Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Coaching the Child

Hi, everyone! It has been a while since I blogged but that doesn’t mean my thoughts have stopped. On the contrary, I find the deeper I get into my program, the more insight I have into what I REALLY mean by “play to learn.”

Lately I have been reflecting on the difference between teaching and coaching. When I began working in child development I saw myself as a teacher and I carried that idea over to golf. But the truth is that I am a teacher, but moreso, a coach. A teacher teaches a lesson but a coach guides the child. Coaches understand that teaching goes beyond the lesson. What I do is beyond instruction. It is about development. Not just with the sport, but in life.

At the end of this month I am checking off one of my top 5 bucket list items. I am attending a three-day seminar called Coaching for the Future given by Lynn Marriott and Pia Nilsson, co founders of Vision 54. These ladies are ranked #1 and #2 on Golf Digests America’s best 50 female teachers and are simply incredible. They just get it. Their whole philosophy aligns so beautifully with UGA’s: that learning golf is not about perfect stance or grip. It’s about going beyond technique and seeing each individual, getting on his or her level, and teaching the human being, as a student and as a holistic personWe believe that when we are really present as teachers, and see what a student needs, we become coaches.

Let me give you an example. If a student is having a bad day, the crucial part of the lesson may not be about perfecting her swing: it’s about figuring out how to get through to her, getting silly and breaking her out of the headspace of “I can’t” or “I don’t want to.” Once we do that, we can focus on the golf-specific outcomes while also maintaining the student’s positive association with golf.

Several years ago while observing a class, I noticed a little boy getting frustrated at the full-swing station.  I had noticed him come into the gym that day and it was clear he was out of sorts. After quietly observing for a while, I went over to him. I mentioned that I loved his Spiderman shoes. He smiled instantly. I happened to have a few Spiderman stickers in my bag of tricks and I pulled one out, put it down on the ground several feet behind his golf ball along the target line and said, “What if you and Spiderman did this together?” I demonstrated to him that if he swings back to Spiderman then the two of them could climb the wall together. It was a silly trick that helped him immensely. His swing path was instantly righted AND we were able to lift him up and out of his mood. Most importantly, he was coached back into the fun, therefore the learning!

As an adult, I continue to learn how to be my OWN best coach. Many times it’s not at all about what is going on with my swing. Maybe I need to practice patience that day, or be in the moment of every shot, or perhaps enjoy my playing partner’s conversation. Maybe I need to weed out the negative thoughts and stay positive by thinking about my own “Spiderman”?

My job is not to just teach a child how to play a perfect game: my job is to coach the whole child, not just a player to love the game of golf. I am so grateful I get to do that. The progress of the children and the UGA program as a whole is the true evidence that the philosophy of joyful learning via whole person coaching works.

PLAY to learn,


Post by mari