Six weeks ago I joined a group of 20 other golf coaches for Fred Shoemaker’s Extraordinary Coaching program in Palm Springs, CA.
As an ardent proponent of the various tenets explored within the Extraordinary Golf books, I was eager to dig deeper into the material within an environment designed for coaches. What followed in the next three days not only exceeded my expectations, it forever changed my expectations for future education programs.
If you have attended similar courses, you know the typical routine: coaches sit in a classroom or on the lesson tee for a couple of days, acquire some great new information, and then class concludes. You return home energized and excited about a new way of doing things.
After a bit of time passes, the excitement inevitably fades and you’re left with 3 or 4 practices that become a permanent part of your coaching routine. And usually the benefit of those new ways of doing things justify the time, money, and effort spent in obtaining them.
But, here is where Extraordinary Coaching was different. Instead of introducing a new way of doing things, Fred Shoemaker and his partners suggest a different way of being. In my eyes, it’s a significant distinction and one that offers a more enduring class of possibilities. In the same way that teaching our students in fragments and formulas doesn’t produce lasting change, EC promotes a way of being in the learning environment that exposes a future full of inspiring possibilities.
The ‘intoxication’ of new and exciting information has faded and I have begun to consider the lasting lessons from what turned out to be a ‘game-changing experience’. These lessons represent my own unique experience, the other coaches who attended will have isolated their own set of lessons. However, the overall message to all of us was this: to truly enrich the lives of our students we must infuse the learning environment with fascination and curiosity. If that is the predominant goal, our students will not only perform better, they will receive a richness from playing the game that they did not previously know was possible.
Each of the lessons below deserve much more text and thought than I have devoted to them here, but it should at least paint a picture of what the experience was like. I get the feeling that coaches who are casually familiar with Extraordinary Golf mislabel it as a ‘mental’ school. Technical instruction was a significant part of the program, it’s just presented in a way that challenges the typical delivery of that type of instruction. You won’t hear specific models on how to coach, but you’ll learn to create an environment where sustained improvement can occur and your students are empowered to make lasting changes in their motion.
I hope that you might see a lesson or observation that resonates with you enough to explore the education available from Fred Shoemaker and Extraordinary Golf.
1. Only experience leads to lasting learning. To illustrate this point, Shoemaker used an example of learning to ride a bike. You can preach the principles of balance to a child as they learn to ride a bike, but until they get up on two wheels they can never experience that particular sensation of balance. Initial failure is inevitable, but it’s expected and perfectly acceptable. Through experience and exploration, learning occurs.
2. To perform at a high level, players have to let go of their stories. As
golfers humans, we all have a voice that lives in our heads. Usually it’s pointing out the hazard in front of us or the enormity of the next shot or maybe the crowd that has gathered around the first tee. Anything that distracts us from being present to the critical things happening in the swing.
Speaking from experience as both a golfer and a coach, this is a simple concept that I have ignored for too long. If our players are to perform free from interference, we have to help them become aware of when the inner voice begins telling stories and how to let them go.
3. Performance isn’t enough. If our job is to enrich the lives of our students, performance can’t be the sole focus of our instruction. As we have all experienced in our own games, performance is fleeting. But every round of golf you play, every shot you hit can offer fullfillment if equal importance is placed on learning and enjoyment.
Instead of the frustration that comes from ‘swing tips’ that work one moment and not the next, feelings of failure are replaced by curiosity and fascination. What’s possible in the next shot? There is a real joy of learning that occurs when students are playing a game they can’t lose.
4. Empathy in the learning environment. This lesson wasn’t explicitly stated on the agenda of Extraordinary Coaching, but it’s one I learned through observation of the EG coaches. Fred Shoemaker, Garry Lester, and Bill Condaxis created an environment full of empathy and compassion.
Initially I was very challenged by the topics being discussed, as you might be from just reading about them. Eventually, by celebrating vulnerability and true curiosity, the coaches created a setting that encouraged me to leave my ego at the door and open up to a new level of possibility. The other coaches contributed to this environment as well, no evaluation or judgement. My ultimate goal is to simulate an equivalent environment for my students; void of judgement and primed for deep learning.
As described before, my lessons from Extraordinary Coaching have just begun. It is with great fascination and excitement that I look forward to applying these concepts as a daily practice.
If you are interested in finding out more about EC, the coaches at Extraordinary Golf have just released a great new video that I highly recommend. For those that have attended one of their programs, a viewing offers a great opportunity to reinforce the lessons from the courses. For those that have had not had the chance to attend or would like to find out if the program is for them, it’s an in-depth look into a live lesson and clinic taught by Shoemaker.
I should mention that while this might sound like promotion for Extraordinary Golf, I only share my thoughts to expose other coaches to a program that has made a significant impact on me. I hope you will find it as useful.
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