Posts Tagged 'Coaching'

Separate lives

The Lytham Trophy concluded on Sunday and after a pretty cruel couple of days over the Links. Jack Senior, Lancashire, finished on top of the leaderboard. Jack is on a good run and now holds the title in Egypt, having won the Egypt Amateur in the autumn, in New South Wales in Australia where he beat fellow country man Andy Sullivan in the final and since Sunday, at Lytham. Jack will no doubt be one to watch over this summer.

As so often before though my reflections after a tournament is not really about the winner. This time they are instead about two players that were not even playing. They were caddying. Matt Nixon and James Robinson both walked around Royal Lytham carrying a bag or pulling a cart. The reason they did this is that they are now professionals and have therefore joined another life. Matt got his European Tour card in December and has since made quite an impressive start to his professional career. James on the other hand has joined the Europro Tour and will need some good finishes to start climbing up the ladder. I can’t help thinking that it would have been quite nice if they could have played rather than caddied. Why is it that we have to have these incredibly rigid rules that stop the flow of players moving up and down the ladder? The ball does not care if you are an amateur or a professional. A Matt Nixon in the field would have given the young guns a real chance to test themselves against a tour player. In fact one that was one of them, in this field last year. And for Matt – I bet he would have made the best of a chance to play four days around an Open Championship golf course. No matter how grim the conditions were…

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One for the future

Today I sit down to reflect over what to say when I open up the inaugural England Golf County Academy Conference tomorrow. The County Academies are in many ways the first step on the player pathway for young golfers wanting to progress. Many of those that in the future will be playing the professional tours will come nowhere near this step on the ladder though. In fact, when they are in their early years they may not even be thinking about golf. Somewhere along the way, if we want players that can play this game, we as golf better make sure that their paths cross ours. Traditionally that would be in a club environment to which the youngster is probably brought by parents or perhaps a friend.

In this day and age though times are quite tough for sports. There seems to be a lot of other things that call for attention and more often than not those things are definitely more accessible than sport. Many times you do not need to leave the comfort of your own house. In fact, you could play a lot of sport without doing that, thanks to things like Wii and other gaming tools. So how can we compete with this? I think it is actually quite easy. And at the same time obviously incredibly difficult because we are likely to be looking at something like a massive oil tanker to try to turn around. It takes a lot of effort.

So for the easy bit, we need:

1. Facilities that are, if not in the basement, close enough for youngsters to get to on their own;

2. Facilities where we can experience “the game” and not just parts of “the game”

3. Attractions in terms of ‘cool’ people seen in media playing the sport

and 4. the most difficult one of all – people who can help make all this the best thing since sliced bread and even more fun than the Wii at home.

And how is golf doing? Well, we certainly do not have the easiest of circumstances but I really think work is in progress…

This week it is the tee off of the European Team Golf season. The European Nation’s Cup at Sotogrande has become a real test early in the year. England is out for the third consecutive win with a team of Laurie Canter, Tom Lewis, Jack Senior and Andrew Sullivan. Should be an interesting week! And as a sign of what Amateur golf is often like I cannot find a single bit about this tournament online. Will keep looking and update when I can!

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!

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???

Reflections of an autumn morning

As I wake up to an absolutely glorious September morning I come to think about golf’s calendar. Yes, I know that is sad but the bug of golf tends to do things like that to us. My thinking is that the weather in general is good for golf at this time of the year, the courses are never better and yet there is so little competitive golf to play in the amateur game. In the professional world the PGA Tour conclude with the Tour Championships next week, without Tiger Woods for the first time. In Europe the fight for next year’s cards is hardening and the Race to Dubai has yet to reach its climax. If there will be one that is. The Ryder Cup in early October should mean that the pro game feels interesting for a bit longer as at other times I remember the distinct feeling of ‘the party is over’ after the Tour Championship in Atlanta. Whether October in Wales will have any resemblance of a party remains to be seen I guess.

To come back to the amateur calendar I fail to understand why it is like this. We cannot wait to get started in the spring when temperatures are still freezing cold and the grass on the greens really has not started growing. In the summer any decent amateur can find about three tournaments a week to play in but come the end of August it is like somebody has pulled the plug once and for all. Hibernation sets in!

This of course is not in the best interest of the developing players and needs addressing. Perhaps something for the EU to get involved in???

Major week

This week is actually pretty special. Two majors are on at the same time! In the US the ‘across the pond Open’ is obviously something to look forward to, starting on Thursday. Lee Westwood probably could not have asked for a better way to prepare than winning the St Jude Classic in a play-off on Sunday. I have a feeling he will now go into the US Open with a stronger than ever belief in himself. One major that Lee never won though is the one that started in North Berwick and Murifield yesterday – The Amateur Championship. Lee had a solid amateur career, winning the British Youth Championships, The McEvoy Trophy and the Golf Foundation Age Group Championships, twice at the age of 15 and 16, but in fairness he probably turned professional before he really had a chance to compete for that very prestigious Amateur Trophy.

The first recognised Amateur Championship was played for the first time at Royal Liverpool Golf Club at Hoylake in 1885. It was part of the early Grand Slam of golf with the four majors being the Opens and the Amateur Championships on either side of the Atlantic. Things have obviously moved on since then but the Amateur Championship remains a fantastic event and whoever wins it is very likely to be a player with a bright future ahead of him in the game of golf.

The first stroke play round was played yesterday and before the end of today it is really difficult to guess what 64 players will make it into the match play stages. It seems scoring at North Berwick and Muirfield vary greatly between the two and as always with any event on these great old links, the weather will play a big part. Follow the action by clicking here.


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