The Art of Motivation for the Professional Golf Coach
One of the most important jobs a golf coach has is that of motivation. It can make all the difference in the world between success and failure. Dictionary.com defines “motivation” as “the act or instance of motivating, or providing a reason to act in a certain way,” and “the state or condition of being motivated.”
Motivation may be the most powerful tool there is. Without it, literally nothing gets done. All of our actions are based upon it.
Psychologists list two types of motivation, intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation is when the person does something because it is inherently enjoyable or interesting, while extrinsic motivation
exists when the person does something for external reasons. Intrinsic motivation in golf would involve the pleasure of hitting good golf shots and enjoying the outdoors and friends, while extrinsic motivation involves factors such as winning a bet or reaching some other goal. Intrinsic motivation has long been thought to be the more effective of the two, but some psychologists are of the opinion that extrinsic motivation is almost as, if not as, effective, in certain cases.
Take Tiger Woods, for example. Winning golf tournaments would involve extrinsic motivation, but certainly he finds great internal pleasure in doing so. Because Woods has been able to turn an external factor, winning golf tournaments, into an internal joy, you could fairly argue that Woods is motivated intrinsically to win golf tournaments. This sounds like something all tour professionals would be doing, but you would be surprised. Winning, even to most touring pros, is a stressful venture. Woods, and other great champions, likely find the process of contending and winning to be far more pleasurable than stressful.
One of the great motivators in Woods’ life was his father, Earl. Earl instilled into a young Tiger that he was destined for great things. He supported and nurtured Tiger every step of the way, using things he learned in the military to motivate Tiger to greatness.
Outside of golf, great motivators include Theodore Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. Roosevelt is author of one of the great quotes of all time, which in part states, “The credit belongs to the man who is
actually in the arena…and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly so that his place shall never be with those timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.” Churchill, during England’s dark days of World War II, said, “We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”
Okay, so golf isn’t as serious as that, but how can golf coaches motivate their clients? The key is for them to develop intrinsic motivation. They have to take inherent pleasure in improving, striking the ball, or some other aspect of the game. It helps if we stress the enjoyable aspects of the game, rather than “you must do this or that.”
Golf coaches everywhere know the struggle to get their competitors to practice properly. Perhaps, instead of stressing performance issues related to practicing, we need to talk about the inherent enjoyment that exists in performing better.
Some coaches face the task of getting their competitive players motivated to play and practice. With most competitive players, this isn’t a hard job, as the competition itself is a great motivator for these players. But, we’ve all seen the stories of touring professionals who might be burned out, who are going through the motions and who
aren’t practicing like they once did. Usually they get tired of underperforming after awhile and get back to working more diligently on their games. Their distaste for their poor performance is the motivating factor here.
Coaching at the junior, high school, or collegiate level is a different challenge. Players can get discouraged if they are not among the better competitors. High school and college coaches can help alleviate this by guaranteeing every golfer to play in at least one or two matches. This should motivate these players to keep striving for improvement.
Junior players who are not close to winning should be given modest goals to reach; in other words, they are not competing so much against the other players but against themselves and the course.
Golf coaches wear many hats, and motivator is one of the most important. Being encouraging and getting our charges to appreciate the inherent enjoyment of the game goes a long way in providing motivation for them.