Dr Stephen Simpson looks at what the body language of two sportsmen tells you about their attitude to setbacks in the world of golf and of cricket.
On the last day of The Masters recently, Rory McIlroy, the young and shiny new kid on the green displayed a certain amount of body language that will not stand him in good stead in the future. Because although golf is “only a game” (and a multi-million pound career at the top level!) Rory was almost in tears on the last day of The Masters. But then, so was I, and so were many other thousands or even millions of his fans.
Why the emotional overflow? Because I was convinced that Rory, at the tender age of 21, was going to win his first Major. I’ve never met Rory, and so can only judge him by his language, and body language, on TV. Both were hugely impressive during the first three days.
They weren’t too bad during the front nine of Day Four either. Rory looked a bit quick, and a bit edgy, as you would expect. Not surprisingly he didn’t play to his best, but nevertheless he scrambled to a respectable 37 – which for those of you who don’t play golf – is “all right”.
But then the wheels fell off on hole 10, and by the time he stood on the 13th tee he had dropped 6 shots around Amen Corner. Yes, it has been the ruin of many other fine golfers, so, why my tears?
Quite simply because judging solely on body language it may take Rory some time to get over this. Regular readers of my blog will know my views on posture, and how great golf shots can be anchored for future confidence. Sadly the reverse is true too. Rory did a great job of reinforcing his nightmare by sinking his head in his hands. That body language showed that he had been mastered by his misery, not that he had mastered it.
Contrast Rory’s posture with that of Shane Warne, the famous Australian leg spin bowler. When Shane has been carted over the ropes he glares at the batsmen, legs apart, head held high, with an expression of utter contempt. It might be arrogant, but it does wonders for confidence. It’s all in the posture!
As a fellow caddie I also ask, where was the support from his caddie? Perhaps we didn’t see this on TV, but it is at times like this that a caddie really earns his bag money.
Rory may well bounce back quickly with the vitality of youth, and prove my fears to be ungrounded. Although, at the Malaysian Open in Kuala Lumpur he once again held his head high, before choking on the last day. I hope he gets this behaviour beaten, because he is a cracking young man, and golf needs him. I hope my mate Horace got it right:
‘Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents which, in prosperous circumstances, would have lain dormant.’
– Now that is how to view setbacks!