Trust: Understanding My Why
By Greg Bach
Deb Richard grew up immersed in sports: she was the quarterback on her fifth-grade flag football team, played point guard on her youth basketball team and was a third baseman on her softball team.
But it was a junior golf tournament that forever changed the trajectory of her life.
“I had been playing so many team sports and I went and played in the 12-and-under division of the Kansas State Girls Championship,” says Richard, author of Trust: Understanding My Why. “I had only been playing golf for a year and I had never played in a tournament before – and it was ugly.”
Her scorecard wasn’t reflective of her experience though, and the life-shifting mindset that soon followed.
“My walk-away from it was that golf was the first sport I played where I had a realization that for whatever amount of work I put into the game, the game was going to reward me for that,” she says. “And there was a direct correlation – the harder I worked the better I became. It was so reliant on me and it fit my personality. I fell in love with pushing myself, I loved the learning environment with my coach Ron Schmedemann (the golf pro at Manhattan Country Club in Kansas) – and it enriched me in so many ways.”
Richard devoted herself to the game, cherishing the hours on the range hitting balls and honing her swing.
She returned to that same junior tournament as a 13-year-old and won her division, the first of many victories in an illustrious career. Check out this golfing resume that oozes greatness: she won the prestigious United States Women’s Amateur; she was a three-time All-American golfer at the University of Florida where she led the Gators to the NCAA title and won the Broderick Award as the nation’s outstanding female collegiate golfer; she won six tournaments as an LPGA professional; and she was inducted into the University of Florida Hall of Fame and the Kansas Golf Hall of Fame.
And it all began thanks to a pressure-free youth, where her parents allowed her to navigate the sport on her terms.
“It was by choice that I was spending time at the golf course,” Richard says. “My parents never mandated it to me, and they never restricted it. It was always ‘this is your playground, we’re going to let you figure it out.’ It was my dream; it was not their dream. I think for a kid growing up the self-confidence that comes from building your own dream reduces that external pressure. I was doing it because I wanted to, and I was allowed the space to build the dream and it was going to be whatever I wanted it to be.”
Check out what Richard shared about her journey and the powerful lessons learned along the way:
SPORTINGKID LIVE: How impactful was your golf coach Ron Schmedemann on your life?
RICHARD: I started from zero in golf, so obviously I learned a lot of skills from Ron. He taught me more about me and about life than he taught me about golf, and that’s saying a lot because he taught me to be a champion.
SPORTINGKID LIVE: How did you learn to deal with bad shots in golf and move on from them?
RICHARD: I had a temper as a kid – it was my battle. All these other sports that I had played I could either run hard, hit, throw and do all these things that got all that energy out, but golf is sedate so I struggled with what to do with all that energy. I’m hard on myself and I had this perfection expectation and perfection is a destroyer. So my expectations were the thing that I had to learn to calibrate, but I also used it as fuel. I would hit a shot that was so poor and I would be frustrated, but that frustration I turned into going to go hit all these golf balls and work on perfecting that shot because I don’t want to hit that shot again. It was a very hard thing to overcome and learning how to make it manageable was an internal fight.
SPORTINGKID LIVE: You’ve had a lot of different coaches in a lot of different sports throughout your life. What’s something today’s coaches need to be aware of while working with young athletes?
RICHARD: I think the biggest mistake coaches make is they get so caught up in technical perfection that they’re not having an individualist approach to kids. Everybody learns differently and everybody’s timeline for learning is different, so how hard you can push and what a kid is going to respond to is different. So it’s being aware of the individual learning style of different people. You have to personalize your guidance. Coaches have to be authentic in the delivery and they have to build relationships with the kids that is above and beyond just the coaching. Some lessons are harder to coach than others, and some lessons are harder for a student to absorb than others. So give that bandwidth and that safe environment for that learning to happen.
SPORTINGKID LIVE: What’s your message for parents of today’s young athletes?
RICHARD: I am not of the philosophy of the one-sport wonder. I think the diversity of sport and having different experiences with team sports and individual sports teaches you different things and it also reduces the stress level on the body. Let your kids play as many sports as possible.
SPORTINGKID LIVE: What drives you to help others with all the great work you do through your foundations?
RICHARD: There’s a transition that happens in hopefully everybody’s life – and that timeline is different for everybody – where you transition your purpose in life from “What am I taking from the world?” to “What am I giving to the world?” When you’re young you’re extracting knowledge and all these things from all these people who are supporting you to develop your skills and build your confidence and create your vision about who you want to be and what you want to become in the world. And then everybody has this catalyst moment where you realize that you have been extracting, but when am I giving back? My purpose transformed into how can I ignite the best in others? All my foundation work is all about how can I do that? I’m all about helping people get to a better version of themselves and that brings me joy.
SPORTINGKID LIVE: What do you hope readers take away from your book?
RICHARD: The book has positive messaging about how to grow up with meaningful relationships and how to take the experiences in your life and make meaning out of them with the common goal of wanting to become a better version of yourself. We’re always trying to find a better version of ourselves. The book is a journey of how to do that and what my experiences have been and how I did it, and hopefully there are some lessons that people can translate into their own lives and put in to use.
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