a lot of ‘just this once’ or ‘only for a minute’.
As mentioned earlier, there is a big difference between wanting to be an elite performance athlete and adopting the behaviours necessary to become that athlete. The phone being a great indicator and not wanting to be away from home, yet wanting to play on the DP World Tour being another.
These are two good kids who have chosen an incorrect career path. The other two are still accelerating towards their goal.
Something tells me that the lessons we learned as staff at the College were learned faster than the students. But then, isn’t that how it should be?