Sports & Health

Lessons learned on and off the fairway: Sean Foley, legendary golf instructor

September 7, 2022

Lessons learned on and off the fairway: Sean Foley, legendary golf instructor

Sean Foley

Legendary Golf Instructor

On the latest Walker Webcast, we were joined by Sean Foley, legendary golf instructor to some of the world's most elite athletes.

On the latest Walker Webcast, we were joined by Sean Foley, legendary golf instructor to some of the world’s most elite athletes including Tiger Woods. He and Willy discussed his coaching philosophy, successes and failures coaching some of the biggest names in golf, theories on mindfulness and confidence that can be applied in everyday life, and much more.

The discussion begins with Sean’s childhood. His family moved around a great deal in his early years, and Sean describes what a big impact that’s made on him. This includes challenges like leaving friends and not feeling settled and benefits like experiencing so many places.

As one example of the latter, he explains, “It’s harder for the world to sell you the normal nonsense when you’ve traveled because you’ve seen with your own eyes what really goes on. I don’t think you move around a lot and become less open-minded.”

Sean advises tapping into one’s own inner voice, rather than listening too intently to the opinions of others. “Regardless of what happens externally, how we feel inwardly depends on us,” he says.

Another thing to acknowledge, according to Sean, is that security and insecurity are both very normal parts of being human. “We should recognize that it’s normal as these feelings come and go.” Frustration, he says, happens when what we think should be real in the moment isn’t our reality. Acceptance, which he deems to be the most important word he knows, is mandatory in life.

As he and Willy continue the discussion, Sean unpacks the idea that great leaders are always adapting—and that no one succeeds alone. “A longstanding philosophy of human nature is that it takes a village to raise each individual.”

This leads into the “egoless” mindset Sean says he’s fortunate to have. Such a frame of mind opens him up to seek advice on life, business, and more—advice he can apply to his role as a coach. Moreover, the act of doing and learning new things helps him realizes that he needs to bring the highest level of performance to the coaching experience.

Sean and Willy talk about how every day or moment can have its challenges. “Just because you have a bad day or hour doesn’t mean that you need to feel bad about it tomorrow,” Sean says. Concentrate instead on training properly, focusing on your skill sets, and familiarizing yourself with the data.

Say no to rigidity, Sean advises. “If you don’t challenge a belief system, you will only continue to see that exact belief system.” Same with perfectionism. Times in his coaching career where he feels he fell short have always been when he focused too much on perfection, he says. Direct this energy to learning instead. “You are only as good as your weaponry. The more opportunities we give ourselves to learn from different situations, the better.”

There’s one notable exception, however. “So much information we are given is through someone else’s perspective,” Sean explains his dislike of gossip. “Unless you are in a situation, you just can’t know what it was really like.”

Sean shares the many positive things that have shaped who he is. Nelson Mandela, he says, has been an influence from an early age. Music has also played an important role throughout his life, from the songs of his childhood to the Bob Marley lyrics tattooed  on his forearm: “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds.”

Willy and Sean wrap up the episode with a takeaway for the fairway and for life: There is no such thing as a perfect golf swing.

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