by Gareth McShea
Ah the eighties, full of classic hits, Reebok pumps, perms and confused men (I’m looking at you Boy George!).
Often times when I am coaching, a player will hit a shot and proclaim something along the lines of “Oh God, if I did that off the twelfth tee, that ball would be lost/in the water/out of bounds/up a tree,etc.”
Their next shot is often a complete opposite of the previous one, so if the first shot went right, the next one goes way left and then they settle into a pattern of missing either side, time and time again.
When you are constantly reacting to your previous shot you are ensuring you are acting like a dog chasing its tail, you might feel close to a breakthrough at times, but the reality is you are never getting any closer to your desired outcomes.
The same thing occurs as I observe players training, 2 balls out to the right, 3rd ball over the hedge on the left, 4th ball to the right again….
Each shot is a reaction to the last, the practice plan, if there was one, has been thrown out the window. The (mis-)behaviour of the ball is now controlling the behaviour of the human. Well at least until I intervene.
The purpose of training* boils down to one of two things:
-Am I training to acquire or develop a new motor skill
-Am I training to refine a current motor skill
For example, if I am seeking to refine my current putting stroke, I need to create an environment where I feel safe to experiment, to introduce new feelings or sensations and to utilize different concepts or ideas.
An environment which allows me to take advantage of slow motion strokes, strokes at differing speeds, to exaggerate corrective movements which maximize feedback and to, in time, discern the differences between my current stroke and my desired stroke.
What about the outcomes? During training they should be largely non relevant. Yes we are always interested in how the ball behaves.
If the golf ball behavior consumes our attention we never become aware of what our current movements feel like, thereby meaning we cannot create lasting change, which in turn leads to a lifetime of the same old performances whilst declaring to anyone who will listen that “I tried practicing but it didn’t make a difference, so I stopped.”
It’s back to our friend choice, I can choose where I direct my attention or I can choose to allow the ball to determine where my attention is directed.
If you are happy to be controlled by a white, 1.68″ in diameter, dimpled, misbehaving, non-conscious sphere, keep going as you are.
If you are not, then it’s time to do something different.
*When I refer to training I mean motor skill development, preparation is a different element.