Learn from the top coaches in the world on how to see things that others miss and improve your coaching by using better observation and decision making skills.
Great golf teachers are passionate students of golf swing techniques and in applying the solutions to students, they never rush into a decision on technique changes when giving a lesson.
They use their powers of observation and experience to diagnose the root cause of any issue. Coaches who fail to ascertain the root cause of the issue cannot hope to deliver the correct solutions.
The metaphor I like to use is that it’s like putting a sticking plaster on an injury which might require stitching, or major surgery!
If you give a student a ‘quick-fix’, or a sticking plaster, to see him through a problematic stage in their game, it may well work…for a while. Students and teachers alike love quick fixes! However, when that same student returns a week or so later with the same issue, it might not be that the student is incapable of doing what you asked of them.
The problem will perhaps lie in your diagnosis, which may lie in treating the effect rather than the cause.
Good coaching means you get to the root of the issue and deliver a result which can be measured as an improvement on performance.
I have recently had the pleasure of learning from the two top female golf teachers on the planet, Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriot, who are founders of the Vision54 Coach concept.
Much of what I learned with Pia and Lynn can be applied to the golf teacher, as well as the student.
They believe the game is a blend of many things such as the Physical, Technical, Mental, Emotional, Social and Spiritual, and allying that to a number of essential playing skills to improve performance. We as coaches should consider this as I firmly believe there needs to be a paradigm shift in the way coaching golf is given.
The average handicap worldwide hasn’t dropped in the last 30-odd years, even though we have more scientific information and technology available and that just as many people leave the game each year as those who begin.
We have a responsibility as coaches to improve performance. If someone plays poorly enough for long enough, they’ll quit. That is no recipe for a successful business.
One of the cornerstones of Vision54 is the ‘Think-Box, Play-Box’ concept of the shot routine. Simply put, the player takes in as much relevant information about a shot in the area behind the ball we call the ‘Think-Box’. Once this information has been disseminated, they need to make a decision and commit to it. Before they walk into the ‘Play-Box’, the player must cross the ‘Decision line’ and with full commitment, they do nothing more in the ‘Play-Box’ than play the shot.
This can also be developed for the coach to have their own ‘Think-Box-Teaching-Box’ to concentrate on the most relevant issue with a student.
Improve your observation skills in your coaching ‘Think-Box’ and you can get to the nub of the issue much easier, diagnose and choose (the decision line) more accurately the correct drills for skills in the ‘Teaching Box’.
What expert coaches see that other coaches miss is the key to improving your own coaching to deliver improved lessons. It is a skill – like any other skill – which can be learned.
Great teachers observe events unfold and find the essential issues to help provide the insight for logical and intuitive decisions. By adhering to four simple points, you can learn to see things that others miss.
1 – Focus on what is relevant. A major difference between great golf teachers and the ‘Quick-fixers’ resides in the great teachers’ targeted focus on events and information relevant to the decision making.
Great teachers monitor the processes most critical to outcome. They get to the root of the problem. Lesser teachers will observe the same series of events but they do not realise the significance of what they are seeing. With limited knowledge, they are unable to respond with a drill or coaching technique which will lead to superior ball striking or performance.
Research by top performance coaches and scientists has proven that experts in any area of learning and development tend to be more focused and see significantly greater detail. The perception of experts is sharply focused on the relevant performance details, and any unnecessary information is ‘left on the cutting room floor’.
Great teachers focus on specific causal events that will impact performance, and can be influenced by their decisions and actions.
2 – Get the clues from your observations. Once they have made observations, (Think Box) the expert coach can visualise and anticipate the future. Detailed observations allow experts to anticipate what will happen. From these observations, an expert coach will weigh up the probability of future events and can begin to decide on actions they need to take to improve the student. (Decision line).
Lack of experience and knowledge restricts those with less expertise from completely understanding what may or may not happen. In short, what seems like a crystal ball for predicting the future is actually the experts’ ability to recognise the cause and effect of the performance issue.
Be aware of the unusual. It is spotting the unusual in a golf swing that triggers the accurate thinking of a great coach. Using all the experience and knowledge from an erudite coach, brings with it a comfortable familiarity within the coaching setting. They find the unusual events commonplace.
Great coaches have a set of well rehearsed routines and anything out of the ordinary becomes blatantly obvious. While a less erudite observer sees the same activity, not knowing it was unusual, they simply overlook its significance.
Teachers with less expertise normally need to consciously monitor an event closely to pick up clues for making decisions.
The great coaches spend far less energy monitoring a teaching situation progressing ‘normally’ because they are intimately familiar with the environment.
If you’ve ever seen a great coach in action whose observations and monitoring appear nonchalant or cavalier at times, it is usually far from the case because those great coaches know the situation is playing out as they anticipated. They are fully prepared for the unusual to occur.
When the unusual occurs, great coaches immediately detect it, quickly make sense of the situation and respond instinctively. In contrast, inexperienced coaches with their limited knowledge, skills and ability often fail to understand the implications of the unusual.
Deep, real and wide analysis. In order to get to the very root of the problem, experts critically analyze current performance levels as well as the quality of the motions that influence outcomes. This can take form in many ways. For example, if one of your students is trying to improve short game performance, you can encourage them to take a short game test whereby each area can be measured. You can also observe technique, equipment and other variable such as the mental game, how they control emotions or if they have any physical restrictions. In short, whatever the subject the student wishes to improve, it requires deep, real and wide analysis. If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.
Our most important challenge as a golf coach should be improving performance – Experts observe what we call KPI’s – key performance indicators (e.g. quality of ball striking, efficiency of motor skill, good balance, better test scoring etc) and draw from their knowledge and experience to critically assess what they see.
The great coaches quickly diagnose events with precision and accuracy then construct and implement solutions for improvement. Simply put, they observe, think, choose and deliver a solution. The rest is up to the student to put into action what you have suggested.
To improve any skill, one must continually practice. It is no different in learning to observe like an expert. Understanding how experts see, and then practicing those skills is your key to seeing like an expert and delivering better performance.
About the Author – Martin Park is the Director of Coaching at Bornholms Golf Club and Nexø Golf Club in Denmark. He is a Master Teaching Professional, a certified Vision54 Coach and the founder of Park Golf Academy. He is a qualified Master Craftsman Clubmaker and was awarded the GCA European Clubmaker of the Year 2009.
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GCA European Clubmaker of the Year 2009
Park Golf Academy