Updated: May 29
Perhaps it was just me, however one of the most common phrases observed throughout my school days was the teacher and/or parents saying to us kids, “ok, please sit down and be quiet” or depending on the school “sit down and shut up!” Through reflection this appears to be an almost inherent response humans give when performing various types of education or when attempting to provide forms of instruction. However, if we look at two of the most innate, inherent skills and options we are fortunate to be born with is the ability to move and ask questions. Therefore on first inspection there would appear to be a disconnect and misalignment that occurs in our early developmental years between two of the most wonderful options we are afforded through birth relative to what our early educators would like us to do – the ability to move and ask questions vs sit down and be quiet, that’s some dichotomy. It’s almost if our early days disabled the skills we were born with rather than providing the opportunities and environment to enable both further. When it comes to solving movement based problems and refine and enhance movement options, one of my favourite philosophies is as humans, we are born with all the movement answers, perhaps you have yet to be asked the right question. One could argue you are born with two ears and one mouth for a reason, to listen more than you speak however that can also be applied to us as coaches, asking the right question, at the right time and said in the right way could evoke a huge emotional response from the human which will allow them to open up and share many of the concepts and schemas they have that can lead to some wonderful discoveries. Movement and questions exploit two very powerful responses, the question you ask disclose much about a humans past learning whereas the movements you guide them towards reveals much about their movement history, based on the humans first response to both. Movement should be unstructured chaos, as essentially this is how kids play and refine the options they were born with whereas feedback and discussion opens up questions you didn’t even know existed. I still think the best game you can play to enhance the way you move is the floor game Twister, there’s not a great deal it doesn’t help you achieve. Whereas questions can be viewed in two ways, the only silly one is the one you didn’t ask and the best question is the one you have yet to discover.
In this article, let’s look at some of the common areas we are presented with in golf and how they connect with and sit behind the humans ability to move and questions, or as I was told when I was at school, sit down and shut up. Movement awareness vs. movement accuracy.
Essentially, they are both part of the same system and for many the objective over time is to achieve both, however within golf coaching in the initial phases of development they can be very different and if allowed can create a big divide. Movement awareness is essentially spatial awareness and/or proprioception. This is often reflected by internal feels and changes in anatomical movement. Invariably when one is attempting to improve skills such as joint loading, segment movement, segment interaction for example, how the spine moves, how the pelvis and ribcage match up etc. this is when spatial awareness and proprioception demands much from the humans sensory system, effectively how it feels, what it looks like etc.. Interestingly, how player’s feedback can reveal muc h about their learning preferences for example more feel and kinaesthetic based, visual/copy based approach to learning. However, it can also open up much about the human’s ego. We all have egos and they can be both helpful and unhelpful depending on the situation. Players that typically prefer feel based feedback are commonly intrinsically driven therefore their ego is satisfied by feeling good. Alternatively, a player who prefers visual feedback and stimulus are generally more extrinsic in their ego therefore how the swing looks is of value and importance to them. Consequently, when working with a player next, listen carefully to the words they use and covertly share, if they reference feel based feedback, the language we use back in reply could be based around provoking a feeling for them whereas players that share external based feedback, how it looks, how does this compare etc.... typically require feedback that makes them like what they see. Two of the most powerful stimuli’s for this are audible biofeedback and mirrors, biofeedback provides internal feel, mirror external feedback. One of my favourite questions to explore is to have someone use biofeedback whilst using a mirror simultaneously, the question I then ask is “what does feel look like”? How they answer this reveals much about them both as a player and as a human. However, the challenge attached with improving movement awareness is invariably is leads to minor regression in movement accuracy. Because the attention is placed on how segments are moving and interacting, it can often lead to reduced awareness of club face which is one of the most typical reasons as to why when you improve how someone moves, to start with they can lose momentarily how well they hit it.
To improve movement accuracy, for many this is best achieved by an external task based approach, for example provide the task, set the environment and allow the player to explore their current movement options to best complete the task. Perception drives movement whereas information can destabilise the movement system therefore the task you create along with what you do say and most importantly don’t say can have hugely powerful influence on movement accuracy. Words only have meaning by how we use them therefore what you say, how you say it and when you say it is vital. In short, set the puzzle and allow them to solve it. However, for some this can come at significant cost to movement awareness which can create much trauma to the system often leading to pain therefore how they achieve the movement is of the same importance as the movement itself.
Based on this, one question you can ask a player is what is the priority is today, movement awareness or movement accuracy as ideally we want both however the answer to this is typically influenced by the players concern.
Technology vs. the human We live in a world that is both instantaneous and rapidly becoming automated and in a slightly sad and reflective way for some this is how they see golf coaching, for example, what button do I press to get good, this person is going to give me the answer, expectation of immediate return is almost the minimum standard. Much of this is due to the dark side of technology, however technology isn’t problem, it’s the human that uses it. I watch and smile in a humorous way as 3D motion capture is now an easily accessible device that apparently requires minimal education, people buy it, plug it in and await the answers to arrive, a bit like television. Unfortunately 3D motion capture and more importantly humans are not TV, we have a little more wiring and have a few more buttons that needs pressing. Regardless of technology, the story behind the data will always be more important than the data itself which is why the discussion, question and allowing the human to open up and share their understanding will always be crucial. Understanding is frequently used word in golf coaching, however if you look at the definition of understanding it’s ‘knowledge and know how – knowing how to use your information’. This will always be the most important. As mentioned earlier, the question you ask will reveal much about the players learning history, I had a situation recently where a player reported back to me that after a short discussion where I presenting them with some options to explore, on selecting the one that they felt they could best internalise and play with, their feedback to me was “that’s too easy” My response was “how can something be too easy”? This simply exposed their past learning history, unless it was complex, confusing, intellectually overloading they didn’t see value in it. However through discussion what was revealed was his coach speaks ‘at’ him most sessions, asks purely rhetorical questions, seeks affirmation and although much speaking was done with many words used what the coach never asked was how much learning took place. I think the word count used was slightly shifted and biased towards the coach not the player.
The only way to go beyond the concepts we have is to look and explore how these concepts have been established as problems are essentially solved by new thinking. Humans are innately coded in the current climate to be aspirational, seek consumerism, reach out for things that they don’t have and I for one am an eternal evolutionary as one thing I do know is the only constant in life is change. However philosophically and perhaps more accurately spiritually I think humans should want the things that we already have, we were born with all the movement answers and were given all the capabilities to ask questions therefore instead of looking for things that we don’t have, be the best at using two of the greatest skills that we were born with, the ability to move and the opportunity to ask questions. Imagine losing the things you currently have and love and think about the loss of the ability to move in any way you wish and question, listen, discuss and learn, how would that make you feel?
We were born to move and programed to ask questions, although these problems occur almost from day one as three of the first things babies attempt is to stand up, move and speak, however what do humans do to them on day one, strap them down and put dummies in their mouths, therefore next time you hear someone say “sit down and shut up” perhaps we should say to them why don’t you stand up and listen.