As I saw images of Peyton Manning delivering his swan song to football this week and heard an interview with Jordan Spieth talking about his meteoric rise to the top in the world of golf I could not help being struck by the similarity in tone and content as they described their approach to their crafts.
Peyton will now have more time to focus on this
Though obviously athletic looking and of considerable innate talent in their sports neither Peyton or Jordan would be the first one you picked out of a police line up early in their careers as the guy most likely to dominate their sport. They would not elicit that dominating persona even when interviewed, you would rather presume they would be second tier performers who would have successful but inglorious careers.
This is clearly not the case, the outside wrapping is a bad predictor to the richness of the present inside, and with both of these guys-at opposite ends of their Hall of Fame careers- there is something other than pure athletic talent that elevates them to the stature of superstar in their sports.
No question their dedication to physical training, development of their skill set, and study of others who have played the game before them have a lot to do with their success.
But from listening to them and peers who know them well it is assiduous development of a plan for playing the games and the confidence to stick to it no matter what happens that moves them up to the elite level of performers in their sport.
Peyton has displayed a willingness to sacrifice personal time his entire career to spend endless hours in the film room or the game plan conferences preparing himself and his team to play every game as if it was the most important one of the year. His wife is quoted as saying that going to the movies with Peyton during the height of his career meant sitting with popcorn in her lap going over the film of next week’s opponent. Down to changing up his verbal and hand signal audible commands from week to week to throw off the opposition, Peyton left no stone unturned in trying to find the little edge he needed to improve his team’s chances to win the next game.
Jordan explaining what went down at a Major
Jordan is of similar ilk, even at the tender age of 22. You can hear it when he describes his approach in press conferences before and after tournaments, it is always what his “team” is accomplishing and how they all contribute to the success or failure in each week’s event. He is relentless in his preparation, studying the venue and the anticipated conditions ahead and building a plan of attack for success. If he has a late tee time on the weekends I am betting he is watching the broadcast of players with early times to see how the day’s playing conditions will affect the plan.
In an interview with Feherty this week Jordan discussed his victory in the U.S. Open in 2015 at the torture chamber on brown grass called Chambers Bay. Having played in similar conditions in missing the Match Play cut at the U.S. Amateur at Chambers Bay in 2010 as a teenager, Spieth said that he would never return to the place even if they held a U.S. Open there. The words of an impetuous youth!
Fast forward to 2016 coming off his first Major victory at Augusta in April Jordan knew what was ahead in June at Chambers and figured out a way to prepare for success. He said that when he and his team got there the weekend before they immediately recognized that negotiating the burnt out, rock solid greens they would be facing would be the key to being competitive. He and his coach Cameron McCormick spent days just working on speed control over the patchy putting surfaces, recognizing that matching speed to line was the crucial factor in avoiding comeback 12 footers at a U.S. Open.
When it came time for the rubber to meet the road Jordan stuck to their plan and focused on approach speed on all putts. Over the course of the tournament his putting was top quartile, 15th in total putts for the week at 126. After it was all done he said, “I did not have my best stuff ball striking and we really grinded over the 4 and 5 footers. That was the difference.” The key phrases are the “we” and “the 4 and 5 footers” which confirm the importance of preparation and sticking to a plan to have an advantage over the field.
At St. Andrews, a course where meticulous planning and tactical approach to playing the conditions of the day are paramount, Jordan was seeking the third leg of an historic march to the rare Grand Slam. In very difficult weather conditions all week Jordan got agonizingly close before a bogey-par finish on the Road Hole and through the Valley of Sin left him one shot short of the playoff for the Claret Jug. The grind over four days was indicative of his willingness to stick to the plan through thick and thin.
Stephen Curry as quarterback of the World Champions Dubs
Though these two are 17 years apart in age the receding hairline and furrowed brow would suggest the similarity of their mature mental approach to dominating their sports.
As Jordan’s speedboat heads out of port passing Peyton’s yacht on it’s way in, he might also note Stephen Curry on his left and Russell Wilson on his right who share a similar approach to success at this stage of their careers.