The 4-Club Golf Challenge (being resourceful, adaptable and creative)

I was recently invited to play in a 9 hole, 4-club golf challenge. It is set up as a fun, social and slightly competitive competition that allows both golfers and non-golfers to play together. Two teams of 4 players set off every 10mins from the 1st tee. Each group plays 9 holes and a medal score is taken at the end of the round and the team with the lowest score wins. Non-golfers receive an overall handicap of 6 shots, which is taken off the final score. All seems fairly straight forward up until the point when you are required to play a shot from the bunker with a putter.

Each member of the team selects a club to play with and this is the only club that they can use for the entire round of golf regardless of where they are required to play the shot from. The shots are taken in an order 1- 4 and this continues from the start of the game until the finish (all 9 holes). For example, I (part-golfer) selected to play with a 4-rescue wood, my Dad (part-golfer) was playing with an 8 iron, my girlfriend (non-golfer) played with a 5 iron and my Mum (non-golfer) was playing with a flat faced pitching club. On the 1st hole I would tee off, followed by my girlfriend, then my Dad and finally my Mum. Depending on who played the final shot on the hole, would determine who would tee off. Therefore, regardless of where and how your shot was lying you had to use the club you had selected.

So for example, the team that we played alongside, one of the people playing had selected to play with a putter. They found themselves having to play a couple of their shots with a putter from the tee box, from the bunker and if my memory serves me well only 1 shot from the green, which presents quite a challenge, but a challenge that forces the person to be creativve, by  adapting to the environment and being resourcesful with what they have available.

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The reason for me writing this was; it is a great example of a game, activity where people are required to use that divergent thinking, adapt and be creative to achieve an outcome in a range of situations using a single club. Using my experience, during the round I was presented with a number of shots that had I had a choice, I would have selected a different club, an appropriate club, which was best suited for me to play a successful shot from the situation that I had found myself in. Unfortunately, this was not the case for this round. I was challenged with not only playing the ideal shots suited for this club from the tee and on the fairway, but also in the deep rough, behind a tree, playing a short shot into the green, a chip around the green, a bunker around the green with a high lip and putting on the green. Therefore, I had to use my skill to be creative and make this club adapt for each shot.

I often had to be creative whether it was to change my grip, my stance, opening or closing the face, the position of my weight and the length of my swing.  I had to use my ability to manage the indifferent situations, which I faced, and using my creative ability to find a way.  It definitely challenged me, but in most cases I was able to find a way, I was able to be resourceful as oppose to giving up easily. In fact I embraced the opportunity to try something new and from that I was able to learn and develop myself. This is something that many people in life, especially in sport are often faced with. They are required to adapt, improvise, and make the best out of the situation that lies in front of them. My journey as a coach, especially early on often presented me with similar challenges. I had to be resourceful with what I was given, be creative in my approach and delivery, and be willing often adapt either before or during the sessions.  At first I found it very difficult because I wanted the ideal situation, the picture that is often painted, but that isnt the reality and as coaches, educators and players we need to be able to prepare for that, practice and learn.

Therefore, as coaches we need to present and encourage the opportunities for our players to be creative, resourceful and be able to adapt to the many situations that are presented to us in our sport.

That’s Football….

I came across this recent quote “The most dangerous phrase in the language is ‘we’ve always done it this way’ “ Rear Admiral Grace Hooper. Which made me think about football, coaching and player development.

How often do we hear people admit defeat by the phrase ‘well that’s football’? This is one comment that bothers me and one that I can’t accept. If we all said that, and accepted that nothing would move forward. Change can only occur if people believe it is possible and are willing to do something about it. Unfortunately, too many people are willing to accept, they don’t wish to upset or want to rock the boat, but for change to happen people need to not accept ‘well that’s football’?

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Einstein came up with one of the most poignant quotes, which encapsulates such an attitude ‘Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results’. So if you accept that is football then that could constitute insanity. I know, it all sounds extreme but we need to encourage people to look beyond the norm and what tradition has led us to believe. So, has the new generation what can we reflect on and see that requires improvement, development and change. We must be willing to look beyond what we are told and ask questions, critically analyse and then provide a solution. You don’t have to be a maverick to go against tradition.

My thoughts, advice for what it is worth would be to reflect, analyse and consider what could be improved for the development of the player. After all, there is no one right way; there is a way that suits the needs of the players. Don’t leave it to the one who shouts the loudest; rather encourage the ones who know, to also have a voice. From my experiences, I have seen how players have changed, coaching has evolved and practice generally has developed. I still see a lot more that requires change and development, often for things to improve and develop, we as coaches, educators and player developers need to continually look to how we can improve and develop our current programs. The game is continually changing and this will impact on how we work with our players. This includes all levels of the game from the money and demands at the top end to the influences and impact at the grass roots end. We need to be opened minded and be willing to make changes ourselves and not accept that ‘this is football’, because if we are not prepared to makes changes, we will continue to become frustrated with the system or coaching methods or attitudes of people in the game.

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking” Albert Einstein

Playing With Friends

I recently came across an article that drew reference to a study that had been carried out on the amount of time that children spend playing outside compared to their parents and previous generations. The research found that the parents, as children during the 1970’s and 1980’s were spending no fewer than two hours outside per weekday and no less than nine hours at the weekends regardless of the weather. Whereas today, children are spending on average an hour a day on a weekday and fewer than five hours a day at weekends.

Although this is relevant to children of all ages, children aged between 5 – 12 years are going through some of their most critical stages of development, which are influenced by the environments and activities they are exposed to. Therefore, how are allowing children to spend these critical periods of development in front of a screen as oppose to playing outside where they will be developing their physical, cognitive and social skills. Which will enable to not only become better athletes, but will enable them to carry out every day activities more effectively. When children play they learn to interact, observe movements, be creative, mimic actions, develop motor patterns and improve visual senses to mention just a few, and this is all part of their development. If, however, they spend most of their time sitting down, in front of a 2 dimensional screen then they won’t get the chance to develop the above and therefore are we really providing them with the start they require?

As children develop it is important that they learn to interact and play with friends, within various environments. I want to put forward a case that I believe has helped players develop from the previous generations, the generations where children spent a lot more time outside playing with friends, which gave them the opportunity to develop the required skills to play such sports as football. When children play football or any sport with their friends, they are free to try and express themselves. They are given the platform to implement new skills, work things out, be independent without a coach instructing and placing fear in a player. This environment provides them with the opportunity to make their own decisions, make their own mistakes and willing to fall down, pick themselves up and try again. They will play with friends of all ages, sizes and numbers on a variety of different sized pitches on various surfaces using a range of size balls. All in which will provide them the experiences they require to improve their overall development as a player. They will learn from others, inadvertently coach each others by observing, mimicking, encourage each other to try a new skill. They will have the chance to pretend for that moment to be their favourite athlete, carry themselves in the way that their idol plays, try skills without worrying about being shouted at, celebrate the way their hero does when they score a goal. Within all of this and for me, which is the most important thing, they will have fun, enjoy, practice more, work harder and learn. Therefore, playing with friends is arguable one of the most important, yet withdrawn activities that a successful player should have as part of their program.

From my own childhood I can recall a typical day when at school: I would be getting into school early, first thing in the morning meeting friends to play football, which had been pre-arranged the day before. We would meet in the playground, it would often be with a tennis ball with ‘jumpers for goal posts’ (bags in our case), and this would range anything from 1 v 1 to 5 v 5 or even a 1 v 2 depending on numbers. This would carry on up until the bell rang for the start of school, therefore it was important to get in real early so the game would be longer. Summer months were great because of the light mornings and generally good weather. It was made a little more difficult during the winter with dark, rainy, cold days, but that never stopped us. In those days we had a morning break between classes that lasted 20mins, there was no surprise that this involved football, it would usually be the game continuing from before school and that would carry on throughout the week. Then at lunchtime it was the big game, the game we had planned for, and from what I recall at Junior school (7-11yrs) we were playing international games, Northern Ireland v France. We had even made up programs for the fixture, time of kick off, current league standing and the name of each player we individually would be taking the role of. It would often only involve a small number of players, maybe a 3 v 2 or 3 v 3. I always preferred being on the 2 against 3 because of the challenge. I never enjoyed dominating games, I liked the drama and challenge of being an underdog and having to work hard to win, it felt more of an achievement. There was quite the build up to the game, especially in the mornings, planning during class, discussions about where the game would take place and about getting out as soon as the bell went, often avoiding lunch to ensure we had more time to play. In the afternoon we would have PE, which involved a range of sporting activities that included cricket, rounder’ and athletics. I used to enjoy playing any sports, as long as I was outside. Then in the afternoon we had another 15min break, that would normally involve typical playground games and yes, the lads played hopscotch as well. After school we often played in the playground waiting for parents, or in the park, as parents would walk groups of children home. which we would negotiate with them by suggesting they could talk and have a good catch up. Although, I know my mother did not need an invitation as she always enjoyed chatting with her friends. ‘Another 5 minutes’, which always led to an hour, which was great because it meant I could with my friends. On some days we had either school football training or a game. Other days we would schedule to go round to a friends house, for tea, which usually involved playing football or others sports in the garden.

Therefore I ask this question, are we giving our children the chance, the best possible opportunities to become not only a creative footballer and athlete, but also a creative person? By providing them with opportunities to ‘play’ and to be free in an environment, which is led by them and not by coaches. The environment, that surrounds us by positive peers that can influence, help educate and shape the person we become. If you have ever read the book ‘Bounce’ by Matthew Syed he draws reference to the environment and situations that led him to the career he had in table tennis. We need to do more as parents, educators and coaches to provide our children to best chances to develop some of the required skills that help them perform in the sporting arena and perform in life.

‘I am always ready to learn but I don’t always like being taught’ Winston Churchill