From our favorite sport psychologist comes a personal account of taking advantage of a learning experience, along with simple instructions on how you can identify and capitalize on every opportunity presented in sports and life.
Dr. Rob Bell, a certified sport psychologist and pro golf caddy, recently shared the story of his “biggest learning experience”—the missed opportunity of a lifetime—during a stop at the PGA Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte earlier this month.
Bell writes: “The crowds were huge that day for a Pro-Am, and [they] started to erupt in applause because walking to the putting green was ‘The King’ himself, Arnold Palmer. He took his time walking to the green, dropped three balls and began putting at the same hole, 10 feet away. I walked by him and said ‘hello,’ and he nodded.
“Only after he went to the first tee did I realize my gaffe. I never shook his hand! Here was perhaps the only opportunity to shake the hand of the largest icon in golf, and I missed it. The oddity of the event was that in the moment, it didn’t even cross my mind.”
Bell continues: “I basically was just not ready for the event to occur, was not ‘on top of my game’ and let the moment slip. I did not ‘seize the moment.’ I did not act like this was going to be my only shot at shaking Arnold Palmer’s hand.”
Bell acknowledges this was not a life-or-death situation. Nonetheless, much can be learned from missed opportunities.
Palmer once defined boldness as “taking advantage of every tiny opening toward victory.” First, being on top of your game shouldn’t be an option. You should always be on top of your game, or as Bell writes, “have your antennas up at all times.”
Imagine a game setting, for example. Maybe you’re not an everyday player, or you haven’t received much playing time recently. That doesn’t mean you’re not part of the team, or that your number won’t soon be called.
You must approach every game as if you’re in the starting lineup. Continue with your pre-game routine, keep your head in the game and put yourself on the field or court as you watch from the bench.
Bell’s story underscores the value of taking risks. Maybe it’s an opportunity to take the final shot of a game or try out for a top-level travel team. In any case, you don’t know whether or when that situation might present itself again. You might never have another opportunity like it. So you can’t fear failure. View these occasions as challenges, not a threats, and execute to the best of your ability when your time comes.