NFL Quarterback Tyrell Pryor was recently in the news because he is learning how to throw a football. Is this for real? Isn’t the ability to throw a football a prerequisite for the job of quarterback? Actually it doesn’t surprise me.
“I never really knew how to throw a football before. It’s coming along. I’m getting way better. I probably missed four or five throws out of 80, 85 throws today. I might ice my arm as a precaution tonight, but it feels great. They’ve got me going in the right direction to be a pretty good quarterback who knows how to throw the ball,” Pryor was quoted by the Bay Area News Group.
Often in golf a talented young player has learned to play without adhering to the proper fundamentals. Junior, high school and even into college competition they can perform well enough to win despite the lack of good technique. But when they desire to play at the highest level i.e., PGA and LPGA tours, and stay on tour and be in the hunt on Sundays, this is where the separation between raw talent and sound technique comes into play.
Pryor famously emerged from high school as the top collegiate football recruit in the nation, and was also one of the best basketball recruits. I had the opportunity to meet him the summer before the start of his Ohio State career. I was in Arnold Palmer’s LaTrobe offices putting the finishing touches on my latest book, Mentored by the King, Arnold Palmer’s Success Lessons for Golf, Business and Life.
Pryor received the green light to come and meet Arnie that morning so he drove several hours for the opportunity to extend his hand in friendship and admiration for the King of Golf. I distinctly recall how this young man struck me as very special due to his enormous attitude of gratitude and knew I would be intently following his career. On game days commentators often lauded Pryor for his tremendous athleticism, but lamented how he did not seem to reach his full potential with Ohio State and was far too raw to earn a legitimate shot in Oakland last season.
It’s remarkable Pryor made the NFL despite never being properly taught throwing fundamentals. It speaks volumes about his natural talent.
This brings me to the concern I have for junior golf and the importance of teaching and conditioning our youth with the proper fundamentals. Currently many parents whose juniors were raised on American soil voice their wonderment about the Asian dominance on the junior golf scene and now the pro tours.
Once again I am not surprised because the juniors coming here from Asia learn and condition their fundamentals before entering the competitive arena, and may I emphasize “condition” these juniors dedicate much more time and focus on reps, doing drills and video than the average American junior golfer. Why? Because they have no choice; they do not have access to courses and tours as we do here in America. As a result their technique is conditioned so much so that when they perform in tournaments, they are already an “unconscious competent”. Because of the many opportunities for juniors in America to access golf courses and play regularly in organized junior tour events, most of our youth learn the game on the field of play. What’s the answer? Juniors must do their due diligence focusing on sound fundamentals before rushing to the playing field. Young Arnold Palmer learned this from his father Deacon and he passed that along to me during my twenty plus years being mentored by the king.
“Fundamentals never change, it’s just my attention to the fundamentals that do.” ~Michael Jordan