I know, I know. The title is a bit graphic. You won’t forget it though.
(I didn’t realize that the three steps created this acronym until Dr. Bhrett McCabe had me on his Podcast, the MindSide, and I discussed the three steps to successful motor learning. He said to me, “Oh, so you are telling people they should PEE.” There is no going back now I am running with it. If you’re offended, you can blame Dr. McCabe. I myself might never have noticed.)
This critical concept in how people learn can be summarized in three simple steps. Without these steps, learning will not be as directed and possibly unsuccessful.
1. Plan. Whatever you are trying to do, there must be a very specific intention or plan. It should be simple and manageable. If you are working on your putting and you have a habit of cutting the ball with an overly across the line swing (like yours truly), then the plan could be “draw path”. The plan is specific, clear and singular.
2. Execution. Now is the time to make the movement. This means that you already have a clear intention in your mind about what should happen, and now you actually do it.
3. Evaluate. This should occur directly after you completed the movement. The evaluation primarily is to compare the plan to the execution. Ask yourself, “Did I make the movement according to my plan?” If the answer is no, then you will start again and try to figure out why the execution was unsuccessful.
WHERE PEOPLE GO WRONG
People often get these steps wrong not because they have bad intentions or are lazy, but because their plan was not clear to begin with. If there isn’t a plan, or the plan is too complicated, then the signals to the brain aren’t going to create a clean output (action). This is when you see people hitting ball after ball trying to get one that feels right. But because they weren't very clear with the intentions, they may not really know what they did to hit it well. So from a learning standpoint, that person probably was not as productive with the time spent hitting balls.
The plan doesn’t have to be complex, it could be as simple as “I will swing in a relaxed way”, or “My plan is to feel softness in my right hand”.
When you have two or more thoughts, your brain and body is overloaded and none of them really get done. As the Chinese proverb goes, “If you try to chase two rabbits, you’ll catch none.”
So the next time you’re on the practice tee, dig up those notes that your instructor gave you and choose just one of them to focus on. Before you let your mind wander off while firing off shots, tune in to the outcome of the shot and then think about it. Match up the feel with the intention. Did it go as according to plan?
Find ways to give yourself feedback that will assist you in the evaluation step. In the putting example, you might put a tee in such a place that if that cut stroke were applied your putter would collide into it. This way you have help in evaluating whether you’ve executed the movement according to the plan. Sometimes what you FEEL is not REAL, and obstacles are a big help in telling us the truth.
The bottom line is that you need to have a clear intention otherwise there is no way of knowing whether you executed the right way.
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.