In the second part of ‘Effective Listening Skills & The PGA Professional’ (catch Part 1 here), Dr Brian Hemmings explains how you can become a more effective listener and how this can help your coaching…
‘Players need to know that you care, before they care what you know.’
Players like to know that the coach ‘cares’ about their needs and development. I believe effective listening is the factor that demonstrates that a coach cares; that you care enough to listen intently even though you are busy.
I have met countless players who describe great coaches as those who are great listeners. In fact, PGA Master Professional and world famous coach, Pete Cowen, once remarked to me that what set him apart from other coaches were two simple words: “I care.”
How do I listen more effectively? Psychologists use factual listening. This involves the application of a specific set of active techniques referred to as summarising, paraphrasing and clarification to gain accurate information, and importantly, to ensure a player feels they have been heard and fully understood.
Summarising is the skill of accurately and succinctly recounting the range of information presented by the golfer, highlighting the prominent features of their story, and stating this back to them.
It can enable the coach to gather and integrate various strands of information given by the player, which can then be presented back to them. The process of presenting information back to the player provides the opportunity for both coach and player to confirm mutual understanding.
This is the skill of presenting back what the player has expressed be it in the same or a different order/sequence from the one given by the player.
Coaches can demonstrate that they have listened effectively by providing their understanding from what they have heard, which can be either confirmed and/or challenged by the player. The different order of presentation of information by the coach provides the opportunity for players’ to ‘hear’ their own statements from an alternative point-of-view, creating the opportunity for the player to arrive at a new personal perspective and understanding.
Clarification is a process that the coach may use to ensure an understanding of what the player has disclosed in the way in which the player intended it.
This may include the use of paraphrasing and other specific questions to access the information the coach requires to ensure their own understanding is accurate (e.g. to fill in gaps about facts/events/shots from a recent round or tournament that you need as a coach to fully understand the player’s story).
You don’t need to be a psychologist to be a good listener. The above fundamental techniques are the cornerstone of building effective relationships with players.
Albert Einstein once said he didn’t teach his students anything; he merely tried to create the right conditions in which they could learn. Try and incorporate effective factual listening into your coaching and you will be going some way to creating great learning conditions for your players. Listening intently is a clear signal you care a great deal.