David L. Cook
Peak performance coach and speaker
Cook is a past president of the National Sport Psychology Academy and was selected to represent the United States at the International Olympic Academy in Olympia, Greece, in 1988.
Cook received his undergraduate degree from Baylor University and a master’s and doctorate in applied sport and performance psychology from the University of Virginia.
First Tee of Fort Worth
First Tee of Fort Worth uses golf to help young people develop life skills that set them up for success.
Sports success and psychology go hand-in-hand. At least that’s the philosophy of David Cook, and he should know.
Cook, who recently moved to Fort Worth, spent eight seasons as the team psychologist for the San Antonio Spurs of the National Basketball Association from 1996-2004. During that time they won their first two (1999, 2003) of five NBA championships — the other titles came in 2005, 2007 and 2014. He was also with the college basketball powerhouse Kansas Jayhawks from 1984-96.
Along with his profession, Cook is an avid golfer. He’s been playing since he was 6 and developed his real passion for the game at age 12.
“They built a golf course down the street when I was 12, and that’s when I really took off,” he recalled. “A young pro came in and took me under his wing. His name was Johnny Arreaga. He was the inspiration for my career. He helped me understand the mental side of the game.”
Arreaga was also an inspiration for Cook’s novel Golf’s Sacred Journey: Seven Days at the Links of Utopia. He was also inspired by some family property.
“We have a ranch down in Utopia [Texas], and an old cowboy [Wayne Wilcher] built a driving range near there,” Cook said. “He was actually a goat rancher. We call bad golf courses goat ranches — and this one actually was a goat ranch.”
Seven Days is about a young golfer who loses his touch. He connects with a rancher who has a passion for teaching truth. In 2011, the story was made into a movie titled Seven Days in Utopia starring Robert Duvall as the rancher.
“It’s a reflection of every athlete I’ve ever worked with. I rolled them all into one guy,” Cook said of the golfer character.
Cook said he chose a novel to convey his psychological message because “it was time to write something, and I didn’t want to write a 1-2-3 how-to book.”
He’s written a sequel, entitled Golf’s Sacred Journey: Seven More Days in Utopia. It’s about two young golfers pursuing their dreams of winning the U.S. Open while tackling trials, overcoming fear and experiencing redemption.
“It’s about the hardest U.S. Open in the history of the world,” he said. Coincidentally, the recent U.S. Open was one of the hardest ever played.
His latest book, The Mindset of Greatness, is currently being edited, he said. He said it is a general performance guide for life, including stories relating to life and business.”
Cook is an advocate for promoting the game of golf among youngsters, and he particularly likes the First Tee program. The First Tee brings golf to youths who might not otherwise have the opportunity to learn, particularly boys and girls from underprivileged families.
“The principles I teach are so important for these kids. I provide information so people can reach their potential, and the First Tee teaches these kids the same thing,” he said. “Who’s the next generation that’s going to keep golf going? Getting young people out on the courses is important.”
Cook plays golf as often as he can, though that’s often in tournaments such as club championships at places such at Mira Vista locally and Boot Ranch in Fredericksburg.
He also spends a good amount of time speaking to the corporate world.
“There’s a strong correlation between sports and the business world,” he said. “If you do either for a living, you’d better be good or find something else to do.”