Archive for January, 2009

Learning and how we do it.

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

I recently attended an EGU coaching conference at Woodhall Spa where County Coach and officials from each county were invited which I am one through coaching the Devon County Squad.
Day 1
The theme was based on give us back our game.  This included a football coach who expertise was in coaching children and he described how his research and techniques he implemented were based around experience learning.  This was about the kids in football just developing their games by play without structure.  Just like us over 40’s used to do in the playground.

He raised several interesting point about issues these days in children’s football where some of the creative learning was not happening due to too much technical coaching.  Manchester UTD for example let the kids find out for themselves how to play.  Where other clubs perhaps push and coach technique to the youngsters.  He said that we should be adopting this type of style for golf.  Developing games, chipping, putting, driving games etc.

I agree with much of what he said but I still think those youngsters need a certain element of technical, visual and audio coaching to accelerate their creative talents.  Rather than perhaps just let the kids get on with it they need a few things (basics) to encourage as simple technique.  What does anyone else think?
Then came a Doctor from Worcester University speaking along the same lines called developing the complete athlete.  Again some interesting things came up and some of which I certainly use already for example the player owning their own game.  I agree with that it has to be healthy for a player to know what he or she wants from their game, swing, fitness, mental side.  There is no mileage in not knowing what to do if the coach is not there at a tournament.  The player has to work it out on their own.  Unless he has a rather large bank balance.  Getting your students to start to develop a questioning what you tell them. I certainly think that’s healthy as so many times I feel that pupils only listen rather than get involved.
We were told that it’s all about creating the opportunities for the pupil to learn rather than instructing them.  I think that some people learn this way but not all and finding the best solution for that pupil is the most important thing and should been seen as only a toll not a complete solution to accelerate learning.
Kendal McWade who is a qualified PGA coach was next up he has moved completely away from technical coaching to instinctive coaching.  What instinctive coaching? Well according to Kendal he does not instruct pupils a technique any longer like grip swing plane etc he prefers to see his pupils improve by playing games.  Now that fairly radical in terms of a concept/style and I would have loved to see some evidence that this works it’s a shame that there was none.  I’m always keen to learn new styles and innovation, however I’m one of those people who like it backed up by results and research it’s a shame that Kendal was not able to show us this.  Hopefully I will get a chance to see it in action.  He may have something.

Day 2
First up on the coaching front was a Dr. John Pates and a talk on the process that he uses on his player (Tour Players) on entering the Zone.  Images are everything was his motto.  Having the correct images in your mind during play is the key to success for a top athlete.  He seemed to have a good knowledge and some good success stories with Darren Clarke, Gary Orr and Paul Broadhurst who had almost instant success after working with him.  He used the image of previous success against Tiger to help Darren Clarke back to a high performance and also relating this to music and feelings at the time when he performed well.  Like all psychologist they uses things from experiences where you performed well to build inner confidence and desire which are important.  If your down and you feel that you are struggling you probably will struggle you usually get what you think.  Again I would like to have seen him at work with a tour player or at least had some video with him showing the techniques he uses.
I think everyone would agree that psychology is important in sport if not life and you belief system is vital. It’s a bit of a black art though where there is no definite answer to some solutions as no one actually has a complete understanding of the human brain.
Overall he gave a few nuggets that were interesting and I would like to see some more of his work.
Dr Paul Schempp a University professor from the US spoke last.  He runs a research team at the University of Georgia studying coaches in all sports and analysing the tools of the trade.  I have read some article and books that he has published and so I was keen on what he had to say.
He talked about the RE-PAR system that good coaches’ use.  RE-PAR is a synonym
R – Recognise key faults
E – Evaluate to prioratize
P – Plan your response
A – Act/response
R – Review success
He showed us a still of a tour player for a few seconds and asked everyone to write down what they may work on it this players swing.

Everyone on our table wrote the same thing then also what may be causing this.  That was an interesting outcome as we had an official also on our table and he did not write the same thing.  The fault by the way was not that obvious.
He then highlighted key areas/skills a coach should use.  Ask your pupils lots of questions, listen to your pupil the coach should do less talking, share the same goals and priorities, self monitoring of the coaching process.
Trying to make the player feel responsible so they take action themselves so they own their game.
Sound advice from Dr. Schempp.
There was certainly more information that I have yet to digest from the seminar and a always I took something from the couple of days at Woodall Spa.

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