If you are in charge of squad development at any level and would like to explore the discussion points raised below, or discuss the potential for employing David to advise or deliver on your programmes, then please make contact.
David has over 15 years of experience coaching in high level squad environments. It requires a careful selection of skills and strategies if the golfers involved are to become fully engaged, both as individuals and as fully participating members of the squad. Some of the principles which have helped guide David in his programme development for England Golf and the Essex Golf Union are discussed below.
It’s not always about age or skill, maturation is the key.
Coaches should always be mindful there will be key differences in physical and mental maturation, and/or the level of technique and skill, no matter how closely aligned in age and ability the individuals within the group may appear on the surface. Some elements of the programmes can exist as generic to all involved, others will need to be moulded by the coach to become relevant to the developmental stage of the individual.
Golf is not a team game, it is played as individuals sometimes united by a common cause.
There will inevitably be some compromise when trying to coach an individual sport within a group environment; the capable squad coach will be constantly aware of balancing the group requirements with those of the individuals within. There should also be recognition and acceptance that individuals will always have different motivations for their involvement. An individual will be periodically motivated by playing for a team, but ultimately they will have to return to the default state of competing for themselves.
Let us guide practise (style & time), but with a long term commitment.
Anyone who has achieved success within their field will testify there are no shortcuts. Luck inevitably always plays a role, but the key determinant will be the making of a long term commitment to meaningful effort on practise which has the requisite substance in both its style and duration. A coach’s role is to guide the style, motivate for the duration, and trust the player to make it meaningful.
Is it about fun, or is it about engagement?
We all want the players under our guidance to be enjoying themselves, however evidence suggests many of the tasks and training exercises which need completing if a performer is to achieve success will feel repetitive and difficult. Meaningful or deliberate practise is not inherently fun, so a coach’s role is to help the athlete to achieve motivation from the goals set for practise, possible only when the athlete understands the mind-set required and the significance of the activities they are immersing themselves in.
Are we building a developmental or performance foundation?
The challenge when squads are both training and competing is which focus takes priority? It often depends on your position within the organisation structure; managers are tasked with winning matches, coaches are tasked with developing player’s skills. Later in life these outcomes can head readily in the same direction, but sometimes at a younger age there can be a conflict, whether in selection criteria, training intensity or competitive exposure. The solution is understanding the various and fluid developmental pathways for sport, and keeping an honest and open dialogue between all significant parties, be that players, parents, coaches and managers.
A player already has a coach, so engage with them!
One of the challenges for any squad coach is creating an effective working relationship with a player’s own coach. Why is it important? Because the player will have invested their trust in their coach, they will be a critical part of the players support network. The relationship can work, but like all relationships it needs time, effort, compromise, mutual respect and a willingness on both sides to work together for the good of the player. Regular, open and dually initiated dialogue is the conduit essential for this to work.
Ultimately we must care about our golfers as people first.
The players on any squad will come from a broad spectrum of environments, united simply through an ability to play golf well. Inevitably, the individuals on the squad will have a diverse set of strengths and weaknesses in areas of life outside of their game, and where impact from these on golfing performance can be clearly attributed, responsibility clearly falls on the squad leadership to assist. However this responsibility does not end when a golfers performance is not affected, coaches must always be conscious of the complete well-being of the player under their guidance.
What are we trying to achieve in our players?
It may be to master golf is impossible to achieve, but a developing player, whatever their age, needs to understand what goes into the make-up of a successful golfer. Although by no means exhaustive, the graphic below illustrates some of the key components that a player ‘will need to be’ for elite performance in golf.
It’s not all about technique!
The coaching environment also needs to recognise developing excellence takes much more than just skill, it requires the coach to help the squad and the individuals within to develop a broad range of psychological characteristics. This requires a much wider skill set in the coach than just employing a technical blueprint, they must not only grasp the key concepts of developing excellence, but understand how to facilitate these characteristics in the players under their guidance.
Psychological Characteristics of Developing Excellence
Adapted from Abbott, A. and Collins, D. (2004) ‘Eliminating the dichotomy between theory and practice in talent identification and development: considering the role of psychology’, Journal of Sports Sciences, 22 (5): 395–408.
As coaches we will still need tools to achieve our goal.
Whatever the objective for the squad or individuals within it, coaches will need a range of coaching tools to achieve their aims. This selection of workshops, challenges and interventions have been developed in order to facilitate development of the players within the squads under our guidance.
Ultimately, every coaching event and interaction should be the highest quality.
Careful and strategic planning, immaculate preparation, and maximum effort in delivery are key components for any successful coach. Players will sense if the coach is not prepared, even players of a young age. A well planned session suggests a coach who is thoughtful, motivated and who really cares. When the coach and players are all in this frame of mind real progress can happen, however it is the responsibility of both parties to be completely ready.