4 COACHING LESSONS FROM THE BEST SHORT GAME COACH ON THE PLANET
COACHING LESSONS FROM JAMES SIECKMANN
A current conversation in the instruction world focuses on the difference between teaching golf and coaching golf. I’d call it a debate, but I’m yet to hear anyone voice a compelling argument to just teach while ignoring crucial coaching principles.
Many insist that teachers merely pass on information, while coaches provide a more comprehensive learning experience.
Last month, at James Sieckmann’s Short Game Workshop in Omaha, I had the privilege of experiencing the role of student in the type of coaching environment that is driving these conversations. Like many of our students, I sought out a highly recognized teacher with the expectation of being taught new information that would improve my performance.
As great coaches do, James accompanied the incredible technical lessons with coaching advice that made an even bigger impact.
Ultimately, my greatest takeaways were the supplementary lessons– the ones that did not appear in the curriculum, but can only be learned from observing a great coach in action.
LESSON 1 DO THE WORK THAT IS REQUIRED
I heard this phrase several times as James shared anecdotes highlighting amazing feats of perseverance demonstrated by some of the game’s greatest players. As ‘instructors’, when considering the commonalities of the greatest players, our mind inevitably focuses on technical aspects of the swing. But, James emphasized the skill of ‘GRIT‘ just as much as the mechanical fundamentals.
Improvement comes only after we have done ‘what is required’. No miracles or quick fixes. What some see as tedious or overkill, great performers see as opportunities to separate from the competition.
I have recited this phrase– ‘great coaches do what is required’ several times since my time in Omaha. The extra steps you take for a student separates good coaches from great ones.
LESSON 2 LEAVE YOUR PATCH OF GRASS
James offered these last words of advice as the workshop ended– ‘to continue to learn and improve as a coach; you HAVE to leave your patch of grass’.
For many of us, our lesson tee represents our comfort zone. An insulated part of the golf universe where, as the undisputed expert, we can carefully manage the feedback or challenges we are likely to receive.
His parting words left me considering the major milestones of my coaching career so far and where they occurred. So many pivotal moments of inspiration, motivation, and learning have happened away from my ‘patch of grass’.
The experiences and relationships that alter careers will rarely show up on our doorstep, we have to go find them.
LESSON 3 COACH ALL THE INGREDIENTS
James continually demonstrated that great coaches devote energy to any and all aspects of the game that will contribute to improved performance. The often ignored parts of the game like – equipment, routine, mental management, practice habits, fitness and nutrition– can represent the low-hanging fruit that offers an easy opportunity for improvement for the club golfer and the decisive competitive advantage for the elite golfer.
James devoted a healthy portion of the curriculum to address ‘processing skills’ around the greens. Assessing lies, routines, picking landing spots, club selection, green-reading, judging turf/sand condition, etc.
If it contributes to a player’s success, it CANNOT be ignored.
LESSON 4 KEEP PLAYERS ORGANIZED
The main reason that I went to see James in the first place was because I was amazed at how effectively he presented his short game information in the Phase 5 System. Within the series of videos, each short game discipline is accompanied with technical components, blocked training, random training, and games for practice. His information is organized in a way that encourages the student to immediately attack a structured gameplan.
This adds another important dimension to the coaching vs teaching debate. A coach approaches practice design and programming with the same intensity as the activities of an actual coaching session. James’ students leave each session with a recap of the critical variables pinpointed in the lesson along with a recommended training plan. I have since implemented my own follow-up system by creating a series of templates to fill in and send out post lesson.
By keeping the student organized, coaches can structure the learning experience to provoke positive attitudes, inspire progress, and motivate hard work.
These are just a few of the lessons that I gleaned from my time observing an expert coach in action. Again, this doesn’t scratch the surface of the short game concepts covered in his workshop. In addition to carefully considering the lessons listed above, I would highly recommend that you check out James’ Phase 5 System to discover new ways to improve your short game coaching.
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