Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Get Off the Bus!

I like to tell the following story about my uncle Brian:
He’s a big golfer, and once a year he goes over to Ireland with his buddies to play a few rounds of golf on the gorgeous Irish courses. They always rent a van and on this particular trip, and for the purposes of this particular story, they were making their way from one course to another, and en route to a hotel. They were passing a bar my uncle had heard of and he wanted to stop. “Let’s have a drink,” he pitched to the group. No one agreed. It was late. They had an early-morning tee time. Who cares about some bar? Let’s just get to where we’re going.
But my uncle persisted. He had a feeling. He wanted to go to this bar! He made the bus pull over and with just one other guy, he got off. They went to the bar for a drink--- a small place, definitely off the map. It was packed. Jammed to the brim. My uncle thought hey, he was right, this place was a hit! Just then some musicians came in to play. People cheered, slammed down beers. My uncle and his buddy listened to Van Morrison, Jerry Lee Lewis and Ron Woods for the next couple of hours.
When my uncle tells the story he always ends it this way: Sometimes, Kate, you gotta get off the bus.
A few weeks ago, my uncle invited me on that same golfing trip. He offered to fly me over, put me up, play with me. I could, of course, think of a million reasons not to go. KTUGA is just back from summer. We’re starting new programs, picking up with our students. There is a ton of work to be done, work that needs my time and attention and presence. But then I remembered this exact story--- sometimes you gotta get off the bus.
I went.
It was an incredible trip, and I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to go. It was wonderful to spend so much time with my dear uncle, and to get to play on some of the world’s leading courses. But truth be told, the lesson was really the greatest part of the vacation—get off the bus. Often we think that saying “yes!” to things is a way of meeting a challenge--- of standing up to work, to difficulty, and bellowing our intention. This is true and it’s a big part of what I teach--- “Yes I can!” But sometimes saying yes is just getting off the bus. Sometimes saying yes is saying yes to adventure, to a change of course, to a silly idea no one has time for. Sometimes saying yes is giving yourself the opportunity to allow your ideas about success, progress, productivity-- to shift. It would have been prudent for my uncle to stay on that bus, to get a good night’s sleep and play a good round the next day. But he didn’t say yes to prudence, he said yes to something else--- some impulse of FUN. And he has a story now for the ages.
Think about getting off the bus this week. Think about saying yes to all aspects of your life--- to challenge, to adventure, to joy.
With love,

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Saturdays with Lily

For the last three summers I’ve worked with a little girl named Lily. Lily is going into second grade this fall and we began our time together when she was just about to start Kindergarten. Saturdays with Lily are one of the highlights of my week. I’ve seen her grow from a shy, soft-spoken girl into a force to be reckoned with. Lily has some health challenges that make it difficult for her to do contact sports. Her mother, wisely, did not want Lily to miss out on physical activity and thought golf would be perfect for Lily---she was right. This is another thing I love about golf---how accessible it is to people of all needs. It’s truly a lifetime sport and something I feel blessed to journey.
Every Saturday Lily shows up for our lessons with a smile on her face. Her progress has been extraordinary, but that’s not what I want to share here. What I want to talk about is the ways in which Lily has made me a better instructor. I talk a lot about allowing students to be exactly where they are. I also say that it’s important for teachers to “get on their level.” Speak in language they understand, use games to demonstrate techniques. But the single most important thing I believe you can do as a teacher is to hold space for a child to be where they are, when they are. If they’re having an off day, be silly. If something isn’t working, change it, and change it again. Children are remarkably adaptable but as adults we sometimes forget how important it is to sway, to move. To shift. To be.
Working with young children is an incredible experience in presence. In order to hold space, to allow children to be exactly where they are, when they are there, I need to be present. That means I’m not thinking about outcomes. I don’t spend the lesson worrying about what their shot is going to be like at age fifteen or whether they are going to go pro. Those things will happen if they are right for that child and as that child reveals to me the directions they want to move in, we will move there. But the child must lead. The reason my program works is because I work with children, not above them. We’re in this together. As partners. Friends.
Saturdays with Lily are a constant reminder of my partnership with these children. Of the deal I make with them when they step into my classroom or onto my course: I will hold space for you to be exactly where you are, when you are there.
It hasn’t failed me yet.
Be where you are. When you are there. And then play there.
With love,