March Break Training Camp – 2015
A week of “Super Training”
We have recently returned from our March Break Training Camp in Orlando, and I thought I’d take some time to post reflections on the week.
In terms of context, we brought a group of twenty junior-aged players down to Orlando. They were led by a team of 4 coaches and also by a few of our college aged players who travelled down to support the trip and draw on some of the great energy that they recall from past trips. We arrived from various places on the sunday afternoon – welcomed by very warm sunshine and the fantastic facilities offered by the Grande Vista resort.
For the players, I’m sure the week was hard to beat. We would wake up as early as we could and play the game we love until the sun went down. We ran workouts, practice drills, on course sessions, mini tournaments, team challenges, tactics seminars, one on one work, etc…, and this was all done each day! There was great camaraderie, laughter, cheering, celebrating, and there was also deep concentration, grit, mindfulness, and honest reflection. It was a week filled with emotions and positive memories, and a great glimpse into the possibility offered by our outdoor season that is fast approaching in Ontario.
The goal of the week, from our coaching lens, was to immerse players in the many layers of the sport while getting them onto grass and closer to the outdoor phase. We have worked so much over the past few months with these players, and this week allows us to evaluate the progress of each player and then to design the next minor mesocycle upon our return. By planning training days that start before the sun rises and ends after it sets, we made certain that every players’ experience of the week would be nothing if not comprehensive. As it turns out, the players exceeded our expectations in terms of effort and willingness, and we were able to cover way more than we had anticipated over the week. Special thanks to Tara and Carter for their excellent over the week, and to Joel, Colton and Meghan for lending their experiences as well.
Major themes of the week included:
- Emotion Management
- Preparing for Competitions
- Wedge Play
- Reflection / Self Awareness
- Rules of Golf
- Reading Greens
Monday was a day to dust off the cobwebs and experience the game on grass. After long months spent indoors on artificial surfaces, it was so fun to just watch the balls fly and roll in the peculiar ways they do in the wind and the grass. Our day opened with a great workout around the resort, and after breakfast we opened with a graduation style four-foot challenge. Once graduated players could just hit balls on the range, work on the greens, or spend some time with our harpoon wedge station led by Jeff and guided by some cool research on wedge shots. After a quick lunch we then headed across the street for 18 holes of golf. The golf component was a team best ball where players drew partners from a hat and worked to post the top better ball score for the group. The day concluded with a great meal in the condos and then pod meetings about growth vs fixed mindsets.
Tuesday was maybe our most “complete” day – To start we left bright and early to get to Bayhill (Arnie’s home) to watch the practice round for the PGA event. Bayhill offers such a neat environment, and we were able to watch the players prepare for their upcoming event and execute their practice rounds. Our players scattered across the grounds picking up players or pairings of interest. Some stayed around the range area watching players come and go, some walked a few holes with their favorite players. It was neat to see so many recognisable faces – coaches, media types, players and caddies who were stripped of the filter we usually see them through. Returning to our practice facility after lunch, we then trained our skills for a few hours before being joined by our guest coach, Tim Kremer, who has founded a thriving coaching brand which studies emotions as the major factor affecting performance. His company is called “Spirit of Golf” and his work has heavily influenced the ideology of our GPC program. Tim watched our players perform some practice drills and then joined us for a nine hole awareness exercise on the short course. This was a great environment for everyone involved, and it set the stage perfectly for his presentation to the kids after dinner. His presentation will be covered in more detail in my next blog, but suffice it to say he thoroughly impressed the kids with his simple message that without emotional balance the best swings in the world have no chance to emerge.
Wednesday had us leaving early once again, this time to search out the golf course which would be hosting our own tournament on the weekend – Mission Inn. On this day, it was the turn of our own players to embark on their practice round, and it was really neat to see how much the players absorbed from the PGA pros the day before. Helped by our coaches, the players set off on an excellent day of mapping-out the course and establishing their basic strategies for the upcoming event. Returning after lunch, players then had a few hours to train at the awesome practice facilities and chat with the coaches about their games. Some players worked on the green learning about our take on the aimpoint reading system, others spent time on the range area getting quality repetitions, and others found some quiet time to rest their bodies and minds after a few solid days of training.
Thursday started with another team workout and then shifted to a morning tee-time across the street where we held round 1 of the GPC cup. This event split our group into two teams and pitted them in friendly matches modeled after events like the “Ryder Cup”. Players were excited to play in a team oriented event and the spirit within the matches was excellent. After the rounds, players completed our post round reflection work (shot by shot and reflection sheet) and were shuttled back to the condos for some rest and food. After a short break, we returned to our practice facility for a few hours of training where players could chat with coaches, train on their own, or play a few holes on the short course (or all of the above, as most players chose to do). After a great meal we turned our attention to the rules exams that had now been marked – we covered key rules for tournaments, like provisional balls, rule 3-3 and unplayable ball, and then we invited players to keep an open mind (not fixed!) about coach interventions about rules over the next few days.
Friday was another beautiful day, probably our warmest of the week and getting us into the 100 degree temperatures. We played singles matches through the morning and then most players took a few hours to rest in the rooms and watch the event at Bayhill a little while they conserved their energy. Later in the afternoon, players emerged to practice a few skills at their own pace while the coaches held down stations across the facility.
We held a crash course in rules scenarios, a recap of putting and green reading, a station devoted to short game shots we would see at Mission Inn, and also a supervised driving range station. Our team meeting focused on the motivational work of John Wooden, reminding players that we were about to embark on a journey we love to do (play golf) and that we could front load the joy and excitement that goes hand in hand with the game. We agreed that there would be no need, no place, for being grumpy and whiny – before or after the game – but that instead we would all return to our beds with the self-satisfaction that we had given every ounce of our effort in pursuit of the game we love to play.
Saturday was day 1 of the event at Mission Inn for our event. Players left in waves depending on tee times, and the event finished literally in the dark. Most players took advantage of the great facilities attached to our condos to warm up before the van ride to the tournament, and once at the site it was more about finding shaded areas and conserving energy, as opposed to wasting energy on the range. The first day of the tournament was great – our players comported themselves in exemplary fashion – looking like experts in rules, etiquette, and capable of hitting all of the shots (just not always at the right time!). For an event where our players were matched against players who train all year in sunny climates, it was great to see that our players were not far off at all in terms of skill, and that they were definitely miles ahead in terms of etiquette and enjoyment of the game. We returned home to get a good sleep and most players were in bed within minutes of arriving at our rooms..
Sunday was the final day of the event. We left as a team to make it to our 1:30 shotgun start, and on this day the pace of play was great and we finished before dark. A two-hole playoff and the award ceremony left us barely enough time to make it to our final team dinner, where players filled up at our only restaurant experience of the week. My greatest pride came in the many instances where staff, volunteers, fellow coaches and parents of other athletes would all come up to me and say things like “I’ve never seen a happier group of players”, or “those players in red just seem to enjoy themselves so much”, or “you should be proud of your players – they are so professional and polished”. At the end of the day, results will come and go, and in the end nobody will even care. But underneath the scores and results lie the behaviours and character traits that will determine the course of each persons life for years to come…
Monday was our travel day. We flew home a little sad with what we were leaving behind, but nonetheless fulfilled by the self-satisfaction that we had given everything we could give to the week and confident that we had grown from the experiences we had. We return with more skills, a deeper understanding on how to train skills, and most importantly an appreciation for how much our emotional state can impact our games and lives…
What a week,