The PRACTICE Initialism: A Series (Part 3)
Concept: This is where I can get on my soap box a little and talk about the difference between Teaching, Coaching, Learning, and Transferring. In my opinion, teaching is an act that educators go through where they are spewing out information regardless of the audience’s capability to comprehend it. Coaching would be a step above where there is interaction between two parties and there might be some change in the pupil. Learning is what happens well beyond the lesson time. Learning is something that we still don’t completely understand because most of the time it happens while we are sleeping. The brain is constantly working while we sleep, and the motor patterns we were trying to create start to connect. In order for this to happen to the best degree, Transfer Practice is critical.
Application: While I do most of my coaching indoors, I am able to go outside and work with players on course management and application of the skills we try to create inside. However, the vast majority of my students get a lot of their transfer practice done inside as well. I mentioned learning happens overnight. I ask that all my students practice a day after their lesson. In doing so, it’s more likely for them to develop whatever skill we are trying to create. They might not fully create the habit to the point that it is second nature, but it increases the chances of that happening and reduces the amount of time it takes.
We also use a launch monitor, and there we are able to apply the new skill. It may be something like reducing lateral movement in the lower body on the backswing (a common problem with most amateurs I see). I’m able to work on that with a player, but then immediately bring them to a virtual course and observe how they react. I highly recommend some aspect of that even if you don't have immediate access to the course. You can simply create a fairway on the range and mentally put yourself on the course.
Concept: Focusing on one thing at a time is often the cliché topic for many amateurs. The amount of times I’ve heard the common phrase, “I just need to groove this one swing thought then I can move on” is unbelievable. It hurts more than it helps. In order to stay focused and be successful, I look to our previously mentioned Dr. Wulf and another study (I believe) she did. She found that 0/80 of people were better when they focused on internal ideas. In a chipping experiment (I’m just going off memory), some people were told to focus on their hands, arms, or body. Other people were told to focus on the grip, the shaft, the club head, or even the ball or where they wanted it to go. The people who focused intrinsically did worse than the external focused people.
Application: There are few things going on here. (1) Isolated focus does not mean one swing thought; it means a concept should be isolated. The looks, feels, and drills should all be different. (2) The isolation should not be internal. If it is, we need to change that. And (3) this should scale on skill level, but we will get to that.
The broad area of focus comes from a ball flight deficiency. A few examples are hitting the ground before the ball, having the club face too open relative to the path, and the path moving too many degrees out to in. Sound familiar? A lot of these occurrences get the ball to curve to the right and not go as far as you would prefer. I would take one of those observations and work on many external ideas with you in order to incorporate a new movement pattern to help with that deficiency. Sometimes it takes a quick talk, and other times it could take a few years to truly ingrain a specific ball flight we both want. Even then, mistakes happen, so we still might mis-hit the ball or chunk it a little. But with the training and external cues we would have, you would be able to move forward quickly and not make the same mistake again.
That completes the Transfer and Isolate dimensions of the PRACTICE initialism. Keep an eye out for the next part of this series!