The information here is just as relevant whether you are learning any other sport, skill or task. As a golf coach, I am constantly giving people information on ‘what’ to learn. But the more important thing to understand is ‘how’ to learn it.
In this post, I am going to identify a few strategies that you can use in your own practice. Use these to speed up your learning, and incorporate the new idea into your swing as quickly as possible.
Understand the task – what is it you are trying to do? A good golf coach will help you do this – but if they ask you “Do you understand?”, you have to be honest. Make sure you ask as many questions about the information as possible.
Would a soccer player have much success if they thought the aim was to get the ball over the top of the goal, like in American Football/Rugby? I know this sounds silly, but 95% of pupils I initially see have not got a clue as to what they are trying to do.
They have been told a million things about how they should move to do ‘it’, but they don’t know what ‘it’ is.
Sit with your eyes closed, visualize yourself doing whatever it is you are trying to do. Visualize it from all angles, and at differing speeds. Visualize from your first person perspective, and from the view of someone looking at you.
Understand the stages of learning
Learning is not a case of new info = better instantly. It is a process of assimilating and acclimatizing to that info until it is ingrained. During this process, we can sometimes see a small backward step, before we shoot forward and ahead of where we were.
Read more here:
Slow it down
I’m not a massive fan of slow mo swings all the time, but they can help in making a breakthrough.
Holding the position you wish to achieve can help, moving into and through it, and then implementing that feeling into a slow motion swing. Gradually increase the speed of it as you progress.
There are different forces applied during a real swing, so the feels of slow motion swings can be less realistic, but they still help to send the message to your brain of what you are trying to achieve. Ben Hogan used this drill very effectively. I have used “slowing down” to help me learn other things, such as languages and musical instruments.
Take away the result
This can be a vital step in the initial stages of learning. You don’t want to do it for too long, as we need out brains to link up the movement with the result. Taking away the result can help us if our old move is so ingrained (through visual perception-action coupling)
You can do this by;
- Making a mental commitment to ignore the ball flight and focus on the thing YOU are trying to acheive, probably the most powerful thing you can do
- Using more practice swings in the initial stages and less golf balls
- Transition to hitting a tee, paper ball/whiffle ball
- Transition to hitting a ball on a tee
- Try closing your eyes as you are swinging and hitting the ball, so you get a better feeling for the swing and it’s easier to let go of a bad result if it happens.
- Put 100% concentration – all your mental processing power – into the one thing you are trying to learn. If you are trying to learn 2 things at the same time, try and split your practice session into 33% one thing, 33% the other thing and 33% trying to find a common feeling that unites the two, but generally less thinking.
Something a lot of people are frightened to do is to experiment with the opposite extreme. Obviously this is a bad idea during a round of golf, but in the initial stages of learning, I would experiment with doing something ‘too much’ and ‘too little’, so it is much easier to find that middle ground.
Read this article on Differential Practice for more info.
Get quality information as to whether you have achieved your goal or not. Better yet, get info as to how far away your were from your goal specifically.
I use feedback as my main form of improvement with players. I see people having extraordinary ability to automatically learn better techniques without knowing about it, simply by giving the brain the right information.
The above tips can be utilized when learning almost anything, especially a physical skill. Whilst they are not always necessary, see if you can apply them to the thing you are learning right now. The message here is to maximize your concentration on the thing you are trying to achieve, minimize concentration on anything extraneous and experiment with extremes of speeds and amounts.