Body language is the picture that paints 1,000 words. It is amazing what you can gather from the way a person holds themselves. If they are standing upright with their shoulders pulled back and chest out a bit there is the feeling of confidence, especially if accompanied by a smile. If they are slouched over with their head facing the ground the feeling of defeat is in the air. Simple little gestures that can carry the weight of the world and yet a lot of times people don’t even realize they are telling you a story without even saying a word.
This weekend I spent watching the Ryder Cup. It is my favorite golf tournament because of the concept of USA versus Europe. Golf is said to be a gentleman’s game
and these players conduct themselves with the utmost respect for the game and each other. That is until the Ryder Cup comes along and I think that is why I love it so much. The respect for the game and each other is still present but now the gallery is yelling and hollering. The players are fist pumping and fist bumping after putts. They are high-fiving and running toward the green after a great shot. The entire world of golf gets set on its ear for a weekend and I love it.
If you have seen the reports from this weekend you know that the European team defeated the Americans after a tremendous comeback on Sunday. The Americans lead 10-6 heading into Sunday and only needed 4.5 points to win the Ryder Cup. It seemed like a formality and not because the Europeans couldn’t win but because the odds were so stacked against them. The USA needed “only” 4.5 points out of 12 of just a little over 1/3. Surely they could do that and do that early enough so that everybody could leave Medinah Country Club in time to watch the NFL in the club house while drinking champagne out of the cup.
Well that may have led to their demise. The idea that it was in their grasp and was sure enough something they could easily do. As the day and really the weekend went along I noticed one thing and it repeatedly happened. After every putt that they missed the Americans body language took a turn. On Friday the Americans were dancing as everything was going right for them. I mean they were all smiles, even if the putt did not drop. They smiled and finished out the hole and you could feel like the cup was finally going to land on American soil for the next two weeks.
Then Saturday afternoon hit and the 4 points they were playing for were split, but not in a way that led you to believe that this match was over. It was far from it because the high-fiving and smiling was beginning to fade and the confidence was showing signs of cracking. Sunday it all fell apart.
After what seemed like every putt, whether it was from 40 feet or from 4 feet the body language went something like this:
- Look at the ball in disbelief as it passed the hole.
- Lean back at the waist as the ball lipped the cup and spun out.
- Glance at the line that you thought the ball should have taken, then back at your putter than back at the line.
- Shake your head in disbelief.
Go back and watch the Ryder Cup’s final holes and this is exactly what you will see from every American. Sure they putted out and won or halved some holes but that happened fewer than the scenario above with losses. The biggest proponent of that maneuver was Steve Stricker, a guy who made the team because of hit putting. At this tournament he was downright terrible. On what turned out to be the final and deciding hole of the tournament he missed a putt that was not just a miss but not even close. He missed so badly that I had to shake my head and think to myself that he was not prepared for that moment and just went up there and hit the ball so as if to get the whole nightmare over with.
I was taken aback by how the confidence seemingly left the Americans in rapid fashion and you could tell it was happening by just looking at their body language. As they walked from the tee box down the fairway toward their ball the Europeans did so with boundless energy. They had the make up of a champion and the momentum to make sure that adjective stuck with them.
The Americans walked with their heads down wondering where it all went wrong. Wondering and contemplating how to get it back, but they now have two years to think about that. If you had seen Keegan Bradley on Friday and Saturday with his youthful enthusiasm and his ability to get the crowd involved you would have thought this would be a runaway tournament, that is until you saw him on Sunday.
How about Bubba Watson? When it was finally his turn to play he asked the crowd to go crazy while he was lining up his first tee shot. He crushed the ball and while it found the rough you would not have known it because he had the look. You know the look. The one that says no matter what the scenario I will prevail. Bubba lost that look on Sunday as well.
What does this have to do with Triathlon? Really it has everything to do with the sport of triathlon. When you walk into transition if you feel overwhelmed by the situation there is a good chance you will not live up to your potential. You need to be confident that you belong in that area with everybody else that is there. You need to feel as if everything you have done has led you to that point. When you enter the water you need to know that this is your race. If you feel slouched over before you even put on your goggles it is going to be a long day. Stay confident in your ability and know that you have done everything you can to get yourself to that point healthy and let the day take you.