By: Steve Williams, WGCA contributing writer A spoiled golfer!  Is a spoiled golfer like a spoiled kid?  How do you know if a kid is spoiled?  Maybe because they complain if they don’t get their way.  Maybe they always seem to need something to pacify themselves, or they get distracted and create difficulties. Sometimes, I casually observe a golf teacher giving a lesson.  Usually, after the teacher has told the student what they need to change in their golf swing, he’ll watch the student take some practice swings and then try to hit the ball while implementing the “new move.”  It is quite common to see the teacher waiting for the student to hit a nice shot, and then the teacher will say, “There, now you’re getting it!”  Then the student hits a few more balls that are not hit very well…and they get frustrated, but the teacher encourages them to keep trying.  Finally, after the student hits several bad shots, they hit another good one and the teacher says again, “Great, you’re really starting to get it!” In all honesty, when I see that, something within me would like to take that teacher aside after their lesson and say, “Why in the world are you training that person to judge their progress in incorporating a new move by the criteria of whether they hit a good shot or not?”  In my opinion, that is exactly like a parent who is trying to get their child to not eat so many sweets in the wrong manner:  In order to train them to eat more healthy, they give them a Twinkie just to keep them quiet when the child starts complaining and won’t shut up while the parent is shopping at the mall. Tiger Woods said one time that he used to chuckle at teachers who would suggest that he make some sort of change, whereupon Tiger would not make the change (because he knew that the teacher probably couldn’t see whether he did or not due to the speed of the golf swing) but he would purposely hit the ball well.  Then, Tiger would say, “Hey, that does work well!”  He said he could measure a teacher’s worth by whether the teacher could pick up on the fact that he really didn’t make the change that the teacher suggested, but gave the teacher the impression that he did.  If the teacher was quick to say that Tiger did it well just because he hit a good shot, Tiger knew that they really weren’t much of a teacher. When I read several years ago that Tiger said that, it brought back memories, because I used to do the same thing back in the 70’s when I was in college…and had different people who wanted to share their extensive knowledge of the golf swing with me. I’ve said all of that so that I could make this point: When you’re giving a lesson, have enough confidence in what you’re teaching to keep the student focused on making the swing change that you’re suggesting, that you won’t just wait for them to hit a good shot before you say, “Now you’re getting it!”  Speaking from my experiences, there are far more times in which I have complimented a student on doing the right thing after they’ve hit a terrible shot than I have after they’ve hit a good shot.  Why? Well, not always, but the vast majority of the time when they’re making a swing change, the immediate effect on their ball striking is going to be that they hit the ball worse than before the lesson started.  If they’re a little spoiled, they’re going to lose focus if they don’t hit the ball well immediately. It actually takes a certain amount of time working with a new student, for me to get them “unspoiled,” if I can use the term.  Why were they spoiled?  Because their former teachers may have lacked the confidence to keep them committed to a change they were making.  Again…why?  Maybe because the teacher needed the acceptance of the student so the teacher could feel better about himself.  I have no problem admitting that the quality of the student’s ball striking will be the final criteria by which to determine if I’ve helped them to become a better golfer or not.  And I am more than willing to accept that responsibility with every student I teach. As you become more and more confident with your teaching, you won’t be controlled by the student during a lesson because of your wanting their immediate approval.  You’ll gain the confidence to keep them focused on the task at hand, because you know from your experiences, that good, consistent, predictable ball striking is the result of a golf swing that is repeatable.  A repeatable golf swing, whether it has few or many variables, is of paramount importance in someone becoming a better golfer.  How to determine the amount of variables someone should be allowed to have in their golf swing is a subject for another day! In the meantime, though, be observant and realize when you’re praising a student just to “keep them happy.” By careful observation of all of your experiences as a teacher, you’ll continually gain the confidence necessary to not create more spoiled students. Good golfing!
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