From Russia with love...

Updated: May 29

Reflecting on a recent trip to Russia, it allowed to me to sit and think as to how being placed in a different environment to the one we are most used to, interacting with people who see the world just a little different to us and being exposed to people with very different philosophies, expectations, demands along with a culture in golf that is not constrained by history relates in almost every way to human movement and golf. Physiology is always adapting to new demands and anatomy permanently adjusts to the new movement challenges it is exposed to therefore this led me to think that human growth and improved movement are innately linked. As many of you know, I am from Somerset therefore below is a collection of my thoughts and observations from when a land from the east met a boy from the west...


(Un)Realistic expectations

After arriving in Moscow, during delivery of the first session what became palpably notable was the client’s expectations of both the session and me were very different to what I am familiar to. In short, their approach is “Mark will push a button and I will play good golf” Post introduction and after the initial discussion around their game, what questions they have etc... (which ironically, they were not interested in as they are extremely urgent in their approach) you literally had one shot for them to improve or they instantly dismissed the information and with the occasional player this was done quite angrily. Their approach is “I am paying you therefore you will make me play good now”. Interestingly, even the coach I was working with asked me to stop asking the player questions and to make them good at golf as apparently, I was making them think too much. I mentioned in my last article how much of coaching is about removing thought not adding thought, however the assumption attached to this is when removing all thought and noise, the player still has a clear concept and representation of exactly what they need to do. Anyhow back to Russia, when attempting to remind them of what the session was intending to achieve, continuously reminding them to stay on task as to what we agreed to discuss at the start of the session it became quite apparent how some people simply don’t like being managed and employ a strategy of jumping and moving from thought to thought in response to the outcome of the last shot. Therefore, what can we extract and gain from this? Firstly, the importance in every session regardless of the relationship you have with the player establishing clear objectives of what they would like to discuss and explore alongside how they will define what a good session is. Secondly, and this applies to both player and coach, remaining on task and not moving away from what was originally agreed. If you move in a direction, this also means you move further away from another direction. Finally, and for me this was the most important reflection I took from this is what can I influence in players and to what level? During the initial time I had in Russia I became concerned about attempting to influence areas that I couldn’t influence therefore from the middle to back end of the trip I became more directed by what I could influence and to what level which in short was controlled by how they hit it and how they associate all their feels and emotions simply to the quality of the connection. Some people just want to hit it well and not have to think!

Can you really change?

The reflections above then led me in another direction, can you really change a player’s personality? For sure, people can change overtly however those deeply coded personalities we have, can we really move away from them? Player development is much about understanding and influencing behaviours and to a level this applies more so to my sessions as not only am I attempting to influence the players behaviour patterns, I’m also trying to influence the behaviours of the coach, physio, S&C coach etc...Ironically, I was recently given my school reports from the ages 9-12. In Somerset we have three school, 5-9 years, 9-13 years and 13-18 years, therefore this was my middle school. Reading my school reports, it was staggering how reading about a 9-12 year old Mark, I could have been reading about me today. The accuracy of my teacher’s assessment of me and how relevant their feedback and observations were was remarkable as what they said and reviewed is exactly how I am still today. Therefore, despite all the travel, education and experiences I’ve had, have I really changed or have I layered 30 years of life on top of the exact same personality and behaviours I had 35 years ago? My understanding may have changed, my approach may be different however it would appear I am a 10 year old stuck within the body of a 44 year old. Therefore, can we also apply this to movement? In my previous article I discussed how almost all players have a deep inherent movement that despite all the influences around them, they never really move away from this, so perhaps movement and personality are innately connected. Are there certain personalities you see in players and does this relate back to their motor patterns? Think of a player you know well, does their personality match their movement? For those that have done their case study on my swing, I have one movement that I have attempted to move away from since my teens, however despite multiple advances in information, clearly this has not been able to converted into know how. Therefore, it would appear in my case, not only do I have a deeply embedded movement I also have a deeply embedded personality.

So, what I have taken from this? Well for me to evolve and improve as a clinician and human I need to be inspired by a 10 year old me. The man in my mirror is the 10 year old me as he more than anyone on the planet will always know exactly what I am thinking and feeling better than anyone else.

How does this relate to human movement?

Ok, lets relate the above reflections to human movement and golf. Resilience is an area that receives much attention however this typically relates to emotional resilience and personality. However, in the world of anatomy, resilience is hugely important. Therefore anatomically, are you born resilient of can you become it? Some players despite all the systems they have around them and all the training they do, they are still exposed to much pain and multiple injuries. So perhaps anatomical resilience may come through birth and life rather than anything you can train as there are many well known examples of highly training and conditioned, high performance athletes whose careers are affected by many injuries whereas there are many highly successful players who have never trained that become major winners and world champions in spite of what they do/don’t do.

Anatomy is a little like personality, there are areas that you can see and areas that you can’t. One of the biggest observations I’ve made in recent times is how myofascially golfers still play golf for approximately 3 hours post golf. Therefore, the system is still being held in these adapted postures and dominant directional movements whilst sat in the car or led on the couch post golf. One of the main priorities within exercise should be about training the muscles you can’t see rather than training the ones that you can as these are the muscles that give the human frame its shape and function. Relate this to the man in the mirror, the whole world sees one version of you, however the man in the mirror see the real version....

Another discovery I’ve been researching is how much muscles enjoy torsion as in short torsion is it very good for them. Most muscles connect medial - lateral even for joints that visually align vertically, therefore through design and attachment they are placed in a position that when shortening they torsion through design. Many of the movements I’ve have shared on the team website involve the whole system being rotated and torsioned as alongside the neurological advancements made in this approach, obvious enhancements in joint range, segment control, segment interaction (sound like golf??) structurally the muscle is being made to work in a way is it deeply engineered to work. Therefore typically, anytime you can include torsion/twisting into movement then this invariably is hugely helpful for improving muscular performance. As an example, if you pull a towel then let go, the response in the towel is minimal, however if you twist a towel tightly and let go, the recoil and be quite apparent. Muscles despite being much more elastic behave in a similar helical way. Also, relate this back to those that form roll muscles to reduce muscle congestion and trigger points, what’s vital with this approach is you should always roll in the direction the fibres run therefore understanding fibre direction before you roll is of high importance as often people roll in a different direction to the direction fibres run which is one reason why foam rolling can produce a burning/stinging feel as this is the fibres and tissues being irritated by the pressure/direction being applied.

Finally, what I have started to observe in highly competent players is when it comes to being accomplished and successful, all the movements they make are good enough... The pelvis moves good enough to win The Open, the wrist moves good enough to remain pain free, the ribcage rotates good enough to produce high levels of speed, therefore movement is about being good enough. Good enough is good enough......

This really connects back to how humans are inherently designed. The human system is a combination of multiple dependant systems such as neurological, myofascial, skeletal etc where they all rely on each other for the whole system to function and move well. This is colloquially described with the approach of everything effects everything. Individual human systems become degenerate not redundant such as biological, neuromuscular etc therefore they reduce in function rather than being completely disabled. For those not familiar a good resource for this approach is shared by Keith Davids and Paul Glazier as they have produced some excellent research around these areas. Therefore, the system is similar to the human and the golf swing which will always do the best it can with what it has available, hence my approach of good enough is good enough....

Retuning to my recent Russian experiences, what was evident was the environment is set by how we chose to see it. Regardless of age, background, aspirations etc... we all have the same concerns which in golf is just to simply improve and evolve - hit further, lower scores, improve connection, reduce pain etc... however for this to happen it is very much like the human system, for the system to work well it is a collections of systems that are all dependant on each other, therefore for human movement to function the best it can requires and depends on the human spirit to improve as well as invariably one cannot improve one without the other. One of my favourite quotes comes from Florence Scovell Shinn who famously said “no man is your enemy, no man is your friend, every man is your teacher’ therefore if placed in an environment with people that clearly see he world different to you, embrace and appreciate it as who knows, you many just learn something...

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