By Megan Padua Buzza, PGA/LPGA
Having golf in my life has enriched it in many surprising ways. I met my husband through golf, and this year we decided to expand our twosome into a threesome. When I found out I was pregnant, I didn’t think being a golf coach was going to have any relevance. By the time my son was born, my coaching skills became essential to overcoming the obstacles of labor while having a natural childbirth. With preparation and training beforehand, I never faced the feeling of “I can’t do this.” Instead, I had an empowering and surprisingly pain-free experience. These are the game-changers that can help you stay in the zone in any situation where mental strength is tested.
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
On the bottom layer, I had friends and family that provided a support system and an opportunity to learn from their previous experiences. It’s really important to find the right people who give positive examples rather than providing horror stories. Although friends and family were important, I believe you also need specialists.
One of the most important people was my doula, Wendy Lutcherhand, who is trained in hypnobirthing. She joked that a doula is a “paid friend” – but she was far more than this. She was my coordinator, and found resources that allowed me to make the best-informed decisions throughout my journey. Wendy was secure in her strengths and weaknesses, which was an asset in forming my medical team.
This leads me to my midwives, Jen and Jamie. Meeting them beforehand built the rapport needed for a successful experience. Don’t underestimate the importance of rapport. As a golf coach, you can have more knowledge than the next guy, but without connection with the student, the learning experience will suffer. Also just like my doula, building a team and showing your student that you’re prepared to collaborate with other experts makes your student buy in and respect you more for your talent.
The only thing to fear is fear itself
Fear can be one of the biggest road blocks to success. In child birth, it’s presence will increase physical pain, while on the golf course, fear will create emotional pain in the form of high scores. This is due to the fight or flight response.
Our nervous system operates under two modes, sympathetic and parasympathetic. Think of the parasympathetic as the system for calm and relaxation, whereas the sympathetic is the fight or flight response the body uses to prepare for danger. The issue with the latter is that the body sends blood from the organs into the limbs and you get tunnel vision. This makes child birth tougher as the blood is moving away from areas that it is needed. On the golf course, your decision making will be impaired.
Our primitive brain is wired to prioritize danger, but unfortunately, the dangers that we face in the modern world are very different from the dangers this system is designed for. Unlike other animals, one of our biggest issues is that we have the ability to worry and think about worst case scenarios. Our brain isn’t able to decipher between real danger and problems we have created internally. When we hear stories of failure and how hard it is to be successful, the stories can push us into fight and flight and prevent us from having a fair shot at success. This type of thinking will create failure when success could have been possible.
The body/mind connection
The mind is a powerful thing and our beliefs have a huge influence on the outcome. When we are in a stressful situation, the mind and its perception will make your body feel the corresponding physical response. The body has the same effect on the mind! It can sometimes be hard to control your emotions.
For example, if I asked you to show what a happy, scared, confident or a hesitant person looked like, you would be able to do so. Therefore, when feeling nervous, you should adopt the posture of a person who is confident. This sounds very simple but will send signals to the brain that you are confident and override the nervous signals trying to be sent. This is a far more reliable way to get into the right frame of mind, as trying to fight bad thoughts with good thoughts doesn’t tend to hold up in the heat of the battle.
Breathing is one of the best ways to get the body to control the mind. I learned several different breathing patterns that helped me maintain my focus during different stages of my labor. When the fight or flight response of the body ignites, breathing can help take back your control. If it works in labor, it certainly works on the golf course.
Fear release techniques
My husband is a Master Practitioner in Neuro Linguistic Programming and trained in hypnotherapy. NLP is a communication-based discipline and has a number of techniques to overcome fear. We first became aware of this through the work of motivational speaker Tony Robbins. Watching what he was able to achieve was inspiring, using beneficial techniques that were outside of the box. As a golf coach himself, Steve uses this for communication purposes, and there are a number of fear release techniques where you can reframe the brain to have a different association with the stressor that is causing the fear. We spent many hours going through these fear release techniques.
Having short positive statements at the birth had a calming effect. The key was using the phrases prior to the birth. I had become so familiar with them that they were a pillar of strength when I needed them. I think too many golfers try to be positive in the moment that they need that mindset. Unfortunately, because they hadn’t picked out these cues beforehand, trying to access them on demand is far more challenging. My biggest advice would be to keep them simple, keep them visible and look at them often.
Becoming a mother was the greatest journey of my life. I’m beyond lucky to be able to say I had a beautiful and empowering experience due to these skills. This experience taught me that you can take on any task with preparation and the right mindset.
Megan Padua Buzza is a PGA and LPGA certified teaching professional. She has been recognized as one of the Top 50 LPGA Teachers, is a GRAA Growth of the Game Teaching Professional – Elite Status, a Golf Digest Best Young Teacher in America and a U.S. Kids Golf Master Kids Teacher. In the summer months, Megan teaches at one of America’s Top 100 courses, The Maidstone Club on Long Island, and at Bonita Bay Club in Bonita Springs, Florida from November to May.