For those of us who coach primarily in a club-based environment we are faced with a huge variety of levels of player from the beginner to the elite on a daily basis, says Sarah Bennett.
Here Sarah explores the challenges faced by coaches in managing clients’ hopes and expectations…
With the reported decline in players taking up the sport, we hold a pivotal role in not only introducing new golfers but also ensuring retention and progression of our new players to prevent this gradual decline.
One key area I try to focus upon is ensuring a clear and concise pathway of communication is provided from the initial meeting for any individual or group based situation.
This pre-coaching introduction is vital and provides the chance to gain an insight into clients’ personality, attitude and expectations with the use of a series of structured questions in a relaxed environment.
Much can be learned from how the client responds and reacts during conversation and understanding what they want from the game, which as a coach we must not lose sight of. It is vital to remember that the client will already have their own expectations mapped out either from previous experiences, advice given to them from current players, families or self-comparison from another experience or sport.
Many new golfers will model their improvement based on colleagues; this is an area that over the lesson structure will have to be addressed.
Let’s face it, golf is a truly unique sport; it is one of the most mentally demanding sports where a very small percentage of the time is actually devoted to hitting the ball.
The conditions are never the same and we have to deal with a multitude of external factors that inhibit our consistency. I believe it is the timing of this and other information and how it is portrayed that is critical to our players’ development. It is easy to forget how much information can be provided in one session that can easily lead to confusion and demotivation for the player.
Making clients feel valued
People’s expectation levels vary and it is a challenge to maintain these at realistic levels both during and post lesson. Try following up your lesson with an email checking your clients’ progression so they feel you are genuinely Interested and valued.
With this issue in mind, I spoke to a client who possesses a very logical and organised approach. She explained that after her initial lesson she totally changed her personal levels of expectation as a completely new player three years ago.
Prior to her initial lesson she “expected” to hit the ball most of the time, this quickly changed to striking the ball cleanly, which progressed to striking the ball cleanly more than 50% of the time.
Her subsequent expectations developed to hitting it straight, which then developed to requiring additional distance. This adjustment was reflective of her personality and logical approach.
Some players may not automatically adopt this type of logic and could benefit from a greater depth of guidance.
In this case, through conversation and communication between lessons we provided a clearly structured model in which she progressed from playing a course of 885yds, 1200, 5300, 5600 through to her current course of 5,800yds.
We just have to be creative as coaches and be prepared to alter any preconceived ideas or expectations in order to work with our players.
Sarah is a PGA of Great Britain & Ireland Class AA Professional, and Ladies European Tour player.
She is Head PGA Teaching Professional at Three Rivers Golf Course near Chelmsford, UK, and is one of the most experienced female golf professionals in the UK making extensive use of technology within all aspects of her coaching.