Forget Your Rangefinder? Make your Own

Our optical world is pretty incredible, in that the further we are from objects the smaller they are in our field of view. Our brain accounts for this. It takes this relative height into account when judging the size of distance objects. It’s not something you have to think about, it happens automatically.

Next time you’re on the golf course, you can use it to your benefit. The flagstick is always seven feet high, regardless of how far you are from it. But in your field of vision, it may appear much smaller.

With your arm fully extended, thumb up, and body facing the flag, close one eye and observe the height of the flag relative to your thumb.

When you’re a hundred yards out, from this position, use a pen and mark the relative size of the flag on your thumb. At a hundred and fifty yards, do the same thing. At two hundred yards, do the same thing.  As long as you stand the same way relative to the flag, you have a makeshift rangefinder. And it can be as accurate as you want it to be. Of course, it’s unlikely that you’ll be down to the yard accurate, but it should be possible to narrow the distance to ten to twenty yards with a properly ‘calibrated thumb.’

If you want to take it up a notch, there is no real reason to even know yardages anyways. We only use those to pick clubs. So next time you do it, just write the club number down instead of the yardage.

The Advantages of the Bigger Brain in Sports

We recently explored the athletic head. What about the rest of us?

A bigger skull means a lower likelihood of stroke. The bigger the skull, the lower the chance of it reaching its pressure limit.

Better mental endurance. Thinking for longer periods of time.

More sleep required. More time will be needed to cool off this entropy. Even if the brain has the same theoretical temperature, the larger volume will take longer to cool off.

More precision in pressure. I always think of Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. If bigger brains play with more precision over time, it seems like atmosphere, time, and other conditions would not effect the large brains as much.

Better at repeatable movements over a long period of time. While the small brains fire more quickly, they also have less precision and endurance. I would look at the massive racial disparities in golf and tennis

I think we have to assume that economics alone do not explain this disparity. We have to assume that if there was a massive pool of untapped talent hiding in low-income communities, someone would’ve found it by now.  

 


 

Let’s look at home field advantage again with this in mind. The black-dominated sports have the biggest home field advantages. And the white-dominated sports have much less of an advantage at home. In that article, we said that it was the nature of the sport that was the difference in the home field advantage. I think there is more to the story.

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So why is home field advantage so strong in the NBA?. Because speed and explosiveness come at a premium. It doesn’t matter if you have someone who literally has never missed a three-pointer in his life, if he can’t move and get the shot up quickly, he can’t play in the NBA. So if speed and explosiveness come at a premium, the fastest and most explosive people will likely be better at it. If I have a team of track stars and you have a team of shooters, we’ll win because we can run past the defense and shoot a higher percentage. We’d also have better close-out defense, and get more rebounds. So instead of having the absolute best shooters on the planet in the NBA, we have the best athletes that can shoot. 

Why is hockey so different? Why is its home field advantage so much less than basketball? Because explosiveness is undervalued. Apollo Ono could be on the ice but never make a huge difference. The rink is shorter, so there are fewer breakaways, and nobody leaves the ice. So jumping doesn’t matter.  Precision is important, but explosiveness is not premium. 

So the nature of the sport determines the type of athlete that is most valued. That value determines the type of brain that can perform best under the conditions of the sport. Those criteria determine which races dominate different sports. And those races determine the relative difference of home field advantage.

Sources:

  1. http://harvardsportsanalysis.org/2014/07/a-different-measure-of-diversity-in-pro-sports/
  2. https://infogram.com/2012-racial-breakdown-of-major-us-professional-sports-1g8djp9o0xykpyw
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Precision_sports
  4. http://blackyouthproject.com/black-people-dont-playlike-hockey/
  5. https://www.golf.com/tour-and-news/where-are-all-black-golfers-nearly-two-decades-after-tiger-woods-arrival-golf-still-st
  6. https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/pg5njm/does-tennis-have-a-race-problem

Dear Tiger Woods,

You aren’t trying to be the healthiest golfer in the world. Do not change your diet. Or if you do, keep in mind that your game may change as well. Lowering your weight does not necessarily lower your score. Look at Brooks Koepka or Jason Dufner. There are all sorts of examples.

You aren’t trying to be the strongest golfer in the world. Yes, extra yards off the tee are great, but they don’t mean anything if you can’t get the ball in the cup. Take it to the extreme and you have the Hulk Hogan wannabes hitting the balls half a mile, but they couldn’t hold a torch to the average pro player. Tiger and Rory are exceptions not the rule. And they have had to make major adjustments after they started really hitting the weight room. And they have had their struggles around the greens.

The sport is a very delicate balance of slow and fast switch, power and finesse, and mental endurance. And as we’ve demonstrated in our article about pitching, gaining fast twitch muscles comes at a price.

Your trainer is not a professional golfer. If he was, he wouldn’t be a trainer. He knows how to get you in better shape. If he knew how to make you the best golfer in the world, he would be the best golfer in the world.

Your nutritionist is not a professional golfer. He just isn’t. So start keto or slow carb or whatever so you look better at the beach, but it will come at a cost. Your brain is the most delicate organ of your body. And your nutritionist does not know how your brain works.

What matters is results. Your job is to shoot low. If your trainer or nutritionist takes you down a path that changes your golf game in a negative way, kick the diet. Kick the workout routine. Otherwise you give away your edge. You’re not trying to be the best golfer in the world with a six-pack. You’re trying to be the best golfer in the world.

No one knows how you got to where you were. If they did, they would be there. If anyone asked you, you probably told them that it was all the hours you put in on the range growing up. I won’t argue with that. But I bet you didn’t make drastic diet changes during your teenage years while you were developing your swing and ironing out the kinks. So when you make these changes, be prepared to go back to the drawing board. And there is no one in the world that can get you back to where you were, except you.

Clutch is a mindset

Steph Curry is a good golfer…a really good golfer. He essentially competed on the professional level, and didn’t embarrass himself.

So how does that connect to being clutch? Bear with me.

Here’s why his golf ability shouldn’t surprise you: he’s the best shooter in the NBA. You could probably argue he’s the best shooter in NBA history. How does that translate to golf? Well in fundamentals, it doesn’t. But the mindset is the same. The state of mind it takes to replicate shots from beyond the arc is similar to that of a professional golfer.

What you’re going to say is that Steph’s dad was in the NBA, so he’s just got good genes. Believe that if you want. Tell your kids they can never shoot like that. They can.

The fundamentals are easy, the mindset is what takes practice. You can teach a kid how to shoot a basketball in an hour. But to have him be able to pull a three with confidence at the buzzer in the NBA finals, there are only a couple people on the planet even qualified to have that conversation.

Think about all the guys you knew growing up that were “naturally athletic.” Maybe you knew that guy that was good at everything. This is not a coincidence. The mind and body work best together at a certain state, and they have just found it. Malcom Gladwell wrote about it taking 10,000 hours to become an expert at anything. That may be true, but some people get head starts, and this is how.

Steve Kerr [Steph’s coach] uses the Inner Game of Tennis for psychology in pressure situations. [article] This book is about the psychology of an athlete, and how to separate your thinking self from your playing self, and how to perform your best.

It’s all the same. When you find the infamous zone you’ve found your ground state. When you’ve removed yourself from the equation and let your body do what it already knows how to do.

Don’t let your mind get in the way of your performance. It has no place on the court, whether it be basketball, tennis, or golf. When you start thinking, you start losing.