After winning the 2021 Sony Open at Waialae C.C., Kevin Na was asked the typical post-round question, “What was the key to victory?” And, like the seasoned veteran that he is, Na gave the typical post-round response, “I just played my game, hit a lot of solid shots, and I felt comfortable…I was having fun out there”. If you watch the video of the interview, here, it’s hard not to share in his joy of winning. What was atypical, however, was that later in the interview, Na appears to get choked up when talking about his family and the role they play in his life off the course. Clearly inspired by thoughts of wife and children, Na says, “I’m just so happy at home, and I think that’s showing up on the golf course when I’m playing out here…and I think that’s been the key.” Very cool!
The reason his response about being “happy at home” struck me is because social support is something really important to an athletes success but you rarely hear anyone talking about it let alone citing it as the “key” to victory on the PGA Tour.
In my work with golfers over the years, it’s clear that the support, or lack thereof, they feel from those around them can have a significant impact on performance. This is especially true for juniors. In a recent conversation at GPC, a player and I were talking about the fear of disappointing their parents if they don’t play well in tournaments. It wasn’t clear whether or not that fear was real or imagined, but either way, carrying the weight of disappointment into competition couldn’t be more handicapping to an athlete.
Fortunately, relationships, like golf swings, can be worked on and improved. Whenever I am working with an athlete, I make sure to spend time with them talking about the people in their lives that have the greatest influence on them. The goal is to nurture those relationships that serve as sources of love, support, and inspiration, and to eliminate or heal those relationships that serve as sources of distress, conflict, and pain. By doing so, you satisfy one of the most basic of human needs, belonging. When one feels like they belong, they inherently feel safe, certain of who they are, and free to pursue their dreams. So, as you continue to set goals for the upcoming season, don’t ignore the impact of others on your growth and development. A good place to start is to ask yourself, “Am I happy at home?”