Confederation of Professional Golf Director of Education & Membership, Tony Bennett, gives his thoughts on how coaching has changed in the past 15 years and where it could go in the next…
For those of you old enough, can you remember when most people said that the earth was flat? ‘Flat-Earthers’ believed that the World was nothing like a spherical body and had varying theories about a wheel like shape surrounded by water. These theories were once believed to be iron-clad, but were then disproven over time.
In the same vein I am sure that many PGA Professionals can cast their mind back to the turn of the millennium and think about the ball flight laws at that time. If you were coaching in the year 2000, what was your coaching philosophy just those 15 years ago?
If you are developing as a coach, then I guarantee that you will think about some parts of coaching, technique, preparation or the use of technology very differently than you did even five years ago.
To think that nothing changes and everything is the same is naive. Equipment changes, the playing conditions change and even the players’ mind-sets are very different than they were even just five years ago.
Based on that, making predictions for how coaching will change and the influence of technology anything further than five years in the future is pure crystal ball-gazing. That said, I offer the following observations that could come into play:
- The relationship between the coach and student will become more reliant on facilitating learning rather than teaching.
- It will not be possible to quarantine a student from information or influence from other sources. The coach of the future will become a trusted advisor, a sounding board to validate or correct the student’s current thinking.
- Progress of the student is not linear. Successful coaches will recognise that on the road to the student’s goals there will be detours, roadblocks and potholes to be negotiated.
- There is not a starting and finishing line. Students will engage with the game on their own terms. Some will start with the long game, some with short game and others with putting. Many people will resist being fed into one end of a system and asked to progress through a series of pre-defined lessons.
- Coaches will return to teaching people rather than teaching golf swings.
- There is a huge disconnect between where a new student learns to swing the club and where they play the game. The range cannot replicate the course and as such it is imperative that the new student gets to the course as soon as is practically possible.
- There is an over-reliance on data capture devices, such as, video, force plates, ball launch monitors, 3D analysis systems. That is not to say that technology is not good because when used properly it really is. Many of these technological aids are tremendous, but it is only the operators that tend to love them. Such equipment should be used more as a way to capture data, make a thorough diagnosis, prepare an intervention and assess progress, not used as a gimmick in untrained hands.
- Finally, coaches will start to realise that the market for coaches to elite players is very small and that the big and more lucrative markets are with new and average players. In most golf playing countries less than 10% of the population, and sometimes even significantly less, play so the untapped 90%+ offer a great opportunity.
To conclude I have no desire to be educated, no inclination to be taught and yet I have an insatiable appetite to learn. Ask me if I want to be educated or taught how to play the saxophone and my answer is no. Ask me if I want to learn how to play the saxophone and my response is a resounding yes. For that, I will need an expert coach.