1 International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching Volume 9 Number Professionalism, Golf Coaching and a Master of Science Degree: A Commentary Sam Robertson 1 Centre for Exercise and Sports Science, School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Deakin University, Burwood, Victoria, Australia 2 Golf Australia High Performance Program, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia Postal Address: 225 Burwood Highway, Burwood, Victoria, Australia INTRODUCTION In his article, Simon Jenkins articulates a number of contemporary considerations relating to coach professionalism in golf. In the Conclusion, Dr. Jenkins expands on his 2011 call for improved coaching accreditation in the sport , by proposing the development of a Master of Science degree in Golf Coaching. He also provides a number of benefits to both players and coaches that could result from the development of such a course. The ideas that such a degree could: i) promote a holistic approach to golf coaching that bridges the gap between science and art and ii) recognise that golf coaching involves specialised and complex knowledge of a multi- and inter-disciplinary nature I found particularly resonating and I have expanded upon each below. A HOLISTIC APPROACH TO GOLF COACHING In my joint roles in both academia and research & innovation with Golf Australia, I am aware of the considerable body of both anecdotal and empirical evidence supporting a holistic approach to golf coaching. Even a cursory look at the peer-reviewed literature reveals a myriad of multifaceted developmental frameworks experiencing use in the sport. Notably, Smith  recently presented a five-component model which proposed that: i) technical, ii) tactical, iii) physical, iv) mental, and v) life skills as all central to the overall development and performance of a player. The importance of each of these components has also been considered in player development frameworks published by national governing bodies in golf [3, 4]. Despite this, the level of attention that each of these components receives in a player s training or practice environment is highly variable in individuals across the participation pathway. PROBLEMS WITH A TECHNICALLY-ORIENTED COACHING APPROACH Despite a holistic approach to coaching being well established in the literature, it appears that a preoccupation by coaches (and players) with the nature of the swing itself (the technical component) often exists. It is quite likely that many coaches persist with a technicallyoriented approach in their coaching as it allows for them to rely on what is a perceived strength as an educated swing instructor. In such an approach, other components of the game are managed and addressed by specific professionals or service providers to the player,
2 846 Professionalism, Golf Coaching and a Master of Science Degree: A Commentary such as the physiotherapist or psychologist. However, substantial limitations exist with such a technically-oriented coaching approach, with the definition of what constitutes the ideal golf swing far from unequivocal [5, 6]. In fact, there is evidence to suggest that the ideal swing itself does not actually exist at all [7-9]. As in many other sports, a dynamical systems approach to skill development is also becoming more popular in golf and may partially explain this change to swing coaching philosophy, as evidenced in the literature [9, 10]. In the context of human movement, dynamical systems theory states that almost identical skilled outcomes can be achieved with varying combinations of joint relations or movement patterns . This notion has obvious ramifications for the manner in which the golf swing is to be coached. Furthermore, invariance of swing technique is not only almost certainly unattainable for any player but also not desirable; in fact, variability in swing technique could actually be seen as a positive criterion of producing a successful outcome [9, 11]. This theory complements Karl Newell s often-cited constraints-led model , which refers to boundaries or features which interact to limit the form of biological systems searching optimal states of organisation [11, p. 247]. The classes of these constraints are typically categorised as those affecting the player (individual), the task or the environment which can then be used to explain how a dynamical system behaves . As stated by Davids et al. [11, p. 251], the aim of coaching from a motor skill development perspective should be to assist players to satisfy the unique conflagration of constraints that impinge upon them in order to improve their functional capacity in the performance contexts they face. Put simply, coaches should spend more time with players implementing strategies that best compensate for these constraints when performing in a sport, rather than on their technique alone. It should be of no surprise then to find that evidence supporting the efficacy of technically-dominated practice in the literature is lacking. Golf practice environments should therefore be designed with the aim of being conducive to both effecting learning and facilitating translation into actual competition itself. Specifically, the use of contextual interference, defined as the interference in performance and learning that arises from practising one task in the context of other tasks, in practice environments has been shown to be a more effective way of developing player skill than technically-oriented, blocked methods [13, p. 243; 14, p. 1277]. It should therefore be highlighted that irrespective of a coach s technical knowledge, without displaying an understanding of the dynamic relationships that exist between an individual, task and environment, the impact they can exert on improving a player s on-course performance has a rather limited ceiling point. NON-TECHNICAL COMPONENTS OF GOLF DEVELOPMENT AND PERFORMANCE The last decade has also seen a considerable rise in the amount of research into non-technical contributors to golf learning and performance. While expecting a coach to be cognisant of all existing research as it becomes available is unfairly unrealistic, a Master of Science degree may go some way to improving an individual s knowledge base in the non-technicallyoriented components of the sport. The evidence supporting the notion that players should commit dedicated time to developing these additional performance contributors is considerable. For example, two recent systematic reviews have expounded the virtues of physical training as part of a golfers development [2, 15], while an abundance of work exists on the benefits of mental skills training in improving player performance [16-18]. Additionally, investigation into the tactical considerations of the game are undoubtedly at an
3 International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching Volume 9 Number all-time high [19-21]. It is therefore evident that in order for players of all abilities to maximise their performance in golf, time and attention must be given by both themselves and their coaches to developing each of these components areas. THE MULTI- AND INTER-DISCIPLINARY NATURE OF GOLF COACHING As the level of professionalism in the administration of organised sport continues to improve, as do the expectations of coaches themselves at various stages of the player participation pathway. In Australia for example, the majority of national sporting organisations (NSO s) implement a 10-stage Australian Institute of Sport-developed national athlete pathway framework known as FTEM (standing for Foundations, Talent, Elite, Mastery) . The FTEM model (along with other similar athlete development frameworks) highlights the need for athletes at all stages of their golf journey to be developed holistically, with specific attention provided to those areas discussed in the section above. However, a unique emphasis in the FTEM model focusses on areas traditionally seen outside the responsibility of the coach. For example, elements relating to competition scheduling, research and innovation, life skill leadership, player/team management and designing the performance training environment for players all could now potentially be tasks required of a coach. With financial constraints in sport an ongoing consideration, organisations are now more than ever looking for coaches to be more than just technical swing instructors. With these factors in mind, it is evident that in the future coaches working with all levels of players will require more than just technical teaching nous in order to be successful in the role. CONCLUSION The days of a coach being solely a swing instructor would appear to be numbered, with the level of professionalism expected of coaches at an all-time high. The development of a Master of Science Degree in Golf Coaching would appear an ideal facilitating step in improving this overall professionalism. In his conclusion, Dr. Jenkins postulates whether high profile coaches would undertake such a course if it consisted of a holistic approach to coaching and development. While I can only speculate on the answer to this question, I would also see value in this type of academic qualification being undertaken by coaches working at the community or sub-elite level. Notably, such a degree could equip these individuals with a broad range of skills and expertise they may not otherwise have obtained in existing training or education. This qualification could also perhaps inadvertently develop graduates ability to implement these learnt skills in other areas outside golf coaching. Given the currently high rates of attrition in the coaching industry, the increased demand for more flexible work hours as well as the need for improved conditions for women coaches , this is an important additional benefit of any such degree program. In summary, I thoroughly concur with Dr. Jenkins sentiment that the development of a Master of Science degree is both necessary and desirable in order to progress the practice and science of golf coaching. In such a degree program, many of the above-mentioned skills could be better developed in both the current and next generation of coaches, thereby producing a positive effect on the holistic development of players of all ability levels. REFERENCES 1. Jenkins, S., Accreditation of PGA Master Coaches, Annual Review of Golf Coaching (An On-line Supplement of the International Journal of Sports Science and Coaching), 2011, 5, Smith, M., The Role of Physiology in Golf Performance, Sports Medicine, 2010, 40,
4 848 Professionalism, Golf Coaching and a Master of Science Degree: A Commentary 3. Golf Australia, Golf Development Matrix, Date Unknown, 4. Canadian Professional Golfers Association, The Long-Term Player Development Guide for Golf in Canada, Date Unknown, 5. Glazier, P., Movement Variability in the Golf Swing: Theoretical, Methodological, and Practical Issues, Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 2011, 82, Keogh, J. W. L. and Hume, P. A., Evidence for Biomechanics and Motor Learning Research Improving Golf Performance, Sports Biomechanics, 2012, 11, Glazier, P. and Davids, K., Is There Such a Thing as a Perfect Golf Swing? 2003, 8. Glazier, P. and Davids, K., The Perfect Golf Swing: Dispelling the Myth, July 26, 2012, 9. Tucker, C. B., Anderson, R. and Kenny, I. C., Is Outcome Related to Movement Variability in Golf?, Sports Biomechanics, 2013, 12, Mendes, R., Dias, G., Couceiro, M., Figueiredo, C., Luz, J. M. A., Clemente, F., Martins, F. and Mendes, P., Dynamical Systems Theory in the Golf Putting Performance, Proceedings of the Annual Congress of the European College of Sport Science, Bruges, Belgium, 2012, Vol. 1, 2012, Davids, K., Glazier, P., Araújo, D. and Bartlett, R., Movement Systems as Dynamical Systems: The Role of Functional Variability and its Implications for Sports Medicine. Sports Medicine, 2003, 33, Newell, K. M., Constraints on the Development of Coordination. Motor Development in Children: Aspects of Coordination and Control, 1986, 34, Porter, J. M., Landin, D., Herbert, E. P. and Baum, B., The Effects of Three Levels of Contextual Interference on Performance Outcomes and Movement Patterns in Golf Skills, International Journal of Sports Science and Coaching, 2007, 2, Porter, J. M. and Magill, R. A., Systematically Increasing Contextual Interference is Beneficial for Learning Sport Skills, Journal of Sports Sciences, 2010, 28, Torres-Ronda, L., Sanchez-Medina, L. and Gonzalez-Badillo, J. J., Muscle Strength and Golf Performance: A Critical Review, Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, 2011, 10, Finn, J., Using Mental Skills to Improve Golfing Performance: A Theory-Based Case Study for Golf Coaches, International Journal of Sports Science and Coaching, 2009, 4, Jenkins, S., Sport Psychology, Hypnosis and Golf, Annual Review of Golf Coaching (An On-line Supplement of the International Journal of Sports Science and Coaching), 2009, 4, Jenkins, S., The Use of Swing Keys by Elite Tournament Professional Golfers, Annual Review of Golf Coaching (An On-line Supplement of the International Journal of Sports Science and Coaching), 2007, 2, Broadie, M., Assessing Golfer Performance on the PGA Tour, Interfaces, 2012, 42, Fearing, D., Acimovic, J. and Graves, S., How to Catch a Tiger: Understanding Putting Performance on the PGA Tour, Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports, 2011, 7, James N., The Statistical Analysis of Golf Performance, Annual Review of Golf Coaching (An On-line Supplement of the International Journal of Sports Science and Coaching), 2007, 2, Gulbin, J. P., Croser, M. J., Morley, E. J. and Weissensteiner, J. R., An Integrated Framework for the Optimisation of Sport and Athlete Development: A Practitioner Approach, Journal of Sports Sciences, 31, MacKinnon, V., Golf Industry Attrition: Challenges to Retaining Qualified Golf Professionals, Particularly Women, Sport & European Union Review, 2013, 5, EDITOR S NOTE Dr. Sam Robertson is a Lecturer in Biomechanics at Deakin University and coordinates the
5 International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching Volume 9 Number High Performance Research & Innovation program for Golf Australia. His research focuses predominantly on: i) the development and evaluation of outcome measures for sports science; and ii) the application of novel analysis techniques to improve sports performance. He works extensively in golf, Australian football and rugby and also has a keen interest in the development of expertise in sport.