By: Steve Williams, WGCA contributing writer
It can be very easy for a golf instructor, working with a new student, to just pick out swing faults, and then tell a person how they’re doing it wrong. Then, that teacher shoves their knowledge of the golf swing down the student’s throat until the student feels intimidated, embarrassed, or even angry at that teacher. All this can happen while the teacher has no idea what has happened. Weeks or months later, though, they may realize that they didn’t hear back from that person again regarding golf lessons.
When working with a new student, we simply have to go through an interview process. In that discovery period, I am trying to ascertain many things that simply must be understood before I can have any realistic chance at helping that student to experience the excitement, improvement and fulfillment of taking lessons, thing such as:
*What defines fun for them while playing golf
*What their goals might be
*Time available for practice
*What they hope to gain from lessons
*Any preconceived ideas of what it takes to improve
This is just a basic outline of things I need to understand. There will be more questions as we proceed and I find out certain things about that individual. It is necessary for me to acclimate each student to what my intentions are during our time together. I actually have to reprogram the vast majority of new students to a new thinking pattern regarding lessons, if we are to make progress at a rate which makes lessons and the improvement process…FUN!
How much fun they are having is directly proportional to how long they will work with me. Fun – not being defined as laughing – but more in the aspect of excitement and anticipation of what boundaries they will break through as we proceed. Additionally though, fun can be defined as them overcoming obstacles that have controlled them in the past.
Believe it or not, oftentimes I have to eliminate prior thinking patterns which were placed there by other instructors, or possibly even by me in times past. I also have to (and this can take weeks) train that person that their improvement will be a result of us developing a relationship, built upon trust. That trust is not the result of me showing them how much I know about the golf swing, or trying to make them believe that I am the best teacher they have ever met. It is built upon us exchanging thoughts. It is built upon me understanding them by listening to their frustrations, their fears, what makes them excited, and what discourages them. It is built upon me looking them in the eye when I talk, and when they talk. They will become fascinated if I listen well enough to their words, to actually tell them about obstacles I see, which they have created and suspected were present, but had not really shared with me up until that time.
If a person is not comprehending more about themselves, including their weaknesses and their strengths as we work together, I am simply not doing my job as well as I could. When a student starts to gain epiphanies about themselves – and what has held them back in the improvement of their golf game – they will start to see that many of those same obstacles have held them back in life. When our time together reveals those things, we start to form a bond that makes our time together rich, exciting and full of anticipation for our next lesson.
I must always remember that although I am the expert being sought out by the student, I will learn things as I work with that person. But that fact, if not kept in balance, will slow our progress if I forget that it is my responsibility to stay in control of the lesson and motivate that person to leave their comfort zones, both mentally and physically. I have to lead them away from old habits which may have been destructive, without them knowing.
I still get goose bumps when I see a person start to overcome a swing fault. I also get goose bumps when I see the light go on in a person’s mind, about inefficient and destructive thinking patterns in which they have dwelt for far too long. Nothing creates more passion for me and my job than seeing their expression and life-changing results when they realize that their boundaries are only defined by the prison doors they have erected themselves, through the years of them being defeated by their own lack of focus, understanding and fears.
I’ve had people tell me that I don’t really work because I am teaching people to play a game, rather than something that is worthwhile or necessary. Unless they have seen the richness of seeing people change through what we endeavor to do together, and the richness of our relationships together as we both experience the highs and lows of working through problems while we identify obstacles which have held them back, they have no idea.
Each new person I work with is a new adventure for me. Each person I work with helps me to discover more of my weaknesses. Every person has a puzzle to put together. Puzzles can be fun and exciting. The puzzle pieces are already present in that person’s life. All I do is help them to see the actual picture of the puzzle so that together, we can start to identify each piece.
Getting older doesn’t have to be boring. In fact, getting older can be more fun than when we were young if we stay on the edge of self-discovery.
I don’t just teach a game! I help people to discover more about themselves and grasp the fact that although their time on earth is getting shorter, it can become richer through self-discovery, diligence and hard work.
Golf is simply the vehicle with which we use to illuminate these things!