Posts Tagged 'EGU'

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!

Phew…

Ever felt that your system has been pretty much emptied? I certainly do not have much to offer now as I sit down and reflect over the last three days that have included meetings with the EGU Coaching Committee, the Excel group (the EGU, EWGA and PGA staff involved in delivering the Elite end of English Golf), the England Lead Coaches and on top of that a two day Coaching Conference with 140 people from Counties, Regions and England Squads. Once the tension and the focus is gone it is like the mind, and the body, goes into some sort of hibernation, just as the laptop would when the battery is about to run out. In actual fact, I think that is what is happening with the human body battery as well.

Having just glanced through some of the feedback forms and listened to comments from people it would seem like the conference was a great success. Dave Alred delivered a fantastic opening key note that set many minds spinning. In a simple and direct way he explained how attitude and application multiply ability. Eddie Pepperell, the England International, then gave a capturing description of his journey as a golfer before the participants completed a SWOT-analysis for English Golf that was completed by an action plan on the Friday morning. Brian Hemmings, the EGU Sports Psychologist, on Friday shared his experiences from 15 years in English Golf and gave recommendations on how to take this area forward, while the University of Lincoln in a poster presentation delivered the latest golf-related research.

As the participants left Woodhall Spa this afternoon I think they did so with a lot of new found energy and inspiration. That I think is worth a bit of a lack in energy on my behalf…

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???

Squaring the circle

It has been one of those weeks again. Popularly labelled ‘meeting weeks’, when the National Golf Centre is filled with board members, committees and voting members for 2-3 days. The theory is that the ‘meeting week’ is down to the fact that most of the time after a couple of days of these meetings, pretty much everybody would feel like they have done a whole week of work.

In the main these meetings are really useful. I am always struck by the number of people that genuinely care about English golf and its development. Different from when I worked for the Swedish Federation and felt rather lonely in my attempts to nurture the future World Class players, here is a whole hoard of county officials, ideally in support of what is being done. Nothing then is more annoying than having this stone in the shoe that just does not seem to be possible to remove. The decreasing interest in County Golf is such a stone. For the Counties, the league matches, the qualifiers for the County Championship and the Championship itself are the biggest things of the year and the whole reason to why they spend money on trying to develop players in the first place. The fact that it is more and more difficult to fit these events into the calendar is nothing but sad and even worse is that it is so difficult to come up with a solution.

Stephen Covey used to say that whenever you are faced with a dilemma there is always a third way that you have not seen that is the solution. It is now time to dig deep and find that opportunity!

To flow or not to flow

This morning was an interesting one. I visited Lincoln University to have a good look at their facilities and to find out what opportunities there might be to work together. Once again I am quite struck by the facilities and possibilities that are often so hidden within the university world. There is no doubt that times are changing and universities are pushed to find not just other sources of income than the public sector funding, but also other areas of society that have an interest for what they do. This can only be a good thing – for students and universities because it brings them closer to ‘real life’ and for organisations and companies, such as the EGU, that have every chance to access knowledge and intelligence that the otherwise would not come anywhere near. This makes me think (again) about Finnish neuro-reasercher Matti Bergstrom and his book Neuropedagogy. One of Bergstrom’s thoughts is that schools should really be built in the middle of communities or towns where there is a constant flow of people in and out. Other central parts of the community such as the police station, the library, the supermarket etc should be natural parts of the school as wherever there is flow there is new ideas. Have you ever walked into a school building and had that feeling that there has not been a new idea there in at least the last 20 years?

There are of course companies and work places that give you that same feeling, not to talk about certain activities and sports. I am convinced that the more we bring things closer together the better it will be!

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???

The noble art of preparation

Tommy Fleetwood

For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated by the million dollar question of how to best prepare for a golf tournament in order to peak your performance. Athletes in all sports spend hours, days, weeks and months to try to find out what is right for them and it seems like most sports have come a lot further than golf and golfers. A simple excuse that is often used is that golf is so different from other sports as it is much more complex. It is physical in that  you play over four days plus practice days in sometimes exhausting heat, but it is nothing like a marathon or a cross-country ski race. It is psychologically demanding in that every shot takes a more or less difficult decision and successful execution of that decision means sticking to it like there is no tomorrow. But then again, it is probably nothing compared to shooting or archery. Golf is tactical as it most of the time is you against the course but then again, what sport at the highest level is not tactically demanding?

I am sure that many other sports would fall under the same category and be just as complex as golf. Perhaps that is also what makes them so interesting and unpredictable. I do seriously also wonder if there is any other way to properly prepare for those sports than to play the sport itself. The Swedish professional, Daniel Chopra, once played 40 tournaments/weeks in a year. When I asked him why he did that he said:-

“That is why I turned professional. I enjoy playing.”

Tommy Fleetwood, England, Lancashire and Formby Hall, is en route to something similar. His schedule from early June has been more than intense. Starting with the Amateur Championship which is not exactly a normal event with 36 holes of qualifying followed by 36 holes of match play per day for as long as you are in the Championship, he then flew out to France to compete in the qualifying for the French Open (yes, he won that one nicely…). Tommy then came back to England for the Brabazon Trophy after which he returned to France for the French Open. A missed cut there meant he could return to Heathrow to catch up with his mates on the flight out to the European Championships in Sweden. The Europeans is certainly not a normal week either and with Tommy being the leading player on the team it had him playing no less than 180 holes over the seven days of practice and competition.

By now we have made it to the Open Championship week and Tommy actually has a week off. This lead him into the English Challenge at Stoke by Nayland, his first crack at a Challenge Tour event. After four days of competition there Tommy finished second, only to jet off to the English Amateur where he teed it up in the morning the day after for the first of the two qualifying rounds. 6 rounds later Tommy is playing the semi final at Little Aston this afternoon, against fellow European Champion Tom Lewis.

Of course a schedule like this cannot go on forever. The worst case scenario is obviously that it leaves Tommy in burnout, with Glandular Fever or something similar. Having said that though, in any walk of life, if you want to be good at something, the basic rule is to make sure that you do it a lot. If there is any truth to that Tommy has got a bright future!

Follow the final matches of the English Amateur here.


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