Leadership Libations

June 25, 2009

A 13 Year Old Boy, A Driver, and a Lesson in Coaching

Filed under: Uncategorized — robjelinek @ 9:16 pm

A 13 Year Old Boy, a Driver, and a Lesson in Coaching

I celebrated my oldest becoming a full-fledged teenager this week. Thirteen years ago, this little 2lb. preemie entered the world. More wires and machines connected to him than I can even explain. Hard to believe that this little “rat child” (he was born in Hong Kong during the year of the Rat) is now 13, 5’6” and 130lb mini-adult. We’ll save all the events and emotions there for another blog, onto our more recent events.

Jake and the old man headed out to the links earlier this week. While he has been on the golf course before, this was his first trip where non-family members were part of the golfing group. This event probably occurred in part due to his birthday early this week, part due to this teenage mentality (“WHAT????”) and part due that dad doesn’t want to lose the connection he’s had with the munchkin….much easier when younger. All said, another step into man-hood and a new step into maturity.

Little did Dad realize that it was also going to be a lesson, a lesson re-learned, but a lesson none the less on coaching and leading. At the end of the day Dad got:  A 13 year old boy, a driver, and a lesson in coaching.

As we arrived at the driving range just after 9:30, oldest son grabbed his driver out of the bag. “You want to hit some irons too?” asked Dad. “NO” replied the sleepy teen. After 15 minutes of catapulting drives 150 yards – many left and right and a few duffs, Jake declared himself ready for the course. No time for the pitching green, painfully agreeing to a few whacks around the putting greens (our courses greens  Stemp out around 11.5-12) and trust me he isn’t worried about touch.

So, we head to the first tee. Our club put in family tees a few years ago, giving our younger golfers a more realistic challenge. While Jake is now old enough that he can probably play from the “red’s”, I encouraged Jake to play from those (he’ll normally play from Mom’s tee’s when we are family golfing). Jake’s 1st drive was a solid 150 yards, a tad right – just missing the road and our neighbor’s front yard. Didn’t matter, he was up by the green now, wedge in hand……


How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time of course! Creating small victories are

critical to create confidence. Not just in themselves, but confidence to take chances.

Sure some road balls are ahead, but the little victories are the lesson that is remembered

and fosters the confidence needed to continue to eat that elephant.

Onto the 2nd tee, a great tee shot, a hazard ball, a few other whacks and a couple of putts. 3rd hole, par 3. Great shot from the red tees, too good in fact as he blows thru the trap and into the tall fescue. A ball only to be found in the fall when they finally mow that junk back down. It’s over 90 degree’s, typical Cincy June humidity. My 13 year old is wilting under the heat and frustration of this game! On the 4th hole, Dad’s drive ends up in the trap, our playing partner is in the long fescue. So as dad and Mr Todd are playing around, Jake drives the cart up to the family tee’s. Not the first time he has driven a cart, but none the less, will tell you last time dad was behind the wheel…….


Yes work is serious business. But, seriously, who likes to do things that they hate or frankly

view as work? I love to uncover a puzzle, peel the complexity back and make sense of

a jumbled mess. My oldest daughter thrives off digging in a finding an answer to

something that she doesn’t know the solution to. My #2 son is a math savant, figuring out

the theory to math he hasn’t seen before gets him giddy. And our youngest loves

to torture the cat, cornering her when she thinks she has escaped. Net, none of this

by itself would be viewed as fun for all. But for them it is. For Jake, driving –

and keeping score – turned the hot day and bad shots into fun. It made the rest of the lessons –

on putting – on wedges – on not hitting into the water or using a putter around the edge –

all those lessons went easier…because he was having fun.

As we headed to the 8th green, Jake was 5 yards or so off the green. He ended up in a small gathering area around the green, shaved down to be just that. Jake, ignoring father’s imploring and advice, took a wedge out and preceded to turn a potential par into an 8 or a 9, with chunks, chili’s, and skulls. Dad had coached him all the way up on playing it smart. Taking the high score out of play. It was all I could do to bite my tongue and move onto 9. Jake hit a great drive. 2nd shot into the woods. A drop and a wedge later and he is on the edge of the green lying 4 (par 5). Dad had hit a magical – and very very uncharacteristic shot to about a foot – so I got to watch. Jake had wedge in hand, 3-4 yards off the green. Lines up, changes his mind and hit’s a putt to 6-8 feet. 2 putts later, he makes a respectable 7 with a penalty. But, importantly he made the choice.


He figured it out. One day, he might be good enough to pretend he is Phil Mickelson. But,

he knew the goal – Lowest Score. He understood the boundaries – 14 clubs in his bag to

choose from. He then learned from prior events. He reminded me, I can’t be there all the time.

I can coach, but I need to recognize he will learn on his own, apply it, and hopefully grow from it!

Last lesson, for all parents – enjoy it! the angst, the frustration, and the sleepless nights. These little – or not so little anymore – critters are your legacy. More important than anything else you will leave behind.

God I love that kid!



  1. This is the best!!

    Comment by Gin — June 26, 2009 @ 5:22 pm | Reply

  2. I so enjoy reading your humor and learning the lesson myself in what you say. You have a great way with making learning fun. You and Jake are blessed to have each other to learn from – enjoy. J

    Comment by Jodi — June 26, 2009 @ 5:38 pm | Reply

  3. Rob,

    I am so jealous. You are struggling not to overmanage your 13 year old on the course. I joined a club where it is easy to walk, so my wife and young kids would join me. 15 years later I am still the only golfer and both little ones are off to college. I WISH I could have gotten them on the course to have your angst!

    My Daddy was a Bulldog btw, while I was an SEC Tiger.

    Let me know when you want to play a round. My home email name is ‘hotputter’ cuz I am not.


    Comment by Mike McKay — June 29, 2009 @ 9:34 am | Reply

  4. Great piece. Sorry I missed the fun of watching you two. As you’ve seen firsthand, the lessons continue — 36 years and counting.

    Comment by dobber — June 29, 2009 @ 12:24 pm | Reply

  5. Rob-

    Loved the story. My oldest son is 13, 5 ft 5, 130 lbs. No one in our family is a particularly skilled golfer, so I found taking my wife and 2 boys out and playing “best ball” is fun for the whole family. After reading your post, I’m inspired to get them out next week.

    Great read!


    Comment by Mike Ferry — July 9, 2009 @ 9:00 pm | Reply

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