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Things I Hate
By Anne Marie Goslak

I hate three things in life. Cancer, tendonitis, and girlfriends. My disdain for cancer is pretty obvious. I lost my sister, at age 24 to cancer, and my dad just a few years ago. My best friend has had cancer three times in as many years. I've had my own scare, leaving me cancer free but unable to have kids. I think most people will agree, cancer sucks.

Tendonitis is not as bad, but you can't reason with it. You can't even treat it. All you can do is rest it, ice it and stretch it. The only thing that helps it is time. Waiting is not my strong suit.

You might ask, “What do you have against girlfriends, Anne Marie?”

Let me tell you a story that repeats itself every other year. Little Johnny starts taking lessons from me at a young age. He shows real talent. For the next five years, we architect a swing that will hold up under pressure. We build a creative short game that will yield low scores, even on the worst of ball striking days. As he lines his shelf at home with trophies, I network with college coaches on his behalf. The ground work has been laid. He is less than a year from achieving every golf dream he ever had.

Suddenly, I look over at the practice green and Little Johnny is no longer chipping. He's standing there, leaning on his wedge and texting. A week later, he shows up for his 2 PM lesson at 1:58pm, still talking on the phone as he walks to the pro shop. He has a girlfriend. I bristle and brace myself for what's coming next.

He'll begin to leave practice much earlier than he used to. When he is practicing, the phone is close by, just in case she calls or texts. When they break up and then get back together again and again and again, the tsunami of emotions will create a chemical cesspool in his system. The adrenalin alone will destroy his sense of touch and timing, two things that are essential to the short game and control of the club face.

A month later, his parents call me, concerned that his scores aren't as low as they used to be. Somehow, that is my fault. Any explanation I give ends up sounding more like an excuse. I've been down this road before. I know Little Johnny will bounce back in time. They are not so sure.

At this point, the story can move in a couple different directions. Sometimes, the parents decide "it's time to go in another direction," and they switch coaches. They tell themselves that I simply lacked the talent to take their child to the next level.

Other parents throw up their hands and say, "Kids will be kids. He needs to make his own decisions in life." But what the parents don't know is that his window of opportunity to play golf in college is shutting fast. If he does make the team, you can predict he will fail to make the travel squad. Usually, some 'injury' will be a convenient end to a college career that never took off.

On a rare occasion, the parents will ask, "Can my child have a normal social life and still be an elite athlete?"

I answer, “Absolutely! It just takes honest dialogue and strong boundaries.”
  1- Set the schedule so date nights do not interfere with practice.
  2- Agree on a curfew when all calls and texts stop. Sleep is a key issue in performance.
  3- Find a girlfriend who really understands.

My high school sweetheart was a track star. He missed making the Olympics by .06 seconds. He understood more than anyone, why we could not go to a pizza party that did not start until 10PM. Pizza was not on our diet and staying out late would negatively impact our 7AM workouts.

Although it is much harder to manage in today's technology rich world, if a player is going to survive dating years, they are going to need to know how to manage their time and emotions.

Of the nearly 50 kids I have, who are playing college golf now, there are more than 100 who have fallen victim to 'the curse of the girlfriend.' Truth be known, I am a romantic at heart, but all too often, girlfriends get me fired and derail collegiate careers. I still hate cancer and tendonitis, but if properly handled, I guess the girlfriends can stay.

-Anne Marie Goslak