It’s funny how much easier it is to join up the dots afterwards.
Analysing events, drawing conclusions… and then realising you’ve been taught those exact lessons more than once before. I guess it’s a weakness for most of us; needing evidence to truly believe in the path we’re taking, needing results to trust the process. They’re probably the three most used words in the athlete world, and yet I think we say it as a reminder to ourselves rather than a statement of intent. But isn’t that the definition of trust? To have complete faith in something we have no definitive proof of?
There will be people that tell you there is proof. Well intentioned and highly reputable people who believe in you, people who undoubtedly know what they’re talking about, telling you “you’re doing things the right way”, that “it was only a matter of time”, or that “it’s the first of many”. And however much you trust these people, however much you respect them; seek out their opinions, advice and expertise in every other area, no one can make you trust yourself apart from, shock, yourself. To put it as simply as possible, the reason I have my first win on the LET is the same reason I was able to tee off the 18th with a two shot lead, knowing that a week’s work can implode in the space of a heartbeat, and still produce two of my best shots all week. I had complete trust in myself and my own ability.
But trying to figure out why I was able to do that that week is the part that possibly doesn’t quite add up on the outside. There’s probably too strong of an assumption in the sporting world that wins or good performances follow a specific set of rules, with very limited variations. Wins come because you’ve been putting in good performances, you’ve been showing signs of consistency, you’ve been in contention regularly. Or you are back somewhere you’ve done well at before; you’ve had a trigger for good vibes. I’ve had reasons to believe in myself and my own capability, I won’t doubt that. I’ve had weeks where I’ve looked at winning scores and known with complete certainty they were in my grasp, weeks where I’ve thought anything might be possible. But most of those weeks have stemmed from one of those sets of rules that I just mentioned. Weeks when maybe the odds might have leant slightly more in my favour. Weeks that weren’t on the back of two missed cuts out of three and a two month stroke average of 75. Weeks where I hadn’t spent parts of the previous events wondering if I’d reached my maximum. If I wasn’t going to achieve any kind of successful result because I just needed some practice time that I wasn’t able to get. If the strongest parts of my game would never be enough to hold the weakest parts together.
Analysis, rationality, doubts, plans, trust… all full cycle, day after day, week after week. Not knowing when, or if, it was all going to come together. Not knowing when, or if, or why, I could even get back to the level of performance I was producing a few months previously, when I believed I’d spent the time in between making myself better. But seeing the smallest of signs and trusting them… engaging in those processes that seem to be going full cycle, and realising they are edging you closer… knowing when to question, when to adapt, when to trust. Who to turn to. They all bridge the narrowing gap that might look like a chasm from the outside. They all bring you closer to the place I found myself in in Coffs Harbour, a place where I felt like limits was just a word and capability was undefined.
Corpus Callosum. It’s the name given for the structure that connects the left and right sides of your brain. The place where logic meets imagination, where reason meets intuition, where fact meets trust. Maybe it’s the scientific name for that place every athlete strives to get into… the place every athlete knows is where the magic happens, the place every athlete knows their performance will find new bounds, the place where every athlete wonders how all the endless complications can suddenly feel so simple. The place where you feel in more control than you ever thought was possible, and somehow completely out of control at the same time. The place you can only find by not looking for. The place where knowing you are in it takes you straight back out of it. The place where all your potential is laid out in its purest, barest form, simultaneously scaring and exciting you. The place you weren’t sure you could hold onto for long enough to believe it was real. The place you train for, sweat for, despair for, live for. The place some people call the zone. The place that makes it all worth it.