Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Practice: Living that life.


I don't think there's a more punitive sound in sports. It sounds like the sort of noise you hear following behind you as a crowd cries out "SHAME. SHAME. SHAME." From the volume of the collision to the discordant and sudden lack of resonance at the end of the sound - it is an aural shredding of the eardrums. Whether you're throwing it high off of that dark intimidating bogey bar or throwing it low off of the rim - you're jarred by it. When your nose down putt chips the bar and slides down into the chains: everything about the beautiful and harmonious chime of the catching area is thrown off.

It can be discouraging to miss. Even more so when you're tracking numbers. When you're trying to focus on results every single night, that noise becomes synonymous with your failures.

This is all a roundabout way of bringing me to my topic:

What to do when putting turns into a grind?

We all want to be that person that dedicates time to the basket daily. But, likewise, we are all that person with responsibilities away from the basket. When the sessions go bad, it can be tempting to set the discs aside and go in to Netflix and chill. This was the case myself on a recent evening. The sun was down, the lights were on, and the baskets in my yard were calling me. I've made a habit this winter of telling people about my putting, so I have to hold up my end of the bargain and do what I say I'm doing. I could tell right away that adjustments would need to be made. The snow, half melted, resulted in ice patches all around the yard where I and my dogs had compacted it over the days. I knew footing would be bad. Winds were gusting to 15 miles per hour. I tried to make adjustments to my weight shift to compensate, while adjusting height and pace of putt. Starting out 21 feet away from the basket.


(Well, I mean, some of them tinkled off of the chains...)

Seven out of eight. Six out of eight. Sporadic sets resulting in an effective number under my target. For 20 minutes. Frustration begins to set in. This isn't going to be a good set. I can't get my footing. I can't get my head off of my footwork. I probably look stiff. I begin to tell myself that I need to just go inside, this isn't going to work tonight.

You can't do that!

So how do you move past these putting doldrums? For me the answer lies in changing the routine. I believe strongly in tracking putts, making sure you are assessing yourself regularly. But you can't do it every day. In education (my own field and experience as a person) we repeat the same thing every year: over-testing is bad. It holds true in disc golf. So how do you take a session that isn't up to your standards, and back off of the numbers to enjoy it?

You remember that the numbers are not what give the routine structure. There are a thousand different ways to structure your routine that allow you to take your mind and pull it away from the numbers. For me, on that night, it meant creating a routine that involved a very generous and pleasant progression. I stepped back from my routine, and I decided I wanted to feel successful. I needed to get in reps. I needed to be able to focus. And I needed to step away from frustration.

With my flags set at every three feet from 18 to 48 - I set down simple rules. At every station I would get 3 misses. If I missed 3 putts in a row, I move to the next closer station. If I make a putt, I move to the next deeper station. And I would go through this until I went all the way from 18 to 48 to one basket, and then I'd turn around and do the same from the other basket. It allowed me to feel good about my results, because of the varied distances it was difficult to develop a meaningful statistic in my head (I can't help but track myself when I can, often to my chagrin). I was consistently hanging out in the 39-45 foot range for long stretches of time, which made the missed putts easier to stomach.

In the end I was able to get meaningful practice out of a night that I wasn't at my most focused. I was able to come out of the session with a positive mindset about my putting game while getting all of the reps I needed, despite less than stellar conditions.

Living the practice life does mean tracking numbers. You need to understand your progression. But it doesn't mean doing it every single night. There's no need to track every putt that you take. I could not tell you how many putts it took me to move up and down both ends of my distance ladder. But I can tell you that I felt good about the work I put in at the end. And that made me want to get out there again the next night.

Live that life.
  1. Great advice! now to put it into practice. I like the idea of using flags to mark out a distance ladder. My only question is, were they in a straight line or did you vary the position of them?

  2. Hey there, author of the article here - I have them running in a straight line. It smooths the transition moving from spot to spot. I get in enough practice from varied spots in the rest of my time putting with friends or on the course, so I keep the lines relatively similar on these so that I can work on muscle memory on occasion.

  3. Nice article Woj! About half-way through I wondered if you were the author, with how much you have been talking about putting lately. This article is a good reminder that the action is more important than the result. I got out the other day and threw putter drives for a half-hour, and was just starting to feel the rustiness of winter dissepate. The next day I threw a round where a tough putter upshot was required and I nailed it! I thought to myself, and told who I was with, "I doubt I would have been able to do that, had I not got out and thrown yesterday."

    When it comes to putting, I often pride myself with having a decent putt for minimal practice. My approach is to putt enough to build confidence, and when that begins to faulter - stop. This is all well and good until you suddenly take a week off, come back and your muscle memory isn't aligned with the confidence you bring.

    My take-away is, putting for confidence is important, but unless the action is regularly performed, it will in effect be overconfidence, because the muscle memory is no longer there. And to your point, perform the action in the face of frustration, because the action is important, but also, get back to a place of enjoying it, so it's easy to return to next time - even if that means breaking up the routine you have been using to track progress (please forgive the run-on sentence haha).

    Im curious as to, "what do you value most about tracking your putting progress?"

    -Stephen Howard (can't login with my phone >< )

    1. Can you clarify the question a bit more? I can take that as what do I feel I get out of the tracking, or I could take it as a request for what sort of numbers are most important to me when I am tracking.