Hi everyone, I was given the wonderful opportunity recently of designing and delivering a training week for a group of talented young scholars. It was an experience I really enjoyed, not just the friendships i made but also to challenge myself to construct and deliver a week’s coaching programme. When Barry Fennelly (programme manager) contacted me initially we had talked at length about the kind of professionalism that was required and the great chance the week offered the students in terms of becoming more aware of themselves as golfers.
So I gathered together the experiences I had gained myself on Irish panel trips, on coaching days I had delivered for members of ‘Team Ireland’, ideas that I had picked up on my travels and the many other situations I had been in with the professional & elite amateurs I coach. Above all, myself, Barry and Tony O’Regan agreed that the week should be enjoyable, a learning experience but at the same time let the students see exactly where I felt their golf was in relation to their goals. So when we set off after meeting one another from Dublin the spirits were good.
From a coaching point of view, the first job for me was to get both a ‘feel’ and a reading on each part of the student’s individual games. So I designed a series of simple ‘tests’ that would give me sufficient ‘evidence’ on which to base my analysis. Not only did this provide me with lots of interesting data, it also gave me a chance to watch the students compete and get to know the different personalities. I devised 3 short game tests, 3 putting tests, 3 distance wedge test and 3 long game tests. Add to this the various assortment of ’9 hole challenges’ (limited clubs or no range finder for example) the students played, and it left me with a really substantial understanding of each player’s golf. I could then use these facts to compliment what I had watched with my own eyes and really give some effective feedback.
As well as this the students completed a 3 round tournament under the administration of Barry and took on board lots of nutritional and physical advice from Tony – I actually learned quite a bit myself when listening in! As the week went on the fact that we spent a lot of time at the various golf courses gave me a great opportunity to get to know each if the individuals and listen to their views on how they could move their game forward. Often times, the player is aware of ‘where’ they need to improve, but they need guidance as to ‘how’. This is where one of the management team can step in and deliver some effective coaching based on the player’s feelings and also what the evidence suggests.
Overall, i told the scholars as a group that they were a seriously talented bunch of individuals with a tremendously supportive programme, but basics needed to improve! Technically, the one area of the game that is vastly overlooked by golfers wishing to improve are address basics. I believe the golf swing should be a reaction to good fundamentals – not a compensation for poor ones. Using the ipad and V1 teaching software, the students were able to see themselves compared to those at the top of the sport. And I think it was refreshing for them to see that the professionals ‘do the simple things well’. Using footage collected from the tournament days (again more ‘evidence’), we were able to have a really constructive session on body language & attitude. It was also good fun to compare the students’ behaviour with some footage I had collected watching Tiger in Abu Dhabi.
Another fun element of the week was our ability to visit different courses and keep the feeling of freshness everyday. We visited some 4 different courses and were made to feel very welcome. This again was testament to Barry’s organisation and his desire to provide the best possible experience for the bursars. My highlight of the week was the O’Connor course at Amendoeira – challenging but fair with top notch practice facilities.
So as the week came to a close with Shaun Carter posting an impressive +1 total for 3 rounds and also winning the skills challenge, the coaching team felt like we had achieved exactly what we wanted to – organise and deliver a really professional weeks coaching & tournament which would provide the platform for both the competitive and coaching schedule going forward. I personally felt that each of the students were aware of a few areas that needed developed in their games and they now had the understanding and the ‘tools’ to do it. So I took away satisfaction at knowing that everyone seemed to enjoy it and a also a few points that I could personally improve on in such a week in the future. It really was a good example of ‘coaching’ ie observing, communicating with and then guiding the student in the correct direction.
Overall it was a new experience for us as a group and one that was enjoyed. What could be better than having a fun learning week at the start of the season, setting out your goals and working towards them in a good environment! I’m really looking forward to seeing how the students progress this year, just as I am with University of Ulster whom I also coach. University golf has really taken a step forward since my days at UU and QUB. It’s more competitive, better organised and attracting top amateurs. I’m just thankful to be a part of it.
So it’s back to basics for a few weeks now at Greenacres as the JGFA Bay gets completed and the season gets underway!
Thanks for reading,