The new school year started a few weeks earlier than normal this year in Tampa, Florida, where I teach high school and coach the boys’ golf team. I was a little worried, because our team lost two of our top players to graduation and the previous season had not gone well. I had spent a great deal of time thinking about what had gone wrong last season. Were the players getting what they needed out of our practices? Was I giving the feedback and support each player required? Was I pushing the team too much? Whether I realized it or not, I was engaging in reflection. Reflection is a process that has helped me look back on experiences and apply that knowledge to my instruction. It has helped me improve what I do and how I do it. Great coaches learn from their experiences, and as a result, expand their coaching to new situations. After all, we all reflect on our life experiences. But developing intentional reflection as a golf coach and instructor takes practice. Below are some practical steps coaches can take to make intentional reflection work for you:
  1. Dialogue journals– After each practice or lesson, take time to document observations or questions you can ask your players or clients at the next session. Your observations can be formal, such as which drills each player did, or what they wanted the focus of the lesson to be, or they can be informal such as the mood your player might have been in or something that happened to them during the day. Keeping track of this information after each practice while the information is fresh and going over it again the next day can be a great asset.
  1. Mentor relationship– Endeavor to develop a relationship with coaches and instructors with more experience than you. It’s important to be able to have a fresh set of eyes to look at a situation. Even if you disagree with some aspect of their coaching style, someone who has been doing things longer than you may have a wealth of information they can share.
  1. Professional development– Make it a point at least once a year to attend some type of professional development course. It’s great to keep up to date with the latest ideas in coaching and instruction to augment your own repertoire, but more importantly, it helps to rekindle the passion and drive that all coaches and instructors need to succeed.
  1. Client questionnaires– Although this can make us feel vulnerable, it can be a valuable tool for intentional reflection because it allows you to identify trends in the feedback you get from your players and clients. Do all of their comments suggest you are off-topic too much? Should you be giving more guidance during practice and one-on-one lessons? How do you make your players feel? If there is a way to give this questionnaire anonymously, the feedback will be even more valuable.
  1. Set aside intentional reflection time– This is probably the most important technique that all professionals should work into their schedule. It’s important when taking this time for there to be as little distraction as possible, so a great time might be at the end of the day when things are winding down and your cell phone should be nowhere in sight!
Being an effective golf coach requires that we occasionally take a step back and ask ourselves difficult questions about our instruction. The more reflective we become, the more we notice about our students. That insight allows us to connect with them, making instruction a positive and rewarding experience.  
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