The Purpose of Practice: Three Lessons from the PGA Pros

The 2011 PGA Championship was in Atlanta Georgia, this week, and I was able to be out on the course during the practice rounds. Yes, I stayed home and watched the real “keeping score” play on TV; my time at the course was spent watching the players earlier in the week when there was no score and their play didn’t count… or did it?

What do you do when no one’s keeping score? How do you utilize your time when there are no fans watching, no team to play with, and no prize to chase? The answer is not sexy, so don’t get too excited!

The answer is you practice! I will immediately own up to the fact that it is not one of my favorite things to do. In fact I even looked in the thesaurus for another word to use so I wouldn’t have to face writing about something I didn’t enjoy. There were two alternative words that I loved: perform and live out! Wow, “live out.” If you’ve followed my blog long you know how I feel about living it out. It’s a perfect replacement for the word practice. If we truly want to get better at something then we have to live it out all the time, not just when someone is keeping score.

What I saw during the PGA practice rounds brought the reality of “practice” back top of mind for me. And as you might guess, I found some incredible leadership examples in what I witnessed.

The Boring Basics

These men are professional golfers, yet they practiced like you and I should. They hit the same shot over and over and over. They weren’t working on trick shots. They were practicing the basic shots they would “live out” during real tournament play. There is nothing exciting about practicing the basics, and I’ll be honest and say that it was even boring to watch!

In leading, what are our basics? What might seem boring, yet it’s important for our leadership “real play?” How do you practice becoming a better leader? How do you live out leadership when no one’s keeping score?

Practice for Trouble

These professionals spent quality time practicing hitting out of the sand traps. They were actually practicing on a shot that they hoped they would never have to play in real tournament play. One might think they weren’t very optimistic. If you’re good enough to qualify for the PGA, can’t you hit away from the sand? However, these professionals are realists. They realized the course they were about to play would have hazards, so they practiced and prepared for those conditions.

In leading, what are the hazards you may have to face on your course? What challenges linger ahead in your company? Are you being a realist and preparing yourself for those challenges?

All Work and NO Play

It was fascinating to watch the caddies during the practice rounds. There was no small talk with the other caddies. They were in their zone checking each fairway and green in detail. They were constantly writing facts and situations down in their book. They were preparing to be prepared. Caddies are the go to partner for the facts, knowledge, and advice when the real play is on. And oh yes, they also carry the player’s bag (and baggage).

In leading, who do you have around you that you trust to be there when it’s time for real play? Are they preparing for their role as seriously as you prepare for yours? Who do you trust when the score counts, and are you there for each other when it’s boring and no one is keeping score?

By the time I post this blog on Sunday night, we’ll know the winner of the 2011 PGA Championship. But we’ll also know it took a lot of boring practice to reap the benefits of being a champion! Let’s not think it’s any different for us in our careers.

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  • Linda Sasser says:

    Also interesting to note that the different seasons in life, whether personal or career, can be seen as “practice” to what God is ultimately calling us to do. 🙂 That certainly makes practice more meaningful doesn’t it?

  • Rebecca says:

    great blog, again, and love the way you tied in a heart-felt competitive sport with being humble. Nice pic too!