By: Dave Hill, WGCA contributing writer
Today, the term “coach” is thrown out there more often than ever, as opposed to “teacher” when referring to whom touring professionals are working with regarding their swings. Aaaah…wrong term, folks!
One who teaches the golf swing, but rarely, if ever, enters into a holistic approach to game improvement, is not a coach but a teacher. A golf coach is a “jack of all trades and master of one.” The “one” happens to be golf technique instruction. However, a coach has a broad enough knowledge in many areas to recognize where help is also required.
Furthermore, a coach is geared toward working with future or competitive athletes, be it a child, an adolescent, amateur competitor, or touring professional. Coaching is not reserved for the recreational golfer for a couple of important reasons, time constraints and physical constraints.
Okay, time constraints one can understand. Career, family, other interests, etc., are factors, but physical constraints? One could perceive such a notion as insulting. Many adults are good athletes, so why wouldn’t one be able to tackle the demands it takes to become a better player if it fits into his or her schedule? Some may, but the easy answer is physical literacy.
So, what is physical literacy? Physical literacy is a well-known term in the world of coaching. It covers three distinct movement groups or categories of movement that humans can perform, but more importantly, should perform within key windows of development starting at birth to approximately to the age of pre-pubescence. Most of these key movements can be achieved via simple play time with an introduction to all sorts of games and sports in a non-formal, non-instructive environment. It is well researched that humans learn best when at play, and children love to play. As an adult, we love it, too. Hence, the reason we play golf and many other games.
When introducing formal instruction accompanied with one-sport specialization too early in a child’s development, a recipe for failure later on is almost certain. A few exceptions to the rule are body balance and control sports such as gymnastics, figure skating, and diving. We, of course, wish to focus on golf, which involves other skills along with different development timelines and career longevity.
Fundamental Movement Categories
Stability – Involves balance and body coordination including rhythm, balancing, centering, falling, spinning, floating, etc.
Locomotion or traveling skills – Running, jumping, skipping, swimming, climbing, skating, etc.
Object manipulation/control skills – Throwing, catching, dribbling, hitting, kicking, etc.
What’s interesting is that not only are many of the movements incorporated through children’s play, but all enhance each other, helping a youngster become physically literate to excel in a sport of his or her choice. Without these fundamental movements learned within the opportune time frames of a child’s development, the percent chance they become a high-level performer in their chosen sport decreases. This is why, for those who teach golf to adults only, there are often be many questions as to why two athletic-looking 40-year-old men taking up the game can differ vastly in ability. Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones have never played golf in their lives, yet Mr. Smith picks it up with ease, but not Mr.Jones. By delving into their respective histories, one would discover Mr. Smith did it all in terms of play and sport during the magic years of physical literacy, while Mr. Jones did not. This isn’t assumption; this is science and fact.
The moral of the story is when coaching an individual who is attempting to climb the competitive ladder, their physical literacy history is the first place a coach needs to research together with his or her athlete. Please see the diagram below to further understand the magic years for Fundamental Movement Development.