Learn in Small Focussed Steps

November 25, 2014

clarinetWhen you learn golf, do you prefer your coach to provide specific and detailed information or would you rather the concepts described in more broad, even metaphoric terms?  If you are a coach, what is your coaching approach?

The two ends of the learning spectrum are either considering the swing as a whole motion, where broad concepts and metaphors are used, or addressing a specific aspect of set-up or swing.

Using metaphor includes describing the golf swing as being like a baseball swing, but tilted forward.  A broad concept statement could be “turn your back to the target in the backswing and turn your belly to the target in the downswing”.  If you are a beginner, you are more likely to hear the metaphoric and broad types of comments to help you understand and build a generalised movement of the golf swing.

The other way of learning is to focus on a particular aspect of the swing, and focus on it intensely.  An example could be learning the grip.  You practise placing your hands on the club and checking their position in relation to one another and to the club face.  You do this a number of times with your coach checking each time.  You also take your hands off the club and regrip the club after hitting each shot.

The good coach will use both methods depending on their student, their level of ability and their learning preferences.

If you watch professional players and their coaches working together away from the tournament site, you will be more likely to see the intense style of learning used.

While it can require more patience of the student, the intense style can work extremely well with most golfers.

Dr Gary MacPherson and Dr James Renwick from the University of NSW carried out extensive research in the way students approached learning music.  One girl they observed, practiced different pieces with the clarinet in completely different ways.  Some pieces she played from start to finish without stopping.  In complete contrast, she played another piece completely differently.

When she played the piece of music she was more inspired to learn, she stopped frequently, practising the fingering of a single note over and over until she was satisfied with her playing.  She also repeatedly played difficult lines to get the flow of the music correct.

Is it is interesting that she took this deeper approach to learning for a piece she was more motivated to learn.  Her ability to play that difficult piece improved because of her approach to learning.

The golf swing is complex physical system and as you improve one element it is likely to have a systemic effect of improving other aspects as well.  My students are often surprised when they review their swing on video after having focused on one aspect of their swing, only to find they have improved other areas as well.

If you are learning golf (or any physical skill) ensure your coach offers specific checkpoints you can understand and can demonstrate to your coach.  That way you will be confident of continuing your learning when you are practicing alone.

 

 

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