Sunday, January 23, 2011

Building Skills

Did anyone catch the performance of Martin Kaymer this weekend?  Wow, this guy has it going on!  I love watching him.  He is big, strong, confident, focused, skilled, calm, fit, positive, methodical and successful.  He has built the skills of success.

Yesterday, I outlined what skills are needed to build a successful game.  They are technique, confidence, a strong mental state, a fit body and a daily routine that continues to move you forward toward your goals.  Each of these is as important as the other.  Great technique as a putter will do you no good if you aren't a confident putter.  A strong mental game or game plan will do you no good if you don't have the technique needed to place the ball where you want it  By saying this, I am not letting you off the hook for developing any of the skills.  I often hear people state that they can't hit it consistently, so there is no reason to have a game plan.  That is completely the wrong approach, but we will talk about that later.  The main idea here is to understand that your skills are all important to success.

As a successful competitor develops her game, she needs to focus on all parts of skill development.  Many times, teachers, coaches, and parents will get focused on just one of the skills and overemphasize its importance.  This is a dangerous philosophy to adopt, because when a player or her support team thinks that the answer to all her problems is to "hit more greens" or "make more putts", the other skills will often lose importance and will be lost.  A player who focuses on one aspect of her game will often lose confidence and her mental game.  Instead, as a player's skills are built, a wholistic approach is going to help the player move forward more quickly.

With that being said, let's start talking about skill building.  After watching the Abu Dhabi tournament this morning, I saw many different golf swings that were all very good.  Kaymer is very supple and strong.  His size and gifts allow him to make a very big upper body move away from the ball.  McDowell is smaller and built lower to the ground.  His move uses more legs and body than Kaymer's.  David Lynn is a tall, lanky young man and his swing looks like a lot of elbows, but it is perfect for the length of his body.  These are just general descriptions of these gentlemen, but the point is, there is not one way to swing the golf club.  All of us are built differently.  All of us rely on different strengths and weaknesses in our bodies.  Things like the TPI program are great to let players know what those strengths and weaknesses are, but the most important thing is that the weaknesses don't become the focus.  Great players learn to overcome any weakness.  Most figure it out on their own, without the aid of a teacher.  When teachers or coaches start focusing on weaknesses, body differences, different levels of suppleness or stability, they are in the wrong frame of mind.  What is important is to use the knowledge to understand why a player makes a certain move and to further develop that move to increase the players strength.

When a player is young and developing, it seems very feasible that she should be able to "perfect" a swing.  She could model a great player like Annika or Lorena and develop a similar move that produces power and consistency.  With the use of computers and swing analysis, young players work to put themselves into "positions" like their favorite star.  This is a mistake for most young players.  Developing a swing unique to yourself, based on your strengths, your flexibility, your stability and your size would be far more beneficial.  As that swing is developed a good teacher would assist by keeping the club on plane and the face square  The teacher would make sure the swing was in sequence and flowing.  The teacher would make sure that the student got the maximum amount of speed and power from the move.  With this approach, a player will have a life long move that fits and is easier to maintain than a swing based on others techniques.

I found a great youtube video showing the two swings and the uniqueness of both:
Link to video 

Did you know that Lorena played volleyball, basketball, swam, ran track, played tennis and climbed as a young person?  She was a well-developed all-around athlete who played golf from the age of five.  She climbed major peaks and noted how that aided her mental game.  She learned to push herself and to be uncomfortable yet focused.  Annika skied, played tennis, volleyball and badminton.  Annika didn't focus on golf full time until she was 16 and was ranked as high as #12 in tennis in Sweden.  Neither girl grew up with a singular focus to develop a golf swing to be the best in the world.  They both grew up as all around athletes who loved to play games and compete.  When they focused on golf and being the best in the world, they both worked to have a flawless swing, but neither copied another.  Instead, they had great guidance and owned their unique techniques.  There is so much wisdom in this approach, yet so many of our young players are coached to copy golfers like Tiger or Wie.

I guess the point I am making is, make sure as you work toward greatness that you recognize greatness is unique.  Great artists are not copying Monets.  Great opera singers don't try to sound like Pavarotti.  Great golfers should not be copying anyone either.   They should revel in their own strengths, techniques and abilities.  Only then will they be as great as they can possibly become.

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