How to Be an Effective Coach to Others
I’ve been coaching golfers who want to improve their techniques and their games for many years. I began doing this while still a teenager and have continued it to the present day. Even when I was working jobs, starting businesses and involved in other initiatives and activities, I’ve always found the time to share with others what I’ve learned about playing the game of golf. I’m confident that my input and advice has helped many people improve their games.
In today’s business environment, we’ve experienced a shift toward coaching as well. Coaches can and do help their clients navigate a wide range of issues and answer questions aimed at being a more effective leader, improving interpersonal relations and dealing with nagging problems. Coaches provide a valuable service. Indeed, it’s also a potentially lucrative way to make a living. For that reason, more people are now pursuing coaching opportunities as a way to share their hard-won knowledge with others.
Based on my own experience, here are a few bits of advice from my golf coaching experience for how you can coach people effectively.
Know their goals
You have to begin with the end in mind. What does your student or mentee want to improve? His or her leadership or people skills? Approach to time management? Comfort and confidence with public speaking or presenting? You’ll want to ask them about their specific objectives before you can develop a plan to help the achieve the outcomes they want. Gain a clear understanding of where they are now and where they want to be, then determine what it will take to get there.
Make a plan with benchmarks and timelines
You can’t efficiently plan a trip without a roadmap, nor can you make progress without developing a course of action that will take you from point A to point B. Once your objectives have been stated, the next step is to set mini-goals that can be achieved along the way, along with timelines. This gives you an opportunity to monitor progress on an ongoing basis. When these mileposts are reached it provides encouragement and confidence.
Recognize where strengths and weaknesses exist
In golf, a person might have a ton of passion for the sport but not always the level of talent it takes to achieve their goals as quickly as they’d like. On the other hand, they might have lots of talent in one area but not in another. As you coach, you’ll recognize where these strengths and weaknesses exist, and they will help you understand where you need to provide more help. For example, a leader might have a great strategic vision but is disorganized, or doesn’t possess strong people skills to inspire or motivate others. You’ll learn this as you go.
Be patient and persistent
Even for the most talented people, nothing happens overnight. The more they work at something, the more they’ll refine it. For this reason, patience and persistence are important as you work to achieve goals. Don’t allow discouragement to get in the way of progress. Keep pushing ahead.
Cheerlead when necessary
Part of being a coach is instilling confidence in your student. It sounds trite, but anything can be accomplished if you want it badly enough. Often, all it takes is recognizing successes and providing motivation when things don’t go as well as planned. In time, things will improve and the goal will be within reach. Hang in there!
As a golfer, you know that it takes much more than a good drive and a perfect swing to come in under par on the green. Although it may not appear like it to an outsider, the game of golf is very physically demanding. Strengthening your physical abilities is just as important to the game as taking lessons or buying new equipment.
If you’ve had a streak of bad games or have experienced pain, don’t just assume there’s something wrong with your swing. Instead, look closely at another potential cause: weakness and inflexibility.
Golf involves many sudden moments of exertion. It’s also one-sided: most players swing from one side of the body, which can often create muscle imbalances and overuse injuries. As a golf instructor, I always suggest to do a 30 minute warm-up before hitting the course. Doing some simple stretches, toe touches, jumping jacks and rotating your hips will loosen your muscles as well as your lower back. Simply warming up can reduce the risk of injury by 50 percent.
If you are committed to staying in good physical shape, an optimal golf workout should focus on your arms, back, legs, thighs and core muscles. You can start with any of these areas and adjust your regime according to your current strength level.
After you have found a workout that fits your style, do the same regime for at least one month, and then evaluate whether your body has improved, and adjust your workout accordingly.
Although a gym membership would be beneficial, you don’t necessarily need more than a dumbbell, medicine ball or kettlebell to get started, all which are relatively affordable and can be used at home.
I recommend combining cardio and weight lifting; begin by training one muscle group per day and do cardio exercises before and after each workout. This approach will help you build strength and endurance and can also help you lose weight in the process. Use weights comfortable enough so you can do 10 reps per set, 3 sets per exercise. Make sure to rest in-between each set.
It is also important to note that you should aim to do a proper cool down session after playing a round of golf. Doing a few gentle cardio exercises and stretches will help to prevent injuries and will relax your strained muscles. While it is correct that accuracy is a big factor in determining distance, the difference will present itself when you are facing a player with a similar accuracy, but better strength. When it comes down to it, maintaining your physical health will keep you in the game for the long-haul.
A “President’s” day to remember!
Crooked Stick was a rewarding and fun place to work with great staff and awesome members. But this day would be memorable.
President George W Bush was coming to Indiana for a visit and a game of golf at Crooked Stick. Secret Service, dogs and advance planning are necessities whenever the President travels so the President’s visit was not a complete surprise. But when he actually arrived, it became real to all of us. President Bush was a real gentleman, made a point of asking us our names, introducing himself etc. As I led the President up to the men’s locker room, he asked me if the golf range was member’s only or could he hit a few balls before playing? I believe I replied “with all due respect, sir, you’re the President - you can do anything you like!” I think the Secret Service guy smirked at that comment.
Later on that day, one of my colleagues told me that one of our member’s kids had been hitting balls on the range beside the President. Breathless, the eight year old had run into the pro shop, and had excitedly exclaimed “I was hitting next to the President, George Washington!” Out of the mouth of babes!
It was an honor to host the President that day. As the President played the course, numerous members approached him for photo opportunities and he graciously gave his time and attention.
Assistant Pro compensation isn’t great but the fringe benefits can be awesome...
Memories that really stick out? - A tournament win? Shooting a course record 63?
Nope, Rascal Flatts were in town for a concert with opening act, Darius Rucker of Hootie & The Blowfish fame opening for them. As it turned out, Darius Rucker had a friend at Crooked Stick and had the opportunity of getting out for a round of golf beforehand. It was just my good fortune that, as circumstances unfolded, that I was able to play with Darius that day. During the round, he asked me if I was interested in coming to the concert that night and gave me 4 tickets. Super nice guy and really down to earth. With my boss and 2 other friends in tow we headed down to the concert but couldn’t figure our where our seats were. They were AA and all the rows seemed like single letters. As it turned out, AA was the front row - right in front of the stage! Not only did Darius give a shout out to his friends (us) at Crooked Stick, Rascal Flatts invited my boss at one point to join him for a couple verses from the song, “Open Road” - truly a highlight of his “performing” life lol!
Don’t get too close!
An awesome benefit to working at private clubs are the members themselves. I cannot count the times that I was invited for dinner, given tickets to concerts, invited to sports events - even sitting in the owner’s box at times! Along the way, you learn a lot about member’s families and, as a teacher and coach of golf, you can make an important contribution to their upbringings. That was taken up a notch for me at Crooked Stick where the members really embrace their club professionals as part of their extended families.
Let me give you a great example on how the benefits of close relationships between professional staff and members can manifest themselves. One of our members was a physician and his wife was becoming increasingly frustrated with her golf game (which all of us do time to time!) I began a series of lessons with her and, by the end of a couple months, she was hitting the ball fine again. As is common in golfing families, satisfaction in their games seems to rub off on everything else and my member was especially happy with my help. Later that year, I passed out (feighted) at work and had to be admitted to the hospital with some brain swelling and other symptoms. The same physician went out of his way to look into my case and helped to conclude West Nile Virus as the cause.
As they say, Good deeds lead to other good deeds or What goes around, comes around!
Wanna be a golf pro?
Interested in becoming a golf professional? Well, unless you are shooting lights out (low 60s’) in tournament golf and have your game peak at the right times, you’ll likely be considering the club professional route. In the United States, there are various paths you can take to this goal but the most comprehensive is the Professional Golf Management (PGM) program. Most aspiring professionals will undertake this in conjunction with their undergraduate degree at a major university. It’s a rigorous program; in addition to all the courses you normally complete for a BA or BSc you take a full slate of PGA designed courses covering instruction, club fitting, agronomy, merchandising etc. Basically every aspect you might encounter at a golf course, facility or related company. Add to that 3 three month internships and a 6 month internship and a set of final exams. And a Player’s Ability Test, 36 holes where one generally has to score no more than 155. Sound daunting? It’s not as bad as it sounds as the PGM schools are staffed with outstanding instructors that really care about your success. If you are still interested contact the PGA of America (or the CPGA in Canada/Golf Canada) for more information or you can simply search online for PGM schools that are accredited by the PGA/CPGA.
I think it was my Dad that told me that one of his great joys as he got older was the acquisition of new skills, as random and unconnected as they might seem. While working full-time he took three semesters of Japanese, one semester of Mandarin and two semesters of French at a local community college. Then he added in two levels of the Master of Wine designation (the non-trade certificate levels) and the Canadian Securities course. Not for a degree or job but as general interest.
When it comes to golf, the broadening of your skill base can be equally useful. One skill that I learned and which turned out to be in demand was calligraphy. Designing tournament scoring boards with a bit of flair is fun, challenging and ultimately valued by members that want their event to look as professional as possible. (images sent separately)
Whether it’s languages, art or something really obscure, take the time to enjoy learning a new skill. You never know when they might come in handy.