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Reflections of 2015.

Updated: May 29, 2020

Reflection can be an intriguing process as it can produce multiple responses such as aspiration, concern, confusion, inspiration and the gateway to life enhancing opportunities. Reflection is something I do continuously and often it happens intrinsically without me being hugely aware, we are at the time of year where we can look back and review our improving understanding, evolving philosophies and what our influences are such as the new data available helping us to understand areas such as how players move and what influences them to behave and develop the motor patterns they achieve.

Let’s look at some of the new information available and the influence it has had on helping us improve and evolve our understanding.

Segment force data:

Recently I added the segment linear force to the data the players achieve in their swing. Typically angular speed has been the value used to correlate back to driving distance and although we had segment acceleration and deceleration what this didn’t include was the mass the player was attempting to move, therefore this always left an unanswered question as to how accurate this was as a measurement of body function to club-head speed. A way of understanding this is junior players often produce the highest peak speeds in the downswing, however why do they not produce the distance comparable to mature athletes? One answer is the missing ingredient of mass as speed is defined as time/distance and does not acknowledge the mass it is moving. By calculating the individual segment weight (pelvis, thorax, lead arm, lead hand and club) as a percentage of the total body weight, the software now produces the segment linear force values which has been hugely intriguing. What this allows us to achieve is an understanding of how much force each segment is producing through the swing, what time the force is being applied over, which segments have greater influence on distance, rate of force development and what force is being applied to the ball on impact. Looking retrospectively at the longest hitters I have experienced, what is becoming evident is the players that produce greater distance are the ones that develop and apply the largest segment force values rather than the fastest peak segment speeds. One of the studies I will explore and share throughout the early months of 2016 is to produce clearer data that helps us understand the influence of force and speed and what value both have on driving distance. Another consideration that this will help us correlate is force vs pain/injury as to how well the player is able to absorb the forces through and during contact.

Stretch shortening cycles:

The interaction between pelvis and thorax in swing has been discussed in great length since 2001. However the significance of this has for me been misguiding as the myofascial connections that run through the body often span across most major joints in the body. As an example, the deep back myofascial line runs across the front of the knee, over the back of the pelvis and into the front/distal section of the humerus. The deep back arm line runs from little finger to little finger across the back of the scapula and ribcage. Therefore looking at pelvis-thorax separation is only a small part in helping us understand the myofascial loading process and how these tissues help produce elastic energy both locally and globally. The recent values added have been the stretch shortening cycles that exist across the lead shoulder/ribcage, lead elbow and wrist. This greater information is helping us identify how the segments interact myofascially and through which joints the elastic lengthening and recoil is lowest/greatest. Perhaps the biggest use of this information is helping S&C coaches design more individual training programs to help improve this function and for the coaches the connection to the avoidance of pain and locating which segments need improvement to assist with achieving greater distance.

Humeral angles:

Previously to investigate shoulder joint function, assumptions have been made through the use of the forearm, wrist and thorax data. Available now is the humeral (upper arm bone) orientation which has proven hugely informative in the greater understanding of the ranges, patterns and activity around the glenohumeral joint. Some of the questions this data allows us to ask are:

  • The influence of wrist movement on shoulder function

  • The correlation between ribcage and shoulder joint

  • The role of scapula control on joint control and range.

  • What importance head and neck posture

  • What influence conditioning training has on shoulder joint behaviour

  • Shoulder joint movement and club delivery

Although perhaps my favourite question is the ability to now provide feedback on actual shoulder rotation as historically what has been called shoulder rotation in golf is actually ribcage rotation so to be able to provide actual anatomical shoulder joint rotation will help us understand more this most mobile joint. As my sample data size increases, throughout 2016 I will share my observations as to what patterns are being displayed and which ones provide particular interest.

Regression testing:

Understanding what change when you make change has been one of the most revealing discoveries this past year. The current software allows instantaneous feedback as to when you provide a player with a stimulus/command and they make an adjustment, it reports back what segments have adapted in order to allow that change to occur. This can both be helpful and unhelpful depending on what the player is attempting to achieve/avoid. Examples of both can be, when improving the movement and function of one segment e.g. the lead wrist, by improving how this moves we’re able to see whether this has allowed the player to achieve significant improvement in other segment behaviour e.g. the pelvis or gains in the intrinsic values such as acceleration/deceleration rates, force production etc.... Therefore, ‘by getting better at that you are actually getting back at this...’ Alternatively, if a player is attempting to improve how one segment moves, e.g. the ribcage we can now see if there has been significant regression in other areas, such as hand and arm. To define regression I would typically look at three areas:

  • Increased chance of pain/injury

  • Regression in the intrinsic values, such as speeds reduction, timing peaks become disrupted, and segment interaction becomes less than ideal.

  • Club delivery

Therefore understanding ‘what’s effecting what’ is invaluable to help the user identify where we can see gains in performance without cost.

Defining gains:

Defining gains in performance has typically been based around tangible improvement, for example ball flight, distance, pain avoidance/injury rehab etc.... However some of the more valuable gains achieved have been in the ones that are not palpable. These gains include creating aspiration, clarity, understanding what works and why, however perhaps the two most favourite gains the software and data now provides is helping create autonomy and developing an avoidance model.

Coaching provides multiple and often hard to quantify gains and is a vital part in achieving progress, however if done in a certain way it can occasionally help remove the autonomy from the player. Developing autonomy is critical and essential in helping players understand their own feels, thoughts, emotions etc.... however it is equally valuable in allowing the player to develop their own knowledge, construct their own education and help them become adaptable to changing environments and tasks and essentially becoming more skilled at problem solving. When autonomy is removed, one of the harmful effects of this is the player invariably becomes de-skilled. The player may move better, produce better values, achieve higher performance measures however they perform worse as they become so far removed from their deep attractor wells that they simply cannot perform. Therefore achieving and improving autonomy in players is a vital gain after all when working with players, who’s session is it, ours or theirs?

A question I am often presented with is ‘what’s the model?’ Too many peoples surprise when I answer this they often expect a movement based answer, however my typical reply is it’s an avoidance model. Let me define this. One of the wonderful things about golf is you can do what you want, explore new ideas, discover new shots, play with new feels, experiment with different movements however individually there are certain patterns that you need to avoid mainly around pain occurrence, reduction in performance values, club delivery. In short, developing players should be based around avoiding certain things rather than encouraging. Avoidance can be defined in many ways such as:

  • Understanding what movements/exercises in the gym that need avoiding.

  • What patterns in swing need to be avoided.

  • Training and practice skills that create regression.

  • Thoughts, feels etc. that create unhealthy neuromuscular disruption

Therefore understanding what you need to avoid may be of more value as occasionally what you are trying to achieve/encourage is actually what creates the problem.

On course data/training environment:

The most enjoyable process I have been involved in this year has been exploring the differences between how players move on the course vs. the range. The results of this were discussed in an article published in July15, when reflecting further on this the main use of this study is possibly how valuable and influential on players motor patterns the environment, task and visual references are. As reported in July15, the greatest influence on how players moved was the hole shape, therefore how can we use this to help player improve? My understanding is by manipulating player’s environments this can have a significant effect on how they move, in both a helpful and unhelpful way. Setting constraints around the environment and having players adjust and make the necessary adaptations (helping create autonomy) to resolve any issues can be very helpful in achieving gains. Due to the variability in swing data on course, what was also enlightening is that variability can be very good thing as we need to define what needs to be variable. Having the ability to adapt to ever changing anatomical, environmental and task based constraints is essential In the players ability to problem solve, therefore variable patterns of movement could be considered a helpful asset as it provides the player with more options and resources available to solve any problems. However historically, variability has often been seen as an unhelpful skill. Although what we do not want to be variable is the ability to complete the task, unpredictable club delivery and ball flight therefore a question we can ask ourselves when presented with a challenge is defining what we need to adapt and what we are attempting to remain consistent and as previously described in July15, consistency for me is defined as successful completion of task without cost.

Questions to ask in a session:

Computers are useless, why? Because they never ask you questions. Possibly one of the most critical part of coaching is communication and one area of this is the questions we ask (or don’t ask!). When looking at questions, one could divide them in to two parts, what we ask and how we ask it. I am continuously looking at ways of finding new and provocative (in a helpful and friendly way) questions to ask in an attempt to stimulate improvement, achieve gains and avoid regression. Perhaps some of the most valuable questions that I have learned to ask over the year are:

  • What questions would you like answering?

  • How would you like to use your time today?

  • What would you like to achieve, how would you like to use the data?

  • What one thing can we do well today?

  • What can I expect to achieve if I make this/these improvements?

  • How is this going to help?

  • Using history as a guide, what is this likely to produce?

  • Why do I need to do this?

However in addition, when something becomes a problem, possibly the most important question to ask is since last time, what’s changed?

Perhaps one of the most evocative questions we can ask ourselves is our need to continue to develop and progress our information, understanding and skills faster than the players and people we work with as one of the joys of evolution is some of the newest discoveries in life are easy to learn however almost improbable to master.

Development goes in both directions, skill acquisition and skill regression, I look forward to continuing to develop the information available and the discoveries made with the aim to help us all improve. As mentioned in a previous article, define the role of data? It simply allows us to ask more informed questions.

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