Give us back our game

When the EGU Coaching Conference started on Thursday a few eyebrows were raised and questions were asked about the background of this theme. For me this conference is a bit of a “dream come true” in that the role of games and their importance in developing athletes in sports have followed me ever since I got involved in coaching. One of the first people I met when I started university in Stockholm was Rolf Carlson who had just done a study on the Swedish success in tennis. Sweden at one time had 5 men in the top 10 of the world rankings and Rolf had found that playing games and spending most awake hours of the day on the tennis court growing up played a huge part in these players’ background. This encouraged me to do a simular study in golf and I wasn’t too surprised to find the same results also in my sport.

This role of games and what some has referred to as the “intelligence of play” has then followed me in my discussions with both coaches and players around the world over the years and interestingly, I have found the same background in pretty much every sport. I would also argue that this role of games and play should not diminish as players develop and grow. The list of players that I have come across telling the story of how they left their successful way of using games in practice for a more “serious” approach, working on their technique and practicing “properly” on the driving range goes on and on. For many of them this has not taken them further up the rankings. On the contrary they have gone the other way and on a number of cases ended up off the tour. For the more than 100 people that attended the first day of the conference I don’t think this is too difficult to understand, having listened to Paul Cooper, Lynn Kidman and a panel discussion featuring Peter McEvoy, Paul Affleck, Paul Eales, Paul Schempp, Rod Thorpe, Kendal McWade accompanied by both Cooper and Kidman. This is in no way saying that technique is not important but the big problem is that in the search for excellence in their golf swings players tend to completely miss out on the scoring skills that playing games taught them.

Give us back our game is about returning to good habits and introducing new ideas that will get the ball in the hole in fewer strokes. It is about putting the performance in the centre and using every available initiative or idea to improve that performance.

3 Responses to “Give us back our game”

  1. 1 Steve Gould February 8, 2009 at 12:30 am

    Interesting seminars Peter there were a few interesting points. I would have liked to have seen more practical example of how playing games in practise can help players even if there was a before an after session from Kendel.

    It’s also interesting on seeing how different countries approach improving their squads. I’m fortunate to deal with most European Golf Unions and see how they approach training and instuction. From the Dutch and German frederation who have a faily ridged structure, the Spanish who have a centre of excellence in Madrid including education. Team Norway have a different approach and have produced some good players both girls and boys over the last few years.

    • 2 Mattsson Peter February 8, 2009 at 11:03 pm

      Thanks Steve! Yes, I think a follow up with some practical work would be very useful. Some comments in the feedback afterwards related to “it would have been good to have something to take home” and I think that is something to think about for next time.

      I also think that different countries need different approaches because of numbers, distance etc. A very centralised system, in my opinion, is normally best if you have small numbers while with a large number of players you need to touch coaches and support people that players have around them. The strength of the big number system is the competition among players and the centralised system could take that away. Having said that I think that the biggest secret to successful coaching is that there very seldom is ONE method that works. The expert coach has a toolbox from which he/she picks what the situation calls for!

  2. 3 Steve Gould February 10, 2009 at 8:23 pm

    I agree with you on the central coaching systems in other countries and certainly one system does not fit all. I know you’re keen that the players retain their own coaches especially when they will need someone once their amateur golf finishes something I agree with.

    The NGF has a system where they have 4 regional coaches and a head coach who are full time employees.

    The region coaches job it to travel to the clubs/coaches to visit the squad players at work map out a plan for the player that player, home coach and regional coach agree on. Help with extra resources that may not be available to the player at a club level such as strength training, physiology, diet, psychology etc.

    Talking to the coaches this helps the relationship between all 3 parties and communication improves.

    Do you ever think this would happen here in the UK? Or is it financially not viable or too large an area to cover??

    I’m not sure what system you used in Sweden would be great to know or of any others you have come across.

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