For all dedicated coaches and golfers out there, please read this it is a perfect summation of GOLF!!!!!!
Instruction, Conformity and the Placebo Effect
August 15th, 2010 by amgolfmindcoach
Unlike my other articles which tend to be more spontaneous, this one has been evolving for some time, flitting around my thoughts for longer than any article I’ve ever written. And when I asked myself why that was, it became apparent it was due to the content being sure to divide opinion…..hence my initial hesitancy.
However, if I’m thinking it, maybe it’s meant to be out there so here goes.. I’m braced and ready to be judged.
Things have come to a head watching the USPGA although this has zero to do with the players performance….it’s more to do with the comments, both from critics and cheerleaders alike.
Quick back story to bring you all up to speed.
Even though I’m referring to the USPGA event on right now, this following scenario can apply to any week of the playing year.
THURSDAY- Tiger Woods starts like a train and the armchair ‘experts’ believe they’ve spotted something; Is it his posture, is it a different swing move, is it his mental outlook, is it because he was seen ‘having a chat’ with Mr Foley? A few hours later and those theories seem less relevant as Tiger retreats back into the pack.
FRIDAY- Enter the equation other players, clearly having a better week and again, out come a different band of ‘experts’. Tiger needs to look at his swing, Tiger needs to do this, or that, Tiger’s finished, the endless commentary goes on.
No doubt those conversations will run long into the weekend.
And here’s where my article picks up the story.
Swing coaches, mental coaches, regular club players, can all find themselves looking for external evidence to back up their own theories on how the game should be played. The persuasion experts will tell you it’s our need for social proof, validating our own model of the world and reassuring us we’re on the right track with our own beliefs.
But get this- It’s my belief that swing techniques, mental approaches , equipment changes, putting aids etc have less to do with ‘real data’ and more to do with a ‘placebo effect’.
Does improvement come as a result of a new swing move, a new way of thinking, a new putter, a new driver, a new putting map…….or as a result that we believe it works?
And if we believe it works chances are we’ll look for external evidence to back it up.
So, if we’ve bought a new driver and an elite player has one and plays well…..it validates our choice. Likewise, if we’ve got students using our ‘preferred swing move’ and they go out and play well, it has to be true ….doesn’t it?
Of course, swing gurus amongst you will provide data, the science bits and pieces to back up your case. But guess what, I don’t care because all that data doesn’t fit my model. You can provide all the evidence and it can make perfect sense….just not to me! There was a time when I did that too. If my players did well, it was down to my mental techniques…surely. I certainly made sure they were reminded of that.Or was it simply because I was unsure of how effective I was and was clutching at the need for validation to make myself feel better?
The USPGA running this weekend is fascinating for me, not for the on course theatre, but the way people align themselves to a certain belief ‘bandwagon’. If a player who appears to approach the game which is close to our own preferences shows up, we’re quick to shout it from the rooftops when things go well….and then strangely quiet when they turn in a mediocre performance.
I use to track scoreboards following ‘my players’, hoping and praying they would go well to reinforce my own sense of worth as a mental coach, so I totally understand where you’re coming from in self promoting your own beliefs. However, that only plays out as relevant and balanced if you acknowledge their poor weeks too. Rose coloured spectacles have never really sat well on me anyway!
My approach now is so different. I do my work, feel I’m bloody good at it and attend to what I can control…..MY PERFORMANCE. The rest is down to the player going out and making the effort and their performance is now their game. If my players go out and play well, of course I’m pleased…..FOR THEM. I don’t need them to validate my beliefs, my judgment, my ability, my choices!
So all you in reader land…are you too looking for external evidence to back up your own beliefs?
Is it really relevant to base your own beliefs on what a player does on the other side of the world, someone you don’t even know ( other than the distorted version portrayed by the media) and who’s values and learning processes you’ll never get access too?
This article is really about developing YOUR BELIEFS, being true to yourself and having the courage and sense of ownership to approach the game with your set of values intact.
Jump on the next bandwagon, become a conformist and adopt a set of behaviours which have zero to do with your sense of self; just because Player A or Coach B say it’s the way forward. Because here’s the thing, by conforming to someone else’s beliefs…..maybe you lose something as a result.
Just because a swing guru, mental coach or elite player tells you it’s the way to go, doesn’t mean it works for you…..because they aren’t you are they?
Great coaches are those who can adopt the flexibility to coach you within your model, don’t impose the need for you to conform and rarely have allegiance to one set way of thinking.
I’ve come full circle because when I started out, I had one narrow way of coaching and if players didn’t get it I was stumped. It was all I had. So, I got real and went away and developed massive flexibility, my players don’t need to conform because I coach THEIR MODEL. No placebo needed!
So, why do I feel a placebo is probably at play in mainstream coaching?
Example-If you change putters, the putting tends to improve almost instantly and we bask in the glory of having made a good choice. But is it the putter creating the improvement? Or is it, as I believe…..becomes our awareness has changed? Are we now noticing how it feels, how it looks, how the ball rolls….whereas before we were just noticing the limitation of the old putter?
Why is that? Tied in with my above thoughts, maybe it’s because with the old putter we’re looking externally for evidence to back up our thoughts. If you’re in the market for a new putter, that evidence is continuing to putt poorly with the old, a convincer you need to change. You get the new putter, the awareness shifts. Now you’re more aware of internal feedback and the putting improves! Is that the putter you’ve spent £100 on, or better awareness?
You take a regular lesson with your local swing coach following a poor spell of play. During the lesson you hit it much better and go away pleased. Two days later you’re back on the phone with the same problem and are frustrated that the initial improvement hasn’t lasted. Why?
Again, is it down to what the swing coach has offered, or is down to your shift in awareness during the lesson? Social proof will tell us that he’s a ‘swing expert’ so he must be right…..surely!! But are you merely conforming to their teaching method and it doesn’t fit yours?
And mental coaches don’t get off the hook either! I’ve had players who I’ve worked with and when they are with me, they play brilliantly. Then they report back a few weeks later and their performance has dipped again. The reason?
When they are with me they are tuned into their internal processes, their values are aligned and improvement comes instantly. In essence, they are trusting themselves to deliver. When they are away from me they fall back into ‘conformist’ mode, reacting to outside evidence and looking externally for reassurance. They are seeking a placebo to reassure them.
Mainstream coaching for me is massively flawed in the sense it attempts to fit players into certain boxes, gets them to swing a certain way and think in a certain pattern. That for me is missing the point. People are unique and therefore the coach has to move to a position whereby they are unique in his/her coaching approach. I never coach the same way twice….I used to!
If you’re a coach reading this, how flexible is your approach? Do you have total trust in your own ability that no matter who shows up for a lesson, you can deliver bespoke value? Of course, like me, it requires you to be brutally honest with yourself. I wasn’t good enough….simple as that.
If you’re a player, is the relationship with your coach exactly as you want it. Are you compromising your values/beliefs and conforming to an approach simply because the ‘expert’ says so? Are you shifting from one product to another and enjoying short term progress before falling back? Are you believing the placebo at play?
Despite the fact I feel mainstream coaching is massively flawed, it would be unfair not to mention coaches who excel and fly in the face of the conformist mentality. It takes an element of faith to swim upstream and the coaches I surround myself with are examples of the changing face of golf coaches. Check out my twitter page and the coaches/players I value can be found. My list is not random, they all bring value to my skill set and I learn something new every day as a result.
So I guess my message is clear. If you want to coach/play to your full potential, surround yourself with people who share your vision, accept you as you and don’t feel the need to harvest their ego on the back of your success.
I have a great group of players to work with, trusted people who surround me but above all, I trust myself. Resist the urge to conform and stay true to your sense of you because when you dance to your own tune…..the music sounds so much better.
Be yourself and let others do the same. Embrace difference, there’s room for everyone.
Thank you for your time and attention.