July 26, 2022

No! You are NOT Going to Quit! -- Coaches are Everywhere

The right coach at the right time is a gift. I happened to find one on the golf course when I needed her most.
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I’m a golfer. I confess. It’s worse than that. I love golf. It’s worse than that. I love golf, and I was once a better golfer than I am now.

I love walking a golf course, making perfect contact, and competing (mainly with myself).

But I also hate this game. Golf is non-linear in a way few things are. You hit a perfect shot and then you are completely miserable on the next three.

I have toyed at times with giving up the game. You don’t get a score for hiking. But when I grab a club and spot the next challenge (opportunity?), I can feel the pull of the game that makes me think I will play it for as long as and whenever I can.

This week posed the biggest crisis in that confidence I’ve ever had with the game.

It was a two-day women’s league championship at my golf club. You play two rounds, a total of 36 holes. The lowest score after 36 holes wins. There are no “mulligans,” “breakfast balls,” or “gimmes.”

Your goal? Don’t have a “blow-up hole,” a hole where you get a stratospheric score that nullifies any chance of you competing at all.

Day one was going fine. Nothing dazzling, but two days of fine can usually compete. Then I got to the 11th hole. Think of the worst Tik Tok or old school movie about a golf fail you can. That was me. Every plague that I could have brought on myself occurred, including a biting fly.  After going back and forth over the green two times, I had hit 10 shots on a par five and was still nowhere near the hole.

At this point, I looked at my two playing partners/opponents and said “I’m just going to take myself out of the tournament and pick this ball up.” There were tears behind my sunglasses. I was holding up groups behind us. I was holding up my group.

One of my playing partners, Gaye, heard this and immediately said:

“No, Sue. You are NOT going to quit. Absolutely not. You don’t quit. What are you lying there? 11? Just go over there and keep going.”

She was adamant. She’s a retired teacher. It’s probably not the first time she’s been adamant. But honestly, people aren’t often that adamant with me. There wasn’t a breath of doubt in her, not a shred of optionality or conciliation. While I don’t know her well, I think we have a few personality traits in common. We’re both quick and direct. She is also a gifted mid-handicap golfer, something we do not have in common. Players blow their balls by her on the tee, but she has the best short game of anyone I play with.

Somehow she knew exactly what I needed to hear.

I slumped over to my ball. Finally got it into the hole for a 13. I haven’t had a 13 on a golf hole in 20 years. But I finished the hole, and I finished day one of the tournament. I finished day one “DFL”. That’s Dead F-in Last.

And I actually showed up for day two.

There was precious little at stake on the second day. There was no prize for most improved, but it was I. I played light. I remembered I loved the game. It was fun.

If you follow my blogs, you know that I can be that coach. My style is loving, and I push. I show my love by pushing. It was incredible to be on the other side of that gift. It was a good reminder that sometimes coaching is about asking questions and helping someone find more choice in their situation and sometimes it’s about seeing something so obvious and finding a loving willingness to say it out loud.

I have been blessed by having myriad coaches around me my entire life. It’s not accidental. I find them. I listen closely to what they say (and I also watch closely what they do).

Sometimes I coach without an (explicit) invitation. Sometimes I coach as an imperative. And thanks to Gaye, I didn’t quit that first day. Had I picked up my ball, I might have quit for good. But she gave me the reminder that I’m not a person that quits out of failure. #grateful.

(If you are the kind of person that shows your leadership through coaching, you may be a great fit for our Coaching Certification for Leaders. We have two slots left for the January program. Apply here. Golfers welcome.)

Photo by Mike Cox on Unsplash

Sue Heilbronner

Sue Heilbronner is an executive coach, Conscious Leadership facilitator, and catalyst for change.

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