Ryder Cup: performance coach Amana Walker’s tips on how to perform in a big occasion team event

Performance coach Amana Walker shares her tips on performing as a team - whether in the Ryder Cup or everyday life

For golf fans out there, the Ryder Cup - taking place every two years, is arguably, the big one.

It’s also, for a time, when being European means having a close bond and a team spirit so strong, that it’s enough to scare the Americans off their own impressive Whistling Straights (Wisconsin) home turf.

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But it won’t be easy.

It never is when you are the ‘underdogs’ playing in front of a harsh, and loud American crowd with little or no fan support of your own throughout the tournament. (Mainly due to Covid travel restrictions to the USA).

Although, as one of my clients who is amongst the team has said, they will be ‘motivated by the American fans’ (no, he didn’t say it that politely) who will no doubt be doing their best to heckle and derail Europe.

The Ryder Cup is unusual because it relies on individual players who are normally highly competitive against each other, to play as a team and win as a team. And there has been much speculation about the relationship between Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau, of the American team. Is there a rift? Is it media talk? Will it affect their performance?

Time will tell, but all eyes will be on them, adding to the pressure for their team.

The excitement of this tournament is palpable. Europe has the experience and USA has the stars. But this is The Ryder Cup - anything can happen.

Keeping cool under the pressure, can be the difference that makes the difference - and whilst very few get to Ryder Cup Team status (even our Justin Rose missed out on this year’s selection), lots of teams have to play under severe pressure . There’s not only the pressure of fans shouting in your face, but there’s also the negative social media comments, the media stories and the sheer pressure of the occasion, whatever it happens to be.

But there are some tips that will help anyone who finds themselves having to perform in a big occasion team event. Here are my picks:

Build your team first

  • Know your teammates, understand how they play, be flexible and lose your ego. This isn’t about ‘me’ it’s about ‘us’
  • Be each other’s No.1 support. As we’ve seen with our national football teams, sticking together and standing side by side with each other, is everything a good team should be.
  • Value the individual talent in your team, but real strength is in numbers. No one person is better than the whole team - be prepared to do anything for each other.
  • Have fun. The European Ryder Cup team - spurred on by the highly motivated (and slightly bonkers) Ian Poulter - are famous for their antics (Cheese hats in Wisconsin?!).

When you can laugh together, you can win together. Laughter is also a proven stress reliever - every team needs it.

A crystal-clear game-plan

  • Get clear about your game, your strategy, and your goal. When everyone is moving in the same direction, it’s easier to stay focused.
  • Prepare for the obstacles, anything can happen - know how you will respond.
  • Know your competition inside out. What are their strengths, and how can you out manoeuvre them? What are their weaknesses and how can you capitalise on them?

Keeping the momentum going

  • Confidence on day 1 is hugely important - but not necessarily easy to achieve. When you see the nerves in your teammates, back them up, motivate them and drive up their self-belief. A few chosen words - and facial expressions - are often all it takes to pick someone up.
  • When it’s not going well, a team can go one of two ways: fall further down into a black hole of despair, or rally round and have the comeback of your life.

Make it the latter - underdogs, on foreign soil have as much chance as the competition. Fire up your team to get back on track.

  • It’s never over, until it’s over. Although The Ryder Cup is played over the course of a weekend, any tournament or team competition has a time limit.

Some of the most exciting games ever played have been won by turnaround moments and points gained in the last crucial moments.

A winning team never stops trying to win until the final whistle is blown.

Mental Strength

  • It doesn’t matter if you’re playing in The Ryder Cup, The World Cup or in your local team event: mental strength - individual and collective - matters.
  • Your thoughts will either hold you back ‘we’ll never win this now’ or propel you forward ‘let’s turn this around and win’. Manage your inner critic!

You have no room or time for that annoying voice to damage your performance. Get rid of it and make the voice in your head that spurs you on to win, louder.

  • Believe that you have what it takes to win.

Winners believe they are winners with every fibre in their body - and anyone can think this way. When you have a desire to win stronger than the competition, you’ll find the fire in your belly to get you there.

Come on Team Europe! We might not be there in person, but we are all with you.

Amana Walker is a performance coach who works with a range of business leaders and sports professionals. More info at www.amanawalker.com

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