Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Responsibility of Coaching

I had a reminder this past week of the responsibility inherent in coaching.  Generally, I like to write these blogs without using the word I, but today, it's all about me.  Or you, if you're a teacher or a coach. 

We were playing a practice round at Hammock Beach last week.  The lies were tight around the greens and we faced a lot of elevated greens.  These conditions make it important to use the bounce of your club when pitching the ball.  One of my very talented players was using technique that was based on the leading edge of the club.  It wasn't working.  The ball was hitting the green and running across it without spin and at a low trajectory.

This is where I come in.  It made me angry.  We have been working on this shot for much of the semester.  Why wasn't she getting it?  Why didn't she recognize the need for it?  Why was she falling into old habits?  WHY?  Because I hadn't taught it well enough.

I swallowed my anger and spent time with her on a few consecutive holes.  Instead of just teaching the shot, I taught the reason for the shot.  I also taught the club dynamics and what might prevent her from making the shot.  As time went on, she had a much better understanding of what was needed.

Then, when we landed back in Dallas, she asked if she could work on the shot at practice with me.  She wanted further understanding and coaching.  She wanted to learn. 

Every player wants to get better.  It is up to us as coaches and teachers to guide them.  You need teachable moments to get it done.  You need multiple ways to explain the same thing.  You need patience and encouragement to support.  You need to remember that if a student doesn't learn, it's not the student that failed, but the teacher.  Those moments of anger when they don't get it should be aimed at me. 

I hope to see the player play the shot in competition and rock it under pressure, because she understands how to hit it, when it is called for and has practiced it.  Then I will smile.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Short Game Olympics

Welcome to the 2014 Short Game Olympics!

Opening Ceremonies:  Introducing the Players!

Representing Texas are Alex Celli, Lindsey McCurdy, Jennifer Park & Alex Rossi.  Your coach will be Jeanne due to her almost Texas status.

Representing Everywhere Else or people who wish they were Texans are Kim Beers, Jenny Haglund, Katie Page, & Elena Villamil.  Your coach will be David due to his Michigander status.

Who can earn the most gold medals today?

Event #1 - Short Putts

Each player putts 5 putts from each of the designated tees for a total of 20 putts.  The team recording the most made putts will win the gold.  A perfect score of 80 is the goal.    The competing team will watch as the other putts.  Heckling is encouraged, Noonan!
The coach may rebound balls.  Each player should use only one.

Event #2 - Medium Putts

This is a speed and accuracy event.  You must take turns with your teammates and only one person can putt at once.  Putt from the designated tee.  The first team to hole 5 putts wins the gold.  Routines not necessary but okay if you want them.  Both teams will be putting at once on different holes.

Event #3 - Long Putts

Each player on the team must putt 1 ball from the tee markers set up to each of the three designated holes on the green.  Measure the distance each ends from the hole and record it.  The team with the shortest distance accumulated wins the gold.  You will have 12 numbers to add, so you might want to get help from Elena.

Event #4 - Chipping

Mano a Mano or whatever they say.  Play to 5 points.  Choose the shot and the club.  You get a point if you are closest.  You get two points if you chip in.  You lose two points if you aren’t on the green after your chip.  One side must win 3 matches to win the gold.  If not, we will have a team chip off!

Event #5 - Bunkers

There are four shots set up - Good lie on flat, Uphill lie that’s a little heavy, Downhill lie and ball in bunker but feet out.  One player on each team must choose a shot to hit.  You get two tries.  Your best must be better than the other team’s best.  If the score is 2-2, we will have a bunker shootout to choose the gold medal winner.  Unlike Beach Volleyball, you must still wear golf attire for this event.
Event #6 - Pitch, Pitch, Pitch

First team to pitch the ball into the hole wins the gold!  The coaches will show you the set up.

Event #7 - The Wedge Relay!

There will be four targets placed in the short game area.  Each team member is responsible for hitting their wedged shot into the target.  The ball is passed on to the team member from the target.  This is a speed event, so get after it!  Anyone shanking, duffing, laying the sod over or blading will lose major style points!  The first team to hit the ball into the fourth target will win the gold!

Event #8 - The All Around

Today’s final event will place a premium on each short game skill required to be great!  If there is a tie after the 8 events today, this event will be worth 2 gold medals and therefore break the tie.  Each team member will play three holes using only two clubs. You will be paired with two competitors.  You must hole out your shot, so it would be good advice to use a putter as one of your clubs.  The coaches will have the course set up for you, but you will not know the course prior to choosing the clubs.  The two lowest scores on each hole will be combined to create your score. 

Closing Ceremonies

The winning team will enjoy watching as the losing team does a PonyUp around the short game area and finishes with 3 I Am Not Worthies to the winners. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

A 3 Hour Practice Schedule

It has been awhile since I've posted a practice schedule.  Here is a challenging day of practice.  Notice there are some time limits and the direction to go through your routine.  Start to think about the quality of your practice versus the quantity.  You will learn the most from having a realistic, challenging and varied practice.  If you are working on a specific technique, that is the time to have repeated practice, but that should be a some-time thing, not an all-time thing.  There is also a lot of variety within each task to assure that you are acting on each individual shot.  Good luck and feel free to repeat any areas that gave you trouble, but it might need to be on another day!

Thurs. April 24 Practice at DAC  2-5
Please accomplish the following:
Putting                  Putt from 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 feet.  Go up, back and up again.  You must make 25 to complete the challenge.  Spend no more than 20 minutes on this challenge.  Use your routine as you would on the golf course. 

Putting                  Put 3 clubs down around the hole at 2 feet.  Putt 1 ball from 20, 25, 30, 35 and 40 feet. Get all balls either in the hole or within the box.  If you don’t succeed, you must start over.  Spend no more than 15 feet on this.  Use your routine.  Quality is more important than quantity!

Chipping                  Our chipping has improved a great deal this semester!  Keep up the work and allow greenside chips to be automatic if not birdies!
Chip with a teammate with two balls.  Use at least two clubs.  Closest worst ball wins a point.  Play to 10.  Drop the ball and use your routine.

Pitching                    If we are sent to Ok. St., we will face a lot of elevated greens, false fronts and tight lies.  Find those situations on the short game area and get comfortable with using different clubs (putter, wedges, hybrids).  Work on this for the next few weeks.  Work with a teammate and talk it through to learn from each other.

Wedges                   With each wedge in your bag, drop 10 balls at your go to distance and hit to one hole on the green.  Now walk in 5 yards and use the same wedge.  Work on controlling trajectory and landing point.  Now walk in 5 more yards and use the same wedge hitting another 10 balls.  If you carry 3 wedges, this is 90 focused wedge shots.  This will take some time, but it might be the most important part of practice today!

Bunkers                  Hit 3 from a good lie, 2 from an uphill, 2 from a downhill, 2 from ball above your feet, 2 from ball below your feet, 1 buried in front, 1 fried egg, 1 with feet out of bunker, 1 with feet in bunker, but ball out and finish with three good lies.  This is a total of 18 shots.  Take as much time as needed to accomplish this and feel free to revisit problem areas after completing the 18 shots.

Ball Striking                  On the driving range, hit each club in your bag 3 times that you feel are a 9-10 with 10 being the best possible shot.  Make sure to pick a target for both line and distance.  After you finish, find one of the coaches and work on hitting knock down shots.


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Take Heart Young Golfers

Take heart, because those silly mistakes you make on the golf course happen to the best players in the world.  Here are some quotes from those best players after missing the cut at the 2014 Masters.

LUKE DONALD:  Yeah, I hit my shot, didn't get out.  I just carelessly‑‑ I can't remember the last time I didn't get a ball out of a bunker‑‑ I've done it twice this week already.  So I just carelessly swiped the sand. 

LUKE DONALD:  Yesterday every time I got out of position, I compounded my mistakes.  You just can't do that around here. 

IAN POULTER: I made mistakes today.  My three mistakes, my three bogeys, were three 3‑putts, and that leaves me with a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. 

PHIL MICKELSON:  What happened at 12 was I hit in the front bunker.  And there was no sand where I was at.  I caught the liner of the bunker and bladed it across the green and the same thing happened on the other side.  It went back and forth, three bunkers, before I finally got it to stay on grass.

PHIL MICKELSON:  That's what I've been nervous about is having a hole like 7 yesterday, a hole like 12 today, where I go along, making pars, putting the ball in the right spot and you just get a bad situation.  And I end up letting‑‑ instead of one sliding, two or three are going away.  That's the kind of stuff when you're playing tournament golf and you're mentally sharp you don't do.  And that's the kind of stuff I seem to be doing right now.

ERNIE ELS:  Yeah, it's been tough.  Just made some silly errors here and there.  I'm actually driving it well, doing a lot of things well, but, yeah, just getting in my own way here and there.
I missed some putts, missed some iron shots here and there.  But it's not playing that easy today.  I think you're going to see some high scoring.  Coming in you got nice flags, so the guys can maybe make some birdies coming in. 

The point of this blog is, when the course is tough, when conditions are challenging and when the outcome is anticipated (cut line or green jacket) even the best players in the world make mistakes.  If you go to the interviews, what you will find is, each of the players will also talk about what he is doing well and what he can learn.  That alone might be the difference between being the best in the world and not quite making it out there.  The best have the ability to look at themselves with pride even on a tough dayThey know deep in their gut that they gave it their best effort and still came up short.  They understand that they have to do something better next week if they want to remain among the best in the world. 

As you go down this path of playing tournament golf, pretend to go into the press room after each round and ask yourself a few questions.  How was it today?  What did you do well out there?  What happened on hole 6?  What will you do to prepare for tomorrow?  What did you think of your playing partner's round? 

Simply standing outside yourself will help you step away from the emotions and quicken your path to understanding and learning.  You can learn a lot about the greatest players in the game by how they can graciously answer questions about a horrible day.  This grace under pressure despite disappointment is due to an ego that is secure.  Think about that.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Motivation and Intention

Last week, I had a nice surprise.  One of the teams playing in our home event told me that they loved my blog.  There is nothing like positive reinforcement for motivation.  That is the first point of today's blog.  Find something positive in what you are doing to carry you to the next shot or the next hole. I once had an argument with another coach that there is no such thing as a good bogey.  I believe there is such a thing and there can be good doubles, too.  If you make a clutch 10 footer for bogey, you just found a reason to celebrate.  You found a positive to focus on as you move forward.  You generated positive energy!  If you knock a ball out of bounds, but make a double, you've in effect made a solid par with your second attempt.  It's your job as a player to create your frame of mind and create your own energy.  Find a way to create positive energy!

The second point of the blog is intention.  If you are playing high school, college or professional golf, you are an expert.  You are better than 90% of the golfers in the world.  Now, take your knowledge, your expertise, your experience and your talent and simplify the game!  When you become an expert, you develop mastery.  Mastery leads to simplification and clarification, not complication.  Yet, I see many players making things complicated on the golf course.  Here is a real-life example of how you can complicate a simple process.

You and a buddy are sitting in your house.  Your buddy says, "Hey, I'm hungry for a Whataburger." You instantly picture a big burger and say, "Yea, that sounds great."  You both know what you want. Then your buddy says, "You fly, I'll buy."  You have a plan.  You know the way.  Off you go to the car.  You start it up, you back out of the driveway and drive to Whataburger, where you order two burgers and two Cokes and return to chow down.  Sounds like a simple thing, doesn't it?

Okay, what if you got a burger the same way you played golf?  Your buddy mentions her desire for a burger.  You immediately wonder if you can eat a burger.  Your mind jumps to questions.  Should I eat a burger?  Is that the right thing?  Then, you hope that you can get that burger.  Then you want the burger more than anything!  You went from desire to wonder, to hope and back to desire.  What if you simply went from desire to intention?  Here we go on our journey. 

You start the car and back out of the driveway, but you do it tentatively.  You've done it a million times, but this time, you are careful and do it more slowly, because this burger is important.  As you think about the drive to Whataburger, you worry a bit about the upcoming lake on the right side of the road and instinctively steer closer to the center line.  Someone honks at you and you steer back into your lane.  You chide yourself that you've driven this route a hundred times and you can do it, but as you do, you grip the steering wheel a bit tighter and slow down a little.   You think, "This is really important.

On your way to Whataburger, you have to pass Chick-fil-a and you wonder if you are making the right decision.  The clear picture you had when your buddy talked about a Whataburger suddenly turns into a chicken sandwich.  Your mind wanders to waffle fries.  Wait, you need to go to Whataburger.  "C'mon," you say to yourself, "it's Whataburger you want.  FOCUS!"  You think, "This is really important and I'm screwing it up."

There it is, right in front of you, Whataburger!  But it's noon and it's busy.  The lot is full of people coming and going.  Due to fear of hitting someone, you get near the Whataburger, but not quite there.  It is going to take an extra minute to walk there, but at least you didn't hit anything in the lot.  You think, "It's okay to be careful, because this is really important."

As you walk in, you can smell the burgers and your desire for one hits you hard.  You want it so bad that you lose your mind momentarily and walk to the front of the line, passing three people.  They yell at you and you drop your head as you line up behind them.  You remember that you need to be patient and respectful as you wait your turn.  You think, "It's okay that I forgot my place, because this is really important."

Finally, you are at the counter.  You have overcome fear, worry, doubt and distraction and you can order your burger, pay for it and drive home to eat with your buddy!  You are in possession of the important burger!  Your goal has been achieved, at least until dinner time!

This is a silly example of how you can have mastery over a situation, yet still complicate it and make it seem too important.  That is what so many of us do on the golf course.  We forget our way; we forget to play a game; we become distracted; we become self-conscious of our actions; we worry and fret; we become cautious and fearful; we accept less to avoid conflict; we sometimes act badly; and we take a circuitous route to a straightforward goal.  You are an expert golfer.  You know what you are doing.  You are enough!  You have greatness in you.  You know how to act.  Keep it simple.  Focus on your desire.

The next time you play golf, follow these simple steps:

1.  Have a desire!  You need to desire to play your best golf whenever you tee it up.  You need to picture what that looks like to you and attach yourself to that image.  Don't allow fear to get in the way of your desire.  Don't allow doubt to cloud your desire.  Don't allow worry to distract you from your desire.  Fall in love with your desire to play your best golf.
2.  Have a plan!  Know the way around the course that fits your game.  Choose your targets based on your plan.  If you encounter a road block or a detour, adjust your plan, don't abandon it.  Focus on where you want to go instead of where you don't want to go.  Don't force your way around, but use the most logical path.
3.  Keep your desire and plan in mind and balanced at all times.  If your desire overwhelms the plan, you will lose patience and forget to manage your game.  If your plan becomes more important than your desire, you will simply go through the motions and the game will lose its fun.
4.  Remember that you are an expert and hold yourself to a high standard of behavior.  People at the top of their field lead themselves well.  Keep it simple, act like a champion, stay calm, rely on your strengths, and continually balance your plan and your desire to play your best golf.

Enthusiasm or Dread

We had a great camp with 10 junior girls this past weekend.  We focused our time on how to practice, how to prepare for competition, how to ...