Friday, July 3, 2020

On Winners and Winning II: Johnny Musto's Triple Crown

(No stranger to glory: John Musto clinches the 1990 Intercollegiate Championship for Yale, beating Mark Baker of Harvard 15-13 in the fifth game.)

This year, before the shut-in, I had the great fortune of taking my son the to the Tournament of Champions in New York City.  It turned out that my actual luck was to run into my old friend John Must0, whose trademark Cheshire Cat grin blazed at me from across Vanderbilt Hall.  I had been eager to see John since I had read about his win at the British Open, giving him something of a Triple Crown, having won the US, Canadian, and British National Championships.  An amazing feat for anyone, it is even more remarkable for those in our generation who started on hardball.  We are used to being beaten by international players who didn’t spend their first twenty years playing with a different court and ball.  So, it was particularly delicious for players of my era to hear of John’s accomplishment.  When I was thinking of this series on winners and winning, I decided to contact him to see if he would be willing to talk to me about his win at the British, the jewel in the crown.  We had two conversations during which I was on the edge of my chair as John described for me in close detail his forced march through the draw, four matches that he described as “brutal,” and which a British journalist call “the hardest week of any player at Hull.”  Although I wasn’t there, I got the pleasure of spending two hours with John as he told me about his wins, about what led to them, what he was thinking, and here’s (only some of) what I got.

1)          The British Open Wasn’t Won in a Day.  The first thing that I heard in my conversation with John was that, though it was a remarkable feat, it wasn’t an accident.  John had played some Masters’ level events internationally in prior years, and stemming from losses in those events, he formulated the goal that he wanted to be competitive with the best Masters players in the world.  From that goal came a series of commitments: find a coach to help him, follow the advice of the coach, and devour and incorporate any bit of wisdom that coach gave him.  But note: he set the goal at age 46 and won his triple crown at 51. 

John cites two skills that helped him in the heat of battle, particularly during his warpath at the British.

2)         Admire Your Opponent: John discussed his transition from viewing any opponent as the enemy, the one who wanted to kill you and therefore the one you need to hate and kill first, to someone who came to respect his opponents, even enjoy the good shots his opponents hit.  Admiration for the opponent helps keep the mind even-keeled, keeps the aggression at the right temperature, where it can fuel good play without interference.**

3)         Accept The Possibility of Losing: Once you come to respect your opponent, you realize that he might beat you if he plays such good squash.  Once you admire him that way, you come to accept that you might lose the match.  John had something of a mantra when his matches at the British got tough: “I accept that I might lose this match.”  Accepting that possibility freed him up to play the kind of squash he needed to play in order to win.  Once the twin imposters of winning and losing are out of the way, you can meet the twins that really matter: playing your best and having fun.

4)        Have Heroes.  John is a die-hard sports fan.  He has a trove of great sports moments that he has watched from his couch that are very much alive in his head and heart.  I encourage you to do the same, so you can dredge the feeling of those moments when you are on the ropes.  John mentioned two such moments to me as having helped him in Hull, and his voice overflowed with excitement when he described them: The first was the 1980 US hockey team’s victory over Russia in the Olympics to take the gold medal.  (This is a fitting memory to feed off because America beating Russia in hockey was as unheard of as an American winning the British Open in squash.)  Also, he mentioned having been inspired by American Pharoah’s amazing run at the Belmont Stakes, where he, also fittingly, clinched his triple crown.  John had the call from booth during the final stretch of the race in his mind as he played his own nail-biting final in the British: “American Pharoah makes his run for glory!!”  When all your energy stores have been used, and it seems as though you have even accepted loss, it is useful to be animated by the glory of others to help you achieve some of your own.

John also spoke to other pivotal aspects of his victory: he told me that he likes to get away from the tournament site during the weekend.  Staying around the tournament with its anxious and stale air makes your legs heavy and dulls your mind.  John took a day trip to York after the quarters, enjoyed a lovely day in a town he would have never known, and came back for the semis with a refreshed mind and renewed spirit.  Finally, if you know John, you know that he levitates when he talks about squash.  He simply can’t contain himself.  When I mentioned maybe making a comeback of my own to competitive squash, he said, “remember, Matt, playing a long, hard squash point is a L-O-T of fun,” grinning in that John way.  Though John has had other jobs in his life, being squash is his life, and when you see John play, you see someone doing what he was meant to do.  It’s the absence of a gap between being and doing that leads to obliterating barriers, to transcending the possible, to glorious accomplishments.

**See my post "On Rivals and Rivalry," in this blog for a similar skill.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Jack Nicklaus & The 1986 Masters: Composure, Muscle Memory, and Pure Joy


In 1986, it seemed like Jack Nicklaus was finished with winning golf tournaments and especially major tournaments.  Sitting on a king’s ransom of PGA and international victories, holder of the most major victories by any golfer (19), Jack seemed finished with his playing career, and was well into his post-script as a course architect and full-time legend of yore.  But, as we all know, the 1986 Masters proved everyone, except Jack Nicklaus, wrong.  His historic rally on Sunday of that tournament, in which he shot a final nine 30 to surpass some of the best golfers of the day and win his sixth Masters and 20th major, remains one of the most thrilling stories in golf.  Given that we are all so intensely sports deprived in this age of coronavirus quarantine, I decided to watch the final round of 1986 to see what I could glean for the opening piece of Floating & Stinging’s series on winning and winners.  I encourage you to spend the time watching it, but if you don’t get around to it, let me point out three skills that Jack mentions as having been pivotal for him:

1)            Composure: In the interview after the round in the Butler Cabin, when asked to reflect on his victory, he said that given the difficulty of the course, it is essentially a young man’s golf course, and “it’s a matter not only of playing good golf, but of being able to compose yourself.  And I was able to do both today.”

It's all well and good to talk about composure, but composure is built up of a host of skills, and Jack Nicklaus mentions two of them in post round interview after Masters’ wins:

2)          Muscle Memory: at two points in time, Jack mentions feeding off of victories or moments of the past.  In ’86 he talks about his (successful) eagle putt on 15 this way: “I missed (that same) putt in 1975 and I hit it a little too easy.”  And also in 1975, he talks about thinking to himself on 16 tee: “I’ve been here before.  I’ve been in this position before.”  It is no surprise then, that he birdied that hole, famously, in ‘75 and ‘86.  Feeding off of personal victories of the past, can really help keep you composed during pressure-filled moments.  Keep a running file in your mind and maybe more importantly, in your body, and practice visualizing them, so they are on easy recall when needed.  You know you can do it now because you’ve done it before.

3)           Joy: There is no prolific winner out there who doesn’t love the thrill of competition.  Most successful competitors are successful because of the joy it brings them to be doing their thing in difficult moments.  Doing their sport is synonymous with being them.  In 1975, when asked about his nerves while standing over his winning putt on 18, Jack said, “well, by golly, that’s the fun of it.”  Many people talk about having wobbly knees or a nauseous stomach, but he speaks of the pure joy of that moment, that putt, being Jack Nicklaus sinking that putt.

On Winners and Winning

So much of we do at Altius is to improve performance with an eye toward increasing self-esteem, enjoyment of the pursuit of excellence, and enhanced self-knowledge.  But, at the same time, we’d like one of the by-products of that work to be winning.  Winning is a validation of the hard work logged, and indicator that we’re on the right track, often a vindication on many fronts, and finally, a great deal of fun.  Often, when there is a prodigiously successful athlete, we call that person a “natural,” and we think that s/he wins often because of those innate qualities.  But, it’s also useful to think of winning as almost a separate skill from all the others.  It takes a great deal to get there, but it takes another set of skills to bring it across the line.  I decided to dedicate a number of pieces to the topic of winners in the hopes that we could distill what it is that the seeming naturals have that we could learn too.  Winning is not a magic, innate quality that winners have and losers don’t.  The reason why so many post-victory interviews begin with the question, “So, what was going through your mind when….” is because if we know what a winner thinks in crucial  moments, we could learn to think that way too.  In the next few posts, I will feature insights from winners as they reflect on some of their more momentous victories so that we can distill the set of skills that separates doing the thing from winning the thing.  Before we hear from them, I will say that, without doubt, winning requires at a minimum the kind of skills we’ve been writing about all along in Floating & Stinging: 1) hard work; 2) the ability to regulate the emotions during moments of high pressure; 3) self-belief; and finally 4) joy: the love of being in that moment doing that thing.  But don’t take it from me, let’s hear what the winners have to say.

Friday, May 17, 2019

“Foot-fault!”: A Child-Centered Parenting Moment in Youth Sport

Recently, I had a very unusual encounter in my life as a squash referee.  As you might imagine, I am often the person at whom daggers of the eyes are directed, as parents don’t like a call or set of calls I made ‘against’ their child. And while I am rarely approached by a parent to explain a call, a conversation I would welcome, I have been approached with the snide question, “So, tell me, have you ever played this game?” I understand the move: they feel as though their child has been hurt or wronged, and so they want to defend their child and direct anger at the person who hurt them.  There are two problems with this scenario: the first is that they are taking their child’s temper tantrum at the call(s) rather than the referee’s line of decision making as the fuel for their ire, and secondly, they themselves don’t have much competitive experience, and therefore aren’t so clear about the best way to handle real or perceived adversity in the heat of the moment.

This recent event was different.  I was refereeing a 17-year old boy playing in a local tournament against someone several years his senior.  He lost the first few points of the first game, and then won one and came in to serve.  “Foot fault,” I called, as his foot was well across the line when he hit his serve. As often happens when you make that call, I got an incredulous look.  “Are you serious?!” He caws at me.  “Yes,” I say.  “Your back foot was well across the line by the time you struck your serve.”  Looking at the gallery for a shared sense of outrage, and not getting it, he muttered, shook his head, and went to receive serve.

After the match, in which the 17-year old lost, I was approached by his father.  While I braced for a verbal lashing about my call, the father surprised me and thanked me. He told me that his son was in a temper tantrum at the first game break about the call, asking him if he could possibly believe that he had been called on a foot fault and that I must be crazy. He told me that he responded to his son: “Yes, I believe it!  He saw your foot across the line.  Now your job is to accept the call, keep your foot in the box while you serve, and focus on what you can do to win this match.”  He thanked me for helping his son get ready for the next stage in his playing career.  (He is going off to college in the fall.)  While I could go on to tell you the many other differences between this situation and the one I’m generally in when refereeing junior tournaments, the main one here is that this father has considerable experience as a player on the professional tennis tour.  He went on to tell me: “On tour, one of the main differences between guys who made it and guys who didn’t was the amount of time the ones who didn’t spent in the locker room whining about calls they didn’t like.”

I’m not one of these “tough love” parenting types, but I will say that a parent does a child a great disservice when he sides with the rage of the child against the referee.  Regardless of whether the calls are good or bad, learning how to deal with any and all calls is an essential aspect of being effective in competition. There is an array of skills you can help your child with when they are in this situation, but colluding with them in hating, or what I call enemizing the referee, will always yield bad results.  Here are some skills you can teach your kid instead:

1)    Radical Acceptance: encourage your child to accept all calls with grace, and move on to the next point.  But, this means really accepting and really moving on.  He or she can certainly appeal to the ref for an explanation so that they understand the ref’s line of thinking and help them avoid the same situation in future points, but they must generally accept all calls and keep the yelling in their head to zero.  This may require the subsidiary skills of pacing and breathing.  Remember: a player has 10 seconds to prepare for the next point. Use them to embrace reality and re-regulate.
2)    Do not rile your child up by getting into an ‘enemy mindset’ vis-à-vis the ref.  That is, don’t look exasperated and outraged in the gallery after a call. Your child will see this and it will only increase the complaining, whining, and feelings of victimization on the part of your kid.  This mindset is not clean, it focuses the mind in the wrong direction, and often produces bad performance and worse conduct.  Therefore: you, too, must engage skill #1 above, radically accept reality and self-soothe.  Doing so will help your child do it.
3)   Encourage your child to have a polite conversation with the referee after the match to explain his calls.  There might be something that your child does not understand about the rules that will help him in future matches.  It will emerge that the referee is not, in fact, a raving lunatic.  And, having this conversation will also be an exercise in self-advocacy, an interpersonal effectiveness goal which will result in greater self-esteem.

It is difficult to overstate the importance of the skills I’ve outlined here.  Parents so often ask me how they can help their child in the fracas of competition, but they take “standing up for their kid” as so much a part of nature’s bargain that their default mode ends up being exactly the wrong track to take in the face of difficult, confusing, or even bad calls.  Using the skills I’ve outlined here will help develop a resilient, interpersonally effective athlete whose attention can be focused on the correct performance goals at the right moment.  Who knows, you might even be thanking a referee one of these days.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Jon Rahm, David Duval & The Lessons of The Players Championship

Anyone who watched the final round of this year’s ‘fifth major’, The Players Championship, will have seen the ascendant Spanish golfer Jon Rahm make one of the worst decisions I have seen in my years of watching tournament golf.  Holding a share of the lead when he came to the par 5 11th hole, his drive found the bunker on the left side of the fairway.  He was blocked from a straight line to the green by trees on his left sight line, but he decided—against the counsel of his caddie---to go for the green.  The shot required him to hook a shot out of the bunker, against the prevailing wind, over water, and to a pin that was on the right side of the green.  His shot did not hook enough, found the water, provoking a temper tantrum, as he swore, “I was so fu**ing sure the first time,” implying that it was his caddie’s fault for instilling the fatal dose of doubt to the shot, and revealing he had way too much going through his head to do anything well.  Probably an imprudent shot under any circumstances, but with one of his biggest wins on the line, it was downright self-destructive.  The commentators: Hicks, from the booth: “That is very, very perplexing;” Maltbie, from the course: “Really a poor decision;” and finally, lead announcer Paul Azinger, the new Johnny Miller: “You know, when you’re nervous, you don’t just hit poor shots, you think poorly.”  His comment supports the point I made in my post “Mastering the Moment.”  One of the reasons that players play and think poorly in pressure moments is because everything has sped up in their body and their mind, and they are not doing enough to counteract the very normal hastening that comes with elevated nerves.  In that piece, I lay out some protocols that will help slow everything down the next time you are nervous.  Furthermore, Rahm and his caddie need to do some serious processing so that they are not at odds the next time a big moment comes along.  As I have said in yet another post, that processing should start by reviewing tape of this incident multiple times, and for Rahm to be brutally honest with himself to see if he felt in his right mind, and to be honest about all the physiological reactions he remembers having, so he can use them as cues next time to slow down and rely on his caddie more not less.  The sad thing is that, even after his bogey on 11, he was still in the tournament, until three bogeys later when he wasn’t.  Sadder still is that golfworld magazine had written a piece after his Saturday 64 saying that he had overcome his temper tantrum days and would be very difficult to beat on Sunday.  It looks like there’s more work to be done.*
In a lead-up piece to the tournament, PGATOUR.COM ran a piece about David Duval’s win at The Players in 1999 during a dominant period when he had a 30 percent win percentage in his tournament starts, a remarkable statistic.  Duval speaks of that win as one of his most special because of how difficult the course was playing (e.g. highest winning score in the event’s history), and how much patience he had, and how he “held it all together.” And what he said about that tournament and that period is, “It becomes pretty easy.  There’s a hyperfocus…There’s an emptiness in your mind, if you will.  Some clarity.  It all kind of ties together.”  Here, too, he is validating a point I made in these pages (“Think Like Dustin: A Lot Less.”), and while you might not be able to play like Duval at his prime, you can certainly practice getting into that mind state.  One thing such practice does is slow down your subjective experience of time.  I know it will help you, and I certainly know it could have helped Jon Rahm last weekend in The Players.**

*Powers, C., “Players Championship 2019: Jon Rahm Claims he’s a changed man.  If that’s the case, watch out.” Golfdigest.com, Mar 16, 2019.
**Martin, S., “Duval’s Win at Sawgrass: an extreme test of patience,” pgatour.com, March 10, 2019.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Getting Lost in Your Own House: The Complete Collapse

If you’ve ever choked in an athletic event, you will know that it is one of the worst experiences an athlete can have.  I often differentiate two kinds of choking: a flub and a complete collapse. This piece will focus on the complete collapse, and the next one on the flub.  For now, let’s let it stand that the difference between them is one of time: the flub takes place in an eyeblink, whereas the collapse unfolds over time, making it all the more awful and harrowing.  Thus, it deserves a bit more attention.

In the collapse, one player or team goes from being in a dominant position in an event only to completely unravel, committing a number of almost inexplicable errors standing in stark contrast to the type of supremely wonderful and confident play that put them in the leading position in the first place.  Examples of this include: Serena Williams’ meltdown at this year’s US Open; her loss to the unseeded Italian Roberta Vinci in the 2015 US Open final, keeping her from the remarkable feat of holding all the Grand Slam titles in one calendar year; Jordan Spieth’s back nine unraveling at the 2016 Masters; Dustin Johnson’s limb-loosening effort in the 2008 US Open at Pebble Beach; Rory McIlroy’s belly flop in the 2011 Masters; Jean Van de Velde’s awful gut wrench on the 18that the 1999 British Open; and perhaps most famously, Greg Norman’s storied collapse in the 1996 Masters.

One thing that unites the flub and the collapse is a breakdown in the player’s ability to regulate their physiological response to the moment.  With the proper monitors, you would be able to detect quickened breathing and elevated heart rate, sweat glands would be more active, and thoughts would race more, indicating the shift from parasympathetic to sympathetic nervous system.  That is, even if it were to take place over an extremely short period of time, the brain of the sufferer would experience itself as under attack.  These kinds of changes, even on the subtlest of levels, are enough to cause corresponding changes in the fine muscle work required for skillful action, no matter how rote, routinized through hours of practice, forged in decades of competitive experience.  But, during a collapse, in addition to the physiological changes mentioned above, there is the additional one of nausea in the gut, owing to the activation of the vagus nerve, running from the brain to the viscera.  This is why so many people in the midst of a collapse experience extreme nausea, and may throw up, or even lose control of their excretory functions.  This is also why we have the expressions of “puking on oneself” or “soiling oneself” to describe this kind of event.  Other physiological changes include an over-narrowing of vision or hearing, disorientation with respect to time, and even a sense of dissociation, that one is leaving one’s body altogether, watching helplessly as this is happening. All of a sudden, you cannot execute skills which have been so well honed they almost feel automatic.  You are lost within your own house.  And worse, you can’t find your way out.  Such a collapse, and the resulting shame, can be extremely difficult to recover from, as you can tell from Jordan Spieth’s not having really made it back from his Masters’ episode, and from Greg Norman’s comments in his press conference after that round, saying that he’d be alright, that it was just a game, and that he had his money and his Maseratis to keep him warm.  The puker doth protest too much.

OK, so what can you do?  1) Well, the first thing is to recognize the physiological signsearly and accept that a collapse is upon you. You have to be consciously attuned to the elevated heart rate, hastened breathing, rapid thoughts [disbelief!], jittery hands, nausea, and then 2) intervene with THE BREATH.  The breath, always crucial, can nip a collapse in the bud, if anything can.  Make sure your breathing practices are solid. Breathing is the bedrock, the salvation, the true hail Mary of sport performance.  Next, 3) plug back into your senses.  As you feel yourself telescope back into the fun-house mirror of your head, plug back into the reality that is happening around you: the sights, the smells, and sounds of your competition.  These are not just cues for you to get back into present reality, but they can be pleasant reminders for you of why you love your sport, and therefore shift you from fear to passion.  If you have gotten to the point of leaving your body, 4) use your “snap out of it” skill.  This skill, developed with your coach, can be a slap to your thigh, a snap of a rubber-band on your wrist, or a gentle slapping of your club or racket on some part of your body.  Finally, 5) believe in yourself. Self-belief, another form of faith, is so powerful in a collapse.  A confident stride is just the thing you need when you think you have forgotten how to walk. During a collapse, self-faith can be expressed in a number of mantras developed with your coach.  “C’mon, Matt, you know how to do this.”  “This feels new, but it’s old hat.”  “You LOVE this.”

That said: the collapse might be such a totalizing experience that there’s not much you can do. Many people think that such collapses are due to inexperience, and that they’re more likely in younger athletes than in older.  But, that’s not so true, as the Greg Norman and Serena Williams examples make clear.  One thing is true: whether you ever recover from your total collapse is based on how you handle it.  Athletes with a growth mentality, a process-oriented approach, can recover and use the experience to make themselves even better competitors.  But, it doesn’t happen automatically: you have to be willing to walk back through it, moment by moment, in exposure format, to help rid yourself of the shame, and to learn as much as possible from what happened.*  Just think about Rory McIlroy: two months after his Masters’ fiasco, he hoisted the US Open trophy, and three more major victories later, cites his collapse as the most important day of his career, and that “ I learned so much about myself” (http://www.espn.com/golf/story/_/id/12603182/rory-mcilroy-says-masters-2011-collapse-was-most-important-day-my-career).  And, as I say at Altius, if that’s not winning, then I surely don’t know what is.

*On learning from losing, see my earlier posts: (“Learning from a Loss,” January 1, 2014; “Lessons from a Loss,” January 12, 2014; “Scott’s Lytham Opportunity: The only way out is through,” August 17, 2012.)

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Mastering the Moment

People who play games with a clock, which is to say, most team sports, know inherently that the time allotted to periods or quarters or halves is not absolute, but can be manipulated. They know that they can speed up or slow down play based on what is best for them at any given time.  People who play individual sports, or sports where the race against time is not an obvious aspect of the game, need to learn how to use time strategically, because left to its own devices, it will work against you.  For example, at certain crunch times in your event do you speed up, slow down, or become completely disoriented with respect to time?  People who have had the experience of a mental collapse, or choke, or even slight, but costly, mental lapse know that time is one of the dimensions that they lost control of as they slid into their demise.  These people often say things like, “Before I knew it, I was shaking the guy’s hand” (having lost), or “It all seemed like just a blur.” Whereas people who were able to master the moment can tell you with the utmost specificity what happened when and how they reacted, as if they were narrating a movie frame by frame.  The fact that we lose track of time is completely understandable because it is such a deeply entrenched cultural phenomenon, particularly for hard driving athletes embedded in hard driving cultures.  Fast gets rewarded, where as we have the impression that slow gets left in the dust.  But, actually, if we think about it, most of our wisdom comes retrospectively, which means that we were ignorant to the lessons taught in the moment.  Thus, it only makes sense that if we could slow down time, we might, might, have the opportunity to learn important lessons as they are happening, and not need to wait until later to see what was right there in front of our face.  It’s often remarked that the truly great athletes respond to the moment because they can react to inputs as they are coming in, and notice them calmly and with bare attention.  They don’t need to wait for the post-game analysis to see what was happening and how they should have reacted.  Here are some skills to help you become one of those players who reacts in the moment rather than one who regrets after the fact:

Find Time Opportunities: Together with your coach, find the parts of your sport where you can control time: game breaks, intervals between points, even ways within points to hasten or relax the pace.  All of this should be done with the rules of the game in mind, which is to say, though you are being strategic, you are not cheating or resorting to gamesmanship.  Then, practice those skills.  Often.

Review Tape: If you don’t tape your matches, start doing so. It will be valuable, particularly during losses, to see how you react to being under pressure, particularly with respect to time.  If, when you are watching, and you notice yourself speeding up, try to remember the emotion at that moment: excitement, anxiety, anger.  Remember that emotions are OK, but we succeed by lopping off the peaks and valleys of those emotions when we are playing.  (There are skills for that, too.)

Mindfulness to time: In your non-sport life, pay attention to time. Are you impatient when waiting for something?  Do you rush through things you like, and plod through things you dislike?  Notice if you lose track of time.  Say things to yourself like, “I’m rushing,” or “I’m being impatient,” if those things are true.  Or, “I’m dallying,” or “I’m avoiding,” if those are true.  Make these observations and take appropriate curative action without judgment.

Practice patience: Try the “watched pot” drill.  Fill up a teakettle with water, set it on the stove on high, and stand there until it boils.  Notice all of your urges to leave, notice all of the times you are fighting the process and rushing the pot along (“come on, already!”).  When you notice this, bring your attention back to the pot, to your breath, and say to yourself, “it will boil when it boils.”  There are all sorts of variations on this drill of patience in your life: in the car, in store lines, with your children and partner.  Believe me: the world will be better for a more patient you.

Practice bare attention: Find a drill that focuses you just on what’s happening.  For example, I often tell squash players (or tennis players) to try the “bounce-hit” drill, which is to simply say (in your head) “bounce,” or “hit” when the ball is bouncing or being hit.  Banish any other thought, but those two: bounce and hit.  This drill can be tailored to any sport.

Don’t just do something, sit there: Yes, meditation. Many athletes have discovered the performance enhancing power of meditation, and almost all of them praise its ability to slow down time and put the power of controlling it increasingly into our hands.  Being fully present is both completely necessary for athletic success, and a skill that can be practiced.  Some of that presence comes with the joy we experience in playing our sport, but it is greatly amplified when we practice having a widely observant mind, consciously free of distracting, time-hastening clutter.

The Romans knew that time slips through our fingers as we focus absentmindedly on other things, and so they gave us the phrase “tempus fugit.”  Unfortunately, we have mistranslated that to say, “time flies,” as if it were a bird. Whereas they were telling us that time escapes, we lose track of it, it is a fugitive.  With these skills, you can be in a better position to be its warden and master rather than its plaything and chump.