I was fortunate enough to come across this idea very early in my teaching career while working at the Cranfield Golf Academies. As simple as it is, it is one of the most powerful tools in coaching and learning.
During this post, we will learn what it is, as well as how to apply it to your own game/practice/coaching.
A typical lesson
“That was better”
When I first started teaching, that’s what a lesson often looked like with me (sorry for those that endured it). A task/new move is suggested, and it was either a pass or fail – with a hell of a lot more failures (as we know it is very difficult to make a swing change, especially in the early stages).
But a small tweak to the feedback started to yield massively improved results with pupils.
Improvement is 10% information and 90% in delivery of that information.
This is why coaching is so important – anyone can read a magazine article and pick up some information about what to do, but the secret lies in learning how to do it, and having someone there to guide you through the process.
A better lesson
Ok, so you thought that was a -3 , I actually thought it was a +2. Can you attempt a +5 for me?
In the above scenario, I have taken the change we want to make and quantified it on a scale of plus 10 to minus 10, with 0 being the middle ground.
Using this method has so many advantages and really speeds up the learning process, also making the coaching process much more valuable, enjoyable and powerful.
Say we are making a change to our strike location on the club face, we could scale the feedback so that 0 is a centred strike, +10 is an extreme toe shot, and -10 is an extreme heel shot. As shown below
What we can now do is hit shots and give much more specific feedback as to
- What you (the player) think happened
- What actually happened
For example, you hit a shot and think it was a +5 (toed) but have a look and it was +9 (almost off the face). To make this form of quantification work, we need to have good quality and specific feedback. Click This Link to read an article about quality feedback you can use yourself
Our brains love specific feedback, and it works well with numbers.
Rather than the old, boring and frustrating lessons of “nope, nope nope, better, nope”, we now have something much more valuable to both the player and the coach.
This also helps us to be able to quantify the feedback in a way which we can see improvements much more clearly. We could write down our results and see if we are heading in the right direction.
Feel is not real
One thing all great coaches know (and most of you amateurs) is that feel is not real.
You might feel like your swing looks like an elegant swan floating on a calm lake with the sun glistening down and creating beautiful light reflections on the water, but it more than likely looks like a drowning elephant.
This form of quantification really helps to bridge the gap between the feel and real issue, bringing them closer together. Over time, what the player thinks they are doing starts to match up with the reality (E.g. they guess it is a +4 and it is really a +4). This increase in awareness is really important for self organization to occur.
If you haven’t a clue what is going on, how are you supposed to change it?”
Off the Scale
This method of coaching also helps to encourage exploration and experimentation – and important point for speedier learning.
I don’t just stand there trying to get pupils to shoot for zeroes. I get them to explore all the numbers. I even make them go off the scale often
This is one of the basic tenets behind differential practice (you can read more about this powerful learning/coaching tool with a link at the bottom of this article).
I have found that, for some reason, people are much more receptive to practicing things in a more extreme form when it is quantified in this way. It also helps to de-activate the Lizard brain, allowing us to run through the holographic brick wall much easier.
Feelings of success
It is nice to go away from a practice session/lesson feeling like you have achieved something.
I like to make practice tough – we only really learn from mistakes, so we coaches often have to induce ‘good failures’ in you. You might not like it, but it is necessary for your growth and improvement.
If we are in a constant state of making mistakes, this can be quite demoralising, and we may walk away from a session feeling deflated. However, if you are quantifying your practice in this way, you will be able to walk away with a sense of achievement from the improved numbers.
For example, if the goal was to strike zeroes on the middle of the face, you are very likely to walk away from the session having not achieved it (no one strikes zeroes all the time, not even the pros). However, if we can say that at the start of the session you were averaging +8, and now you are averaging +3, that is quite a significant improvement in the right direction.
We can now induce ‘good failures’ without whilst at the same time improving confidence.
One of the methods I use as a coach (which is highly effective) is to direct a player’s attention towards something.
By using feedback and quantifying it in this way, it is much easier to direct the attention of the player where I want it to be – and as a player you can increase your focus dramatically by using this numeric scale.
By using specific feedback, we can direct our attention more readily to things which might not have (ahem) ‘been there’ before.
And the motor learning science has shown that where you place your attention during a shot can have dramatic effects on performance and learning. Just today, I saw an increase of 42 yards average carry with a 7 iron with one of my pupils by a simple re-direction of attention.
They were focusing on shoulder turn. I told them to focus on the quality of ground strike (using this numeric scale), and we improved distance and direction (and consistency of both), as proven by the Trackman data.
This is not uncommon.
Use for everything
The good thing about this numeric scale idea is that it can be used for everything. If you wanted to change your posture, grip, takeaway, top of swing position, swing path, club face angle or strike location, you can put it on a numeric scale.
I literally do this with everything – the possibilities are endless.
This is just one example of some of the many tools I discuss in “The Practice Manual – The Ultimate Guide for Golfers” for coaching/self-coaching. You can learn more about ways to increase your learning (as well as what to learn) and performance. Click below for more info.
Make sure to check out my video series, The Strike Plan, where I discuss how to use these ideas for improving your strike quality. Click the below image for more info.
- Rather than just trying to make a change on its own, put the change into a numeric scale. Explore all extremes of the scale (experimental practice) as well as calibrating what is desired, or what gives you optimal performance.
- Use the data to quantify improvement, directing focus of attention, building awareness and bridging the gap between feel and real.
- Such a small addition to the learning process can make such a huge impact on your ability to learn and retain what you are working on. It is a lot more effective than “yes/no/better/worse”.