The Coach’s View
Coaching is fun. Coaching is challenging. Coaching is a huge responsibility. And I would place coaching at county level right up there at the top of the challenge mountain.
Why? Because traditionally a county squad encompasses players of varying ages, skills and physical abilities. Commitment and motivation usually vary enormously across the group. We have the young promising teenager who has set her sights on an international cap, followed by a life on one of the professional tours. There’s a 20 or 30-something year old who put her golf on hold to concentrate on career, family or both. Finally, there is the older, steady, club player whose game seldom varies, has never had a lesson in her life and enjoys a gin and tonic or two. Obviously, a one-size-fits-all approach simply won’t do.
Whenever I’m faced with this eclectic mix, I try to provide a good deal of general, sound, basic knowledge and reinforce that with individual advice after ascertaining how much the player herself does or doesn’t know. The last thing I want to do is overload the player and put her in a straitjacket of overthinking.
Recently, I had the pleasure of coaching a squad of Cheshire county players in preparation for Northern County Match Week at Penrith Golf Club next month. We kicked off the session by doing a lot of fun balance exercises that I have found beneficial over the years. Through exploration and experimentation players discover that there IS a great deal of movement in the golf swing but if the centre of gravity is contained within the stance, their ball-striking is greatly improved. The only time “being still” is beneficial is arguably when you’re putting, yet so many players mistakenly try hard not to move too much on the big swing.
Part of my brief included work on the short game. I asked the players to play 25-yard pitch shots with a sand iron to a tight pin. Most were reasonably adept, as you would expect but many lacked the touch and feel of really proficient short-game players. I have always contended that it’s difficult to video what really makes a player great – the pace of the swing through the ball, the amount of tension in the arms, things that you can’t easily see. Concentrating on these feelings changes the flight of the ball and the speed at which it comes off the clubface. Another dimension of feel, a softness, can elevate a player’s short game, which is very important when that player faces fast, firm greens in big championships.
Bearing in mind that a number of your squad of county players will have their own individual coach, it is imperative not to run counter to that coach’s work and confuse the player. For me, imparting knowledge in an enjoyable, engaging manner that encourages questions and learning is what it’s all about. So, do I love or loathe county coaching?
I love it! Bring it on!