Should We Give Our Players Homework?

Hindsight is a great thing. A great, great thing. Sometimes you’re so enveloped in things and in your own head that you don’t see things clearly. You become biased to your own point of view and worry less about how each individual sees things differently.

A few years back, convinced that golf can take a leaf out of other sports, particularly in relation to how we can “train” our players to improve, I began to get into tracking players performance on the course as well as how they practice. I mean, really get into it.

I asked them to write down what they did in practice. A diary of sorts. I made a variety of different scorecards depending on their level and what they needed to work on and demanded that they fill them out after the round if they were really serious about improvement. 

An example of a scorecard that I used. Not bad but maybe not suitable.

With these stats, and using my experience as a fitness instructor (long before a golf coach) I would then devise programs for them:

Ok, you’ve said you’ve got 3 days to practise:

Monday: Long game – technique (going over what we did in the last lesson) – 15 minutes

Driver – How many balls can you hit in between the red and yellow flags at the bag of the range?

Putting – gate drill – 50 balls. Box drill – target – 5


Now, a few things here, partly in my defense…

This really isn’t THAT bad.

I mean, there are a few good things going on there…

  • I took into account how many days they could practise
  • I individualised it to what they are looking to improve
  • How do you know if you’re improving if you can’t track it properly? Besides, great confidence comes from seeing tangible improvements.
  • Repetition can only be helpful

A few bits are undoubtedly not great but overall, it’s ok. It’s fine.

It didn’t work, though. It didn’t work at all.

Or at least, it didn’t work with the players I was working with at the time.

The feedback I got of both the “training schedule” and the scorecards etc. was normally around the words:

Chore. Boring. Not fun. Analytical. 

What I had inadvertently done was make something inherently enjoyable not so. Interesting to mundane. Exciting to drab. In my effort to eke out top performance, a sincere and well-intentioned effort might I add, I had obliterated the components that made them fall in love with the game in the first place.

Gone were the 9 hole putting competitions against your friend for bragging rights and in came 20 putts along a string line.

No more flop shots over that one, really tall tree. It was 10 balls inside the ring.

It didn’t work. But again, it didn’t work for THEM.

For other people, the more analytical types, it would be a Godsend. Men lie, women lie, numbers don’t sort of ish. Structure gives some a clear path to improvement. 

For my students that same structure felt like a prison, the walls tightening in on them with every “failed” attempt.

• • •

And so, should you give your students homework? As ever when it comes to coaching, it depends. Analysis liberates some and suppresses others. The completion of each repetition one step closer to achieving their goal or one step further into the doldrums. If you can keep things personalised and specific to the person in front of you then hopefully you won’t have to look back with regret like I so often do.

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