02/03/2016

Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.’

This familiar turn of phrase haunts coaches and teachers alike, suggesting that the ability to instruct is less important than the ability to perform. However, I have learned firsthand that the opposite is true: the greatest gift an athlete can give is their ability to coach. And coaching comes with substantial responsibility.

To sum up the impact a coach can have on an athlete would be too great an undertaking, so I will instead focus on one single aspect of the coach’s responsibility: awareness.

Throughout my years as a golf instructor—and even during my short tenure as a youth basketball coach for my kids’ teams—I’ve noticed how important it is for a coach to be aware of what an athlete brings with them to instruction.

The guidance I provide to my players, whether it be the introduction of a new skill or a new way of looking at the game, has lasting effects. My ability to acknowledge the time and trust students invest in me is the cornerstone of a successful student/instructor relationship.

Golfers of all levels of ability seek me out to help formulate a plan for long-term improvement of their game. My students range from eager kids with their eyes on the high school golf team to tour golfers putting their careers in my hands.

The faith they have in me is tremendous. I am entrusted to help them bring their game to new levels, and to help them achieve things that they may not even realize they’re capable of.

With each lesson, each directive I offer, I make sure to acknowledge what my instruction means for the player. When I give a student a new move to work on in their golf swing, they will literally spend hours and hours, and hit thousands of balls, working on my suggestion. I am amazed and grateful for the trust they willingly give me to help guide them in their development.

I feel lucky that it is my voice in their head as they hit the range in the early, misty morning to practice.

As a golfer who has filled the role of both student and teacher, I see firsthand how important a job it is to instruct. And beyond that, I see how important it is to be aware of the time and trust students invest in me.

It is my advice to all teachers to make it a part of their practice to think beyond the lesson, to acknowledge students’ faith in your ability to take them someplace new in the game of golf, and to recognize the time they invest outside of each lesson—that it is your influence that helps to inspire the methodical dedication necessary to master the skills you have taught them.

And it all starts with awareness.