Aug. 7, 2009
By Jordan Lloyd
Baylor head women's golf coach Sylvia Ferdon was featured in the Aug. 2009 issue of The Wacoan Magazine.
On the golf course, Sylvia Ferdon is both pro and teacher. But her coaching gift doesn't end once she steps off the green. For the Baylor women's golf coach, leading her team members is about strengthening the whole person - physically, emotionally and intellectually. Ferdon may coach with an iron in hand, but not with an iron fist.
Often before practice begins, Ferdon offers an opportunity for the players to vent about life and talk through their issues whether they're golf-related or not. She said that as a coach you'r more than just a mentor for the game you play. You're also a life-skills coach.
"My feeling is that I cannot get my players to be the best they can be unless their whole being is positive and good," Ferdon said. "That's something as a coach I'm very aware of."
Over the past 15 seasons, Ferdon has led the Lady Bears to numerous victories and has made a prominent name for Baylor in women's collegiate golf. With the winning tradition she has created, it's clear to see that her teaching techniques are certainly above par.
"Competing and recruiting are my top priorities. But I also love to teach," Ferdon said. "Besides being in the heat of battle, that's why I love to do most."
Each season brings many tournaments and competitions. As a result, there is much more to coaching than one would expect. "You're not only the coach, but you're the travel agent, the time manager and the fundraiser." she said. Each trip is thoughtfully prepared and strategically planned out.
This past season, Ferdon benefited from the help of a new assistant coach, Jordan Cox. "This is the first time I've been able to have an assistant coach, which has allowed me to have more one-on-one time with the girls," Ferdon said. "That's really helped out.
"Golf is a sport that's continuously changing by way of new equipment and techniques. You have to devote time to researching and learning about the new changes taking place," she said. Another thing that is constantly changing is the player roster.
"I'm recruiting all the time," Ferdon said. "Recruiting has become very competitive, and as we recycle players we don't want to lose any of our competitiveness."
Competition is a huge part of Ferdon's life. She's not afraid to admit that she is a competitive person. Once she was asked why she coaches. Her answer was simple:
"I love to compete," she said.
Ferdon played professional golf earlier in her career as part of the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA). Along with the winnings her team has achieved, she has twice been awarded the title of Big 12 Coach of the Year. For Ferdon, excitement in winning this award doesn't come from the fact that it's prestigious. Achieving the honor her first time in 2000 had deeper and more special meaning for its timing. It was awarded at the same time she overcome a difficult personal challenge.
"I'm now nine years cancer-free," Ferdon said. "Winning this award came right after coming through ovarian cancer and chemotherapy. So the award, connected with that time in my life, made it pretty special."
Ferdon was awarded the honor again in 2009 and attributes her success to her team.
"Your players are the ones who win that award for you. I've been glad to have such a great team," she said.
With so much of her time devoted t ogolf and furthering her relationships with her players, her personal life is the key to managing job-related stress.
Ferdon said coaching demands patience; a coach should not show frustration with players. In coaching them, you have to internalize negative thoughts and show encouragement. Her ability to deal with frustration is linked with having a good listener by her side: her husband, Doug.
"Doug is huge in my life. He makes me better than I can be," she said. "My husband hears about everything in my day. That allows me a release."
Antiquing is something Ferdon takes an interest in outside of work along with being outdoors. "My girls know I love to antique, and I also like to flower garden. We have a cottage back home in Wisconsin where I garden," she said. "With hobbies like art and antique fairs, I find there is another world out their besides work."
Staying healthy and fit is another way Ferdon keeps her life in order. She plans to train with Van Davis, Baylor assistant director of fitness and nutrition education, in exchange for golf lessons. According to Ferdon, a healthy lifestyle is vital to performing to the best of your abilities.
"Peak performance is my career," she said. "I've got to keep myself healthy and my players happy. That's the balance."