The changing face of golf instruction Part III
MENTAL CHANGES IN INSTRUCTION
The mental aspects of golf have developed into a multi-million dollar business. In the early years, all that was done was to give a few tips to the players – nothing elaborate. Golf books and articles in the early years were limited, focusing mostly on the physical aspects, with a few lines or paragraphs on the mental aspects.
People talked about how the game was so extremely mental, but little was done until recently to promote the psychological factors. With the modern game came the mental game explosion. Books, audiotapes, CD’s, videos, magazines, etc., now market various thinking processes.
The mental game has changed its focus over the years. In early times the focus was on the opponent. This was natural, as most golf was match play. As stroke play became more popular, the focus was changed to the golf course: play the course and forget all the other golfers; play the course and the other players will take care of themselves.
Now, the present-day trend is that your opponent is not the other players or the golf course – your opponent is yourself. You are competing against yourself. Your responsibility is to play your best. Forget the others. Forget the course. You are in control of yourself. You cannot control others or the course, but you can control yourself. You can only perform to your ability.
With the popularity of golf, the game has brought out many psychologists with their own ideas and philosophy. Some of them are good, some are just marketing ploys. The following are some of the newer teachings that have merit.
NLP is Neuro-Linguistic Programming. This is a new type of psychology that is especially good for changing behavior. The name is derived through programming the neurons in the body to achieve desired results. It is the language of the mind.
NLP is now becoming popular with many sport psychologists. It is based on modeling and imitation. Kids learn by modeling as they imagine their favorite stars and imitate them. They learn by observation. Observation develops a picture in the mind. The kid then just executes to the picture. Youngsters do not get hung up on analysis. They are bored with teachers that talk too much. They are doers. They do not know it, but they are using NLP principles. The following is what they do: Kids decide what to do and then they do it. After they do it, they analyze what they did: did it work or did it fail? If it worked they do it again. If it did not work then they try something different. Do you see the cycle? 1) Decide what to do. 2) Do it. 3) Analyze it. 4) If it was successful, then repeat it; if it was unsuccessful, then make a new decision and try it again.
Basically, this is a trial and error process, a simple process that would work well with adults. Adults want too much analysis. They want paralysis by analysis. Get your students to learn like a kid. Teach this way. In this simple process of using NLP, the rules are SEE IT, FEEL IT, DO IT. Get a picture in the mind, a single-focus picture. Make a decision of what to do. Feel the skill. Feel the swing. Activate your senses. Then, execute the skill.
The success of the skill depends on involving all the senses in the body. Skill execution is best performed with all the senses of sight, touch, feel, and sound.
Once you learn the skill, you then forget it. This is an old Zen saying, but only recently has it been popularized. This sounds contradictory, but when we forget the skill we trust our body to execute in the automatic stage of learning. This trust process is difficult but it must be utilized. Our mind and sight “lock in” to the target (target orientation) with all our senses. We forget everything except the target. As they say in Zen, perform with the empty mind. See it, feel it, do it.
To help in the see it, feel it, and do it process, we can recall a past similar successful experience. We look at our next shot. We decide what is needed, and then recall a past successful experience similar to the one you now have. Recall what you felt at the time. Feel all the senses you had when you executed that shot successfully. When you feel you have grasped the situation, execute the shot. Trust your body and mind.
NLP is designed to help you control your mind and your feelings. Emotions are critical to performance. Emotions affect your thinking and performance for the good and for the bad. Good emotions elevate your confidence; bad emotions depress your confidence.
Emotional control can be learned in the same way physical skills are learned. See yourself in the desired emotional state (see it). Feel yourself in the desired emotional state (feel it). Now, just act out your desired emotional state (do it). These skills do work and may seem too simple to be of use. Their effectiveness comes from practice, lots of practice, especially when under pressure.
NLP has an important saying: “If you performed the skill once, you can do it again, and again, and again, etc.” Remember this. Never forget it. Make sure you pass it on to your students.
Two good books on NLP and golf are:
Golf – The Mind Game by Marlin M. Mackenzie, Dell Trade Paperback, 1990.
Masterstroke – Use The Power Of Your Mind To Improve Your Golf With NLP, by Harry Alder and Karl Morris, Piatkus Publishers, 1997.
The language of the mind is pictures. If we describe a golf ball to someone, we see a picture of the ball in the mind, and then we describe it. We do not see a paragraph of words with a description of the ball.
Since the mind works with pictures, good teachers are able to teach so that their students get a picture in their mind of what is needed. They claim Harvey Penick’s success as a teacher was because he was able, through the use of metaphors and analogies, to create a picture in the student’s mind of exactly what they must do.
A new technique to develop the visualization process was developed by Alex Morrison called the “hypnotic touch.”
Alex Morrison, a famous golf teacher in the 1930s, found an interesting way to develop pictures in the minds of his students. He would explain exactly what he wanted (audio), and then he would demonstrate (visual), and then he would have the student do it (feel or kinesthetic sense).
If the student was doing it wrong, he would tap the problem area and have the student do it again. For example, if the student’s right or back elbow was flying too much, Morrison would touch the student’s elbow with a few taps. By tapping the elbow, the student’s mind would focus on the elbow. A correct picture would develop in the mind, and then the student would execute to the picture. Morrison would tap the elbow after each execution until the student was able to develop the correct move.
Alex had marvelous success with his hypnotic touch. Another one of his famous teachings is still in thegolf magazines today. His main emphasis on the swing was to point the chin just behind the ball and leave it there after impact. This procedure got his students to stay over the ball at impact. This is an excellent starting point in teaching golf to a beginner. It is simple. Once this is achieved, then fine-tuning can be done if needed.
VISUAL, AUDIO AND TOUCH/FEEL
A current trend is to teach to the various learning techniques of visual, audio and kinesthetic (feel) processes. The following diagram will accentuate this technique. We all know this, but too often we just go ahead with no preparations. Get a plan so you know what you are doing.
Teach to the plan by using all the learning senses of audio (words), visual (eyesight) and the kinesthetic sense (the feeling sense). Tell the students what is expected (audio). Then, demonstrate the procedure (visual). Sometimes these two can be done together. Be careful not to create information overload. The third stage is to get the student doing it to feel the skill using their kinesthetic sense.
Evaluation may be the most important teaching aspect, because, if you do not make accurate evaluations, you cannot improve your teaching. Evaluate your presentation. Evaluate your student’s progress. Evaluation may mean that you will change your plans for the future. Evaluation takes honesty and guts.
Sometimes you have to criticize yourself, and use a new or different teaching approach, No honest evaluation – no improvement on your part. Your students may be learning despite your teaching. Evaluate!
The outside square tells us that we must surround our planning, teaching and evaluation with the three “L’s”: Love, Laughter and Living.
With all of your teaching, you must have a sense of humor. Laugh with your students but not at them. Keep the atmosphere fun.
Love your job. If you do not, get another job, one you like. You have to live you job. It is your career. It is your life.