Archive for December, 2010

Back at Loughborough

Another year has passed and last week it was time to return to Loughborough University for the annual EGU Christmas Camp. As a way to finish off the year and look forward to what is to come in 2011 all our National Squads came together for three days of lecturing, physical and psychological training and team bonding. Running parallel to the players’ camp the Regional Managers and Regional Coaches had their own training camp focused on developing the programmes for the talented under 16 and under 18 players that are included in the England Futures programme. The Regional Programme has seen some dramatic changes take place in the last year and a half, thanks to the addition of the AASE scheme (Advanced Apprenticeship in Sporting Excellence) which has brought in some £600,000 over two years. An amazing amount of money that is and no doubt something that would have never come about without the external input, i.e. the government deciding to increase the support towards apprenticeships. The fact that sports got a slice of the cake I think could prove very successful in terms of podium performances for England in years to come.

At this years’ Christmas Camp each squad was running tailor made programmes to meet their needs which were topped by a couple of sessions where everybody came together. Mike Ford from England Rugby delivered a very inspirational after dinner speech and on the last session of the three days, Gary Boyd and Chris Wood gave their views on getting to the European Tour and what they are focusing at the moment. The message? Loud and clear it was very simple – make your mind up on what you want and don’t let anything come in your way. Be the best that you can be! How is that for a New Year’s resolution?

The socializing approach to development

Two of my children sing in a choir. It is one of the most amazing choirs with a super-inspirational choir leader. Last night they did a concert, a Christmas one of course. As I sat there watching the concert, obviously with a tear running down my cheek, I thought to myself – ‘this is just the way sports should be organised’! There, in front of me stood my young children, singing from the bottom of their little hearts, but there stood also a whole bunch of other children, from 6 to about 16, AND a group of mom’s and dad’s who were taking part, just as lively as the children. To my ear some of those adults could have been selling records or performing on TV, had not been busy with this choir. That is how good they were.

Of course this is brilliant and I cannot for the life of me understand why we in sport has to have this big fixation at age. Especially not in a sport like golf where you are not exactly risking to be beaten up by somebody. Why do we have to compete at U14, U15, U16 etc? All that will ever create is a Champion who thinks he/she is better than he/she is as winning such a Junior Championship tends to send the signal that ‘you are good’. Not strange as in fact – you are the best. Only in your age group though and the fact that there are hundreds if not thousands that are better than you is easily forgotten. The other thing it does is that it limits the late developer as he/she will, guaranteed, think that the train as already left the station and no matter what I do I won’t be good enough. What I see in this choir is the  6 year-old’s who look at their older peers thinking – “if he/she can do it, why can’t I?” I also see adults thinking “she has got some potential, I will help!”. What a fabulous environment that is for development!

The making of a superstar

I had a meeting today with one of the people who is involved in helping one of our superstars in the making. It strikes me how little time we actually spend in coaching on one of the most important things. Finding funding. Nobody will come anywhere near becoming a World Class player unless he or she has got a system of managing this. Some are lucky to be able to trust their parents. Others have very supportive Federations or Unions that can help at least a bit on the way. But if the goal is to get to World number one as an amateur, we are talking a different league in terms of expenses. The costs for playing what is effectively a tour player’s schedule will be very similar to that of a tour player. Only the money that is coming in is rather limited. At least in terms of prize money.
This is where I start to realise that it is not just about the player and his/her little system of support. If is about the whole country’s socio-economic climate! It takes a number of people with money, and probably a lot of money as I otherwise cannot really see them giving it away in the way that is needed. What it also takes is a culture where giving is a natural thing. Not necessarily giving for the sake of getting something back, but giving for enjoyment of seeing potential materialising. To get to that stage this superstar in the making need a little team of dedicated people, with the right contacts and with the skill of asking the right questions at the right time. It is ironic how that can be just as, if not more, important as the ability to fire a long, straight drive or holing a testing downhill 6 footer!

Two feet of snow

2 feet of snow

2 feet of snow

The UK is covered with two feet of snow. England has come to a more or less complete standstill and to be a golfer wanting to practice is not easy these days. I wonder what the young prospects are doing on a day like this? I spoke to Peter McEvoy the other day and we compared notes on what we used to do when the weather was really bad. Of course everything was better before, and all that… but, Peter said he had a tree at the driving range at Copt Heath where the rain and the snow could not get underneath. He stood under it and hit balls under the branches. He also cleared an area in the grass from where he could hit and continued to practice. I, on the other hand born and raised in a country where weather like this is the norm for 4 to 6 months of the year, remember how I hit balls into the garage. Yes, the ceiling in the garage was a bit too low so I could not stand inside and swing it normally. Had I done that I would have been fighting an even worse right to left shot than I am today… I put a matt outside in the snow therefore and had a net just inside the garage which I could hit into. Freezing cold outside of course but I could stand there for hours and hours.

I will never forget one of the first times I heard Kjell Enhager speak and he talked about changing perspectives; What are the benefits? Yes, what are the benefits of two feet of snow if you are a golfer???


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