People come to us in hopes of getting better at golf. Some have realistic expectations; some don’t. Although we love what we do, our job is not the easiest. We are under a lot of pressure to make sure our students go away with something solid that they can use and with which to improve.
Part of the difficulty in teaching and coaching is that much of what our success is based on is largely out of our hands. We can teach, coach, show, demonstrate, etc., maybe 50 percent of what a student needs to know, but the other 50 percent is up to them. They have to put in the time and effort, not only physically but mentally, in order to reap the benefits of what we have taught them. Yet, our50 percent factor in their success is critical, because without it, they have little or no chance to fulfill their half of their “contract” with us.
It starts with being able to assess what a student can or cannot do. For example, if they are physically incapable of making a full turn on the backswing, we cannot keep insisting that they learn to do so. This may be common sense, but a lot of teachers and good ones, at that have fallen prey to this well-intentioned but ineffective path.
But, you say, even though they cannot physically do what we are asking at the moment, if they put the time and effort to physically change their bodies, they can do it. This is where we need to get real. How many of our students, most of whom are older, are really going to spend a couple of hours a week specifically on exercises to help themselves to physically be able to move in a more efficient manner? That percentage is probably pretty close to zero. So, we’re going to have to give them something to do that they’re capable of doing at that moment.
It all starts with how the clubhead is moving into the ball. We’ve stated this on the pages of Golf Teaching Pro time and time again, but we can never say it enough. Most people are capable of getting the clubhead to move into the ball with a good path and square clubface angle, even if they can’t move anywhere near like a tour pro.
It starts with the setup. Noted teaching professional Michael Breed has often said it takes no athletic ability to assume a proper setup position, and he’s right. Yes, there may be some physical limitations that prevent some of our students from taking a model posture, but the ball doesn’t know this. And the movement of the club itself isn’t necessarily dependent upon this.
It’s also important to limit the amount of information that is given to a student. One USGTF teaching professional related the story of when he was a young teacher and had a student who was shooting in the mid-90s and wanted merely to break 90 consistently. He enthusiastically showed the student several things he needed to change in order to reach his goal. When the teacher saw the student a few weeks later and asked him how he was coming along, the student replied, “Terrible! I can’t break 100 now!”
It’s cases like this that can give a teacher, and also unfortunately the teaching profession, a bad name. The young teacher then worked with the student for 30 minutes on the spot, simplifying the information that was originally given, and having the student concentrate on only one or two things.
Many new teachers are eager to impart a lot of information, erroneously thinking that they are short changing their students if they don’t. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Getting the most out of our students requires two things on our part: 1) Getting them to do things of which they are capable, and 2) giving the minimum amount of information necessary. It’s a recipe that works well for the best teachers and coaches in the world, and even though we may not be considered a worldwide guru, it works for the rest of us, too.