Teaching an old dog new tricks

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By Lee Scott

We have all heard the old saying, “Can’t teach an old dog a new trick.” And for some reason when we hit a certain age, we start to believe that phrase and convince ourselves that it is too hard to learn a new skill. I had to rethink this misconception recently,  but it took a day with my granddaughter and a day on the golf course.

My granddaughter Sloan and I were playing volleyball in her backyard.  She started to get frustrated because she couldn’t serve the ball as well as I was serving it. We went through the steps together of how to hold the ball, placement of hand, keeping your eyes on the ball and knowing where you want it to go — all those skills that I had been taught as a child. I assured her, in my wise Grandmother voice, that practice was the key to success in anything she tackled.

About two weeks after this happened, I entered a small golf tournament.  It was advertised as a women’s only Cayman Golf tournament and opened to both golfers and non-golfers. The idea was to pull non-golfers out of the wood work and entice them to try golf, a great marketing technique especially when you think of all the golf courses and tournaments around our area. Although I had taken golf lessons about five years before, I had not played since.

There were 44 women playing in the tournament, some of whom were experienced golfers, some relatively new to the sport and some, like me, who really didn’t have a clue. I did know some of the basics like how to hold the club and look at the ball. And I did understood in theory the stance and the swing techniques. It was a lot of fun and the  other three women who made up my  foursome were wonderful.  They made encouraging remarks, like “you’re doing great,” “it just takes practice,” “don’t worry, I have spent many rounds of golf shooting balls into sand traps”.  But I did start getting frustrated until I remembered my experience with my granddaughter. My frustration at not getting it right all the time was similar to hers.  We both wanted to be doing the sport as well as the experienced teacher.  But the truth is it still takes time to learn something new regardless of your age — time to do it wrong, time to take classes, time to practice and time for a little patience. Maybe you can teach an old dog new tricks. We just have to remember how we learned them as children.