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GREAT LEARNING HABITS – ‘Teachers open doors, but you must enter by yourself’3 min read

Dr. Brian HemmingsAuthor: Dr. Brian Hemmings


Posted on: 3rd Nov 2016

‘Teachers open doors, but you must enter by yourself’

(Chinese Proverb)

Some believe this ancient proverb originates from Confucius (551–479 BC) who was a teacher, editor, politician, and philosopher.

I have always thought this saying very much applies to PGA Professionals and their players/pupils in that teaching professionals can equip players’ to succeed, however it is the player who will have to take the initiative to apply what they are taught to be successful.

Teachers can only help players identify and develop the skills they need; the professional cannot practise for the player or hit the shots.  Yet I have met so many golfers who feel all they have to do is turn up for lessons and they will improve.

This means that golf professionals provide the coaching environment and instruction for players to learn and progress and can open up a world of knowledge and skills.  But teaching professionals can’t make players learn.  They offer the opportunities, but it is the player’s responsibility to accept the opportunities, and afterwards put in the effort and practice to improve.  In fact I meet too many teaching professionals who take too much responsibility for their pupils’ learning.  So how can coaches impress on players what is needed for learning to take place?

Good to Great

In his best-selling book ‘Good to Great’ Jim Collins cites various reasons why certain companies and individuals make the step from just being good to achieving greatness.  In essence, many of the factors demonstrated that individuals took responsibility for their own development.

Last year in England men’s national coaching, the coaching staff asked the players to do the same – to take responsibility for their own learning and performance.  In other words, the coaching staff would open the doors to learning, but the players needed to decide if they were really going to take control of their attitude to learning.  We challenged the players to individually think through what they needed to do to go from ‘good to great’ in the coaching environment.

The ten factors below were what the players (who went on to become European Men’s Team Champions the same year) cited as being critical to take more responsibility for in their development.

England Team ‘Good to Great’ Factors

  1. Ask for what you need
  2. Develop decision-making skills
  3. Handle the pressure of different situation
  4. Develop great time management
  5. Develop great organisational skills
  6. Preparation is everything
  7. Adopt a great work ethic
  8. Trust what you do
  9. Have goals, plans and structure
  10. Listen to people you trust

Of course may PGA Professionals will not be working with national team or tour players, however, human behaviour is largely the same at all levels.  Whilst a beginner or a mid-handicapper might not be striving to go from ‘good to great’ they will want to improve through teaching and lessons and many of the ten factors cited are about habit.

Considering some psychologists estimate that up to 90% of all behaviours is habitual, this suggests that golf teachers and coaches need to stress the learning habits needed to improve at golf, and at the very least emphasise the responsibility of the player in the learning process.

So if you want to see more of your players develop, challenge them to take responsibility for their learning habits!

Dr. Brian HemmingsAuthor: Dr. Brian Hemmings
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Dr. Brian Hemmings was lead psychologist to England golf during 1997 to 2013. During this time he helped develop the mental skills of the best emerging English golfers including the likes of Ross Fisher, Danny Willett, Tom Lewis, Tommy Fleetwood and Chris Wood.   Brian is author of the book ‘Mental Toughness for Golf: The Minds of Winners’ and also runs Masterclasses for sport psychologists and golf coaches.

Find out more at www.golfmind.co.uk.