The sun was low in the afternoon sky, beating down on 12 necks
assembled in a circle. The Michigan men’s golf team held a
formation that didn’t seem quite right at a golf practice. No
drivers, irons or putters were anywhere in sight. No golf carts, no
putting greens, no fairways — not even so much as a spiked
shoe. This was not the ordinary routine that Michigan coach Andrew
Sapp conducts.

The golfers held their circle patiently until they finished
strategizing and decided to take action. In a flash, each athlete
switched positions with the teammate directly across from him,
careful to touch the center of the circle on his way and to avoid
brushing another teammate pounding through the circle in a
different direction. The first few tries ended in chaos, but once
they got their timing synchronized, it looked as elegant as the
perfect golf swing.

Next, the golfers moved on to an activity conducted on two
elevated wires angled in a ‘V’ shape. They took turns
going in pairs, starting off with their feet on the wires closest
to one another and their hands pressed together.

Slowly they scaled down to the wider part of the wires, pushing
against one another’s palms, keeping each other balanced
across the gaping space in between.

Why is it so important to travel to a ropes course and build
teamwork skills like these in a sport such as golf, which is so
individually driven?

“Trust,” senior Jimmy Wisinski said. “On these
wires, we have to be able to trust each other or we’ll both
fall off. On the golf course, if one of us is having an off day, we
have to trust and depend on each other to pick that guy up and make
sure he has a better day tomorrow.”

Sapp prescribed this type of afternoon for his golfers
yesterday, and the results he saw seemed to be nothing short of
spectacular. He hoped his players would achieve a new
perspective on how to help each other on the course.

For this reason, he made sure to sit around with the guys after
each activity to break down what they just did and discuss how
effective they were, as well as how they could have done a better
job.

Sapp looked at this as an opportunity for his players to
“feel more free communicating and sharing ideas about how to
approach tasks differently.”

The coach recognizes that golf is a very individual sport, and
took this opportunity to pull his players off the course —
where they don’t interact with each other much — and
force them into situations where they would have to collaborate to
get something done.

One of the team’s leaders, junior Christian Vozza, said he
appreciated the activities Sapp prepared.

“Golf is kind of one of those sports in which you play
individually, but all the guys have to pull their own
weight,” Vozza said. “We used these activities to learn
to cooperate for the purpose of achieving one larger
goal.”

He was especially thrilled about how the day went because of the
conversations that were conducted after each initiative.

On the course every day, it’s easy for players —
especially the younger ones — to keep to themselves and just
play their game.  But yesterday, everybody seemed to have
something to say, and getting feedback boosted the team’s
overall communication.

Looking forward to the rest of the season, the Wolverines feel
optimistic about the season ahead and their ability to succeed
using teamwork. Michigan will be able to gauge its teamwork at the
Duke Intercollegiate Tournament in Durham, N.C., on Oct. 17 and 18.

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