These are challenging times for Derek Jeter. Retired from baseball, Jeter has seen the Yankees charge into first place without him. He's seen his girlfriend land more Sports Illustrated covers (OK, maybe not so bad when considering this is Derek Jeter's girlfriend). And now he's trying to hit a ball that doesn't care how many World Series rings he owns.
According to Jeter's new golf coach, David Leadbetter, Jeter took up golf in earnest shortly after his retirement and his approach to the game has already required an adjustment in thinking. Or so Leadbetter wrote in a recent story for Jeter's upstart website, The Players Tribune.
The first time I met Derek, who took up golf a mere six months ago, I joked with him that he practices like he's in the batting cage: hitting one ball after the other. Over and over, just nonstop. He's very disciplined and he's willing to put in the work. You can see why he's been so successful in baseball. But in golf, the success of your shot is determined largely by preparation and form. Most of the work is done before the club even touches the ball. While repetition is important, it's more important to take the time to learn why something is or isn't working. Hitting ball after ball, in a repetitive manner, can obscure this lesson: you hit one good one and three bad ones, and then you don't know why you hit the bad ones. Golf is a case of taking the stuff that's right and chipping away at it. Every slice is a chance to learn how to be more consistent.
Leadbetter's story was titled, "Why Pro Athletes Struggle At Golf," which presumably took root with his experiences with Jeter.
Here's how that conversation might have gone:
Jeter, after topping another drive: "Man, this game is hard!"*
Leadbetter: "I know, right?"
Jeter: "And I was a pro athlete. Hey, wait a second . . ."
*Jeter's relationship with Leadbetter has been beneficial in other ways. The teacher also helped facilitate an introduction to his star student Lydia Ko, who wasn't even born when Jeter won his first World Series with the Yankees, but is now arguably the most dominant player in golf.