Golf instruction has seen a swell of technological advances such as ball-flight measuring devices, 3-D systems and other high-tech training aids that have given us the much-needed boost in our ever-growing body of knowledge of how best to play the game. Without one shred of doubt these advances have expanded our potential to know more and have only served golf instruction well. But as with all industry trends, the advent of something new will inevitably take the place of something else. Will our video equipment be what becomes the new paperweight?
Recently I’ve heard murmurs that video is passé and doesn’t give accurate enough feedback to be of use. It left me to think, “Is this correct? Should all of us be tossing out our cameras and replacing them with launch monitors?” I personally like my video setup and treat it much like any other training aid: It’s not going to solve everything, but if used correctly at the proper time, it can be very helpful. However, my feelings about video are biased and only serve as one example of why it should remain in our teaching tool kit. So in order to learn more, I looked into the research on physical education and kinesiology for a more objective perspective.
Sport psychologists call it observational learning or modeling when a learner watches something and then uses that to learn a skill or behavior. In golf instruction, we use modeling as a form of feedback by showing students video of themselves or showing them examples of others. We also use demonstration as a form of modeling to show others what the movement looks like. The famed psychologist Albert Bandura cites modeling as “one of the most powerful means of transmitting values, attitudes and patterns of thought and behavior.” In fact, years and years of research on observational learning have placed modeling firmly as one of the most important means for helping individuals learn or modify skills.
But exactly what kinds of models are useful and how are they to be used? According to two kinesiology professors, Penny McCullagh and Maureen Weiss, the skill level of the learner should be considered first when using video modeling. Their research, combined with others on demonstration characteristics relevant to acquiring skills, suggests that coaches and teachers consider two types of models:
- The tour pro, or a “correct model,” which shows an ideal movement.
- A “learning model,” or an example of someone who is attempting to learn the skill but has not yet achieved exemplary performance.
The research suggests that using the “correct model” as an example was better than using no model at all. However, for certain types of students, such as juniors or those in the early stages of learning, the “learning model” combined with corrective verbal feedback from the instructor was the most successful combination (This learning model could also be the student himself video taped performing the desired movement, and then comparing him to himself). In other words, students who were far from swinging like a tour player responded better to examples that were similar to them.
The root of why “the learning model” works well is based in what Bandura calls self-efficacy, or self-confidence. It’s the feeling that we can successfully do something that we are attempting to learn how to do. He adds that self-efficacy is highly influential in shaping what we decide to work on. So if a golfer sees himself making progress on his golf swing, he is more inclined to choose to work on it. This also means if he thinks he will never be able to do something, he could lose motivation and feel less motivated.
Although video certainly cannot tell us the angle of attack, or the X-factor stretch, it does have an important place in our teaching tool kits. Even if we are not using it to collect information about what is happening in throughout a swing, the benefit of a learner seeing an example can provide a profound effect both psychologically and with performance. In other words, keep the video in lessons — if not for you, for the benefit of your students.