Skiing lessons for golf teachers

skiCoaching in different sports is very similar to golf in more respects than you might imagine. People who play individual sports such as tennis and bowling face the same challenges golfers do: namely, to get rid of bad habits and develop consistency.

In 1935, a book titled The Complete Book of Skiing was written by F. Hallberg and H. Muckenbrunn. In perusing the book, one finds truths applied to ski teachers back then that apply to the modern-day golf teacher 71 years later. Hallberg and Muckenbrunn did not believe that a ski teacher had to be an expert skier in order to teach the sport. They believed that being a good skier with “a very high order” of teaching qualities was a necessary combination for instructors.

The same can be applied to USGTF instructors. Our playing ability test does not require par golf (the definition of expert golf), but it does require a score which shows the prospective member is a good player.

The Complete Book of Skiing listed eight qualities that a competent ski teacher needed. Here they are and how they can be applied to the golf teacher:

Thoroughly understand the principles of skiing technique.
Golf is a complicated game from a technique point of view. Although one might be a good, or even a great player, that doesn’t qualify him or her to teach. It’s important to understand how a good golf swing works and what happens when a student strays from proper technique.

Possess a rudimentary knowledge of the mechanism of the body. 
Today we would call this “biomechanics.” We also need to know our student’s specific abilities, as they come in all different types. Some are flexible, some are not; some are strong; some are not; some are healthy, some are not. We need to know what our students are and are not capable of doing.

Know how to explain and illustrate a movement or how to correct a fault as clearly as possible. An instructor must never be wordy. 
This is important, as people think in pictures. Too many golf teachers keep up a running monologue during the entire lesson, instead of demonstrating. It’s also important that we give an accurate illustration of what the student should be doing. You might have your own way of doing something (such as an extremely strong right-hand grip, for example), but you must not demonstrate that as the proper grip. You have an obligation to learn to demonstrate correct technique, even if you yourself don’t use it.

Have an eye for mistakes and immediately recognize their cause. 
Nothing is worse for a student than to have a teacher who tries several different things in an effort to stop the student’s bleeding, so to speak. Look at it this way: if it takes the teacher until the 25th minute of a 30-minute lesson to finally find and fix the problem, the poor student only receives five minutes of actual learning time! Remember the ball flight laws? If the teacher focuses on clubpath and clubface angle, it will be much easier and quicker to spot the student’s true problem.

Have authority and the qualities which inspire the respect and admiration of pupils. 
This simply means behaving in a professional manner – being on time, being organized, having a professional appearance, treating students and others with respect and courtesy, and, of course, possess a certain amount of humility.”

Have unlimited patience. 
Because golf teachers are proficient players and the game seems easy in some respects, we may forget how difficult it really is to those we are teaching. To fully appreciate this, try hitting some shots left-handed if you play right-handed.

Have psychological insight. Some people need to be lead with firmness and others with kindness.
This is a true gem. One of the traits that all good coaches universally have is to know when to “pat someone on the back” and when to “kick them in the butt,” as we might say today. In all honesty, some people have this gift and some people don’t. Keep in mind that most people will react to kindness rather than firmness, so if you’re not sure which to dish out, err on the side of caution. Please remember, you cannot intimidate and influence at the same time.

The instructor must not neglect seeing that the pupils study the track they have made.
In golf, we would call this the ball flight. Not only is it important for the teacher to know this, but it’s also important for the student. After all, they’re not with their teacher most of the time. If they’ve been taught competently, they’ll know that their ball hooking to the left means that the clubface angle at impact was closed, and they can take steps to correct it on their own. An important goal of the teacher should be to see his students leave the nest and fly on their own. Those guys back in 1935 were ahead of their time, wouldn’t you say?

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