Tuesday, May 11, 2021

ISO Creativity...Thank You Shohei Ohtani

Albert Einstein said "Creativity is contagious. Pass it on." Yes please. I'll take what I can get. Why? Creativity reveals human genius. can solve problems and forge new pathways. It is the love child of inspiration, intelligence and insight. And, it is more than catch-as-catch-can, right? Right! Certain people cultivate it, others embody it. One example in worth noting and celebrating is Angels pitcher and outfielder Shohei Ohtani and I'd like to thank him for passing it on.

As a teacher and a coach I am in search of creativity every single day. I want a lesson plan that is creative to engage my students' minds. I seek to go beyond that which is expected. And, as a coach I am constantly in search of a creative approach to help my golfers improve. The game is hard enough; creativity might just make another avenue worth trying. 

There is however, a delicate dance we all do with creativity. Most often, I go looking for it. For example, just this week I committed time and attention to not just flipping through VOGUE magazine, I gazed at each fashion photo shoot and read the articles. Amanda Gorman was the feature story. To link her to creativity is a given. 

To find creativity—look, listen and learn from creative people. I also believe, that if you live your life this way—creativity will find you. And it did, on my morning walk. 

After my #21for2021 (21 minutes of reading) I head out the door for about 25 minutes, put in my headphones and listen to ESPN Sports Daily. The feature on story on May 3, entitled "Shohei Ohtani's Baseball Experiment is Working" offered me a creative insight that I shared with my golf team later that day.

For those unfamiliar with the Los Angeles Angels star, according to Joe Levin, Ohtani "stepped onto the pitcher’s mound and into the history books on April 26. That day, he became the first player since Babe Ruth (Yes, Babe Ruth) to be a game’s starting pitcher while also leading the league in home runs."

His manager, Joe Madden has been extremely supportive of Ohtani's desire to work as a two-way player. Madden and other coaches have found this to be a win-win situation. Why? How? 

Alden Gonzalez reports that "hitting and pitching on the same day is actually a major benefit for Shohei Ohtani because it doesn't allow him the bandwidth to dwell on either of the two. His last start is a perfect example of this. Think about how crazy this is: he gives up four runs in the bottom of the first. His team is down 4-1. He comes back up in the top of the second. He's got two runners on. He lines a two-run double to right field. It's a 4-3 game. He's on second base. Mike Trout hits a bloop single. Shohei comes around to score. All of a sudden it's 4-4. Shohei said he went back to the mound with a renewed confidence, with a feeling this was a brand new game and from that point forward he retired 12 of the next 13 batters he faced. Eight of them on strikeouts. He was a completely new guy and that was the perfect encapsulation for why the Angels feel like this is exactly the way they need to treat Shoehi Ohtani."

I heard this story and creative juices started flowing. I began to wonder if I might offer this as an analog to my golfers.

High school golf offers the experience of "team" for an individual sport. Helping golfers to understand what that means and what impact they can have takes time, maturity and wisdom.  Yes, the lowest five out of six scores determine a win or loss, but a good teammate will know that a victory is achieved by more than just low scores. Success is found in good golf AND in positive presence and active participation with your playing partner. This is not new news for my golf team. However, using the example of Ohtani was. It might be a reach, but it was one I was ready to make.

I told the girls to consider letting go of the pressure to post a low score on every hole. I said if you have a bad hole but your teammate has a birdie, celebrate that with her. This is the beauty of team golf. Let that leverage your spirits. I know you want to avoid mistakes. I know you want to play well on every hole but don't give it the bandwidth when the putt doesn't drop, the pitch doesn't fly or the drive has gone OB. Focus on the positive, wherever you can find it!

I told them about Shohei Ohtani and the unconventional role he has on his team and how it has helped him. I added that I never take for granted than any of them are playing high school golf. Certainly, many could just play junior tournaments in the area, but I encouraged them to think of what team golf affords and can do for their game and mental mindset. I hope they got it. Even if they didn't, it's fun for me—as their coach—to encounter creative examples and ideas for how we approach a tough game. If anything, I've lived up to Einstein's message....your turn to pass it on.

Is what ways do you express your creativity? Does your job require it? Is creativity something a person can cultivate? Can one be creative "on demand?" Does it take something out of you? 

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