Performing or Learning

A few people have asked why is it when they are getting a lesson, they are hitting the ball really well but a few days later when they play a round, they aren’t able to hit the shots as solid. There are a number of factors that this can be down to, such as: the aid of hitting off mats, the body was well stretched before the lesson or the time between shots is far less in practice than on a course which allows your timing and rhythm to be corrected quickly for better sequencing and striking, to name a few.

The question that needs to be asked is, during the lesson, is the client just Performing due to the focus and regularity of shots where adjustments can be made quickly and remembered in the short term (cognitive skill) or are they actually Learning and understand the body movements and how it feels to produce a certain ball flight (mobility book). This is often over looked and can only really be checked with the use of a retention test.

The retention test is used anywhere from 3 to 14 days after a lesson which tests if the client was just performing on the day or if they actually learned and can repeat the movements from that lesson. There are 3 main types of environments which can be used to assess the swing lesson for a repeatable swing or a feel based learning swing. These are defined as block practice, random practice or a mixture of both.

Without going into too much detail, the answer generally comes down to the motor skill mobility book. Mobility books are movement patterns and sequencing for motor skills which have been learned and developed from the first time you started doing the movements. When you start doing a motor skill, like riding a bike, a golf swing or tennis serve, the brain starts refining a neural pathway which links to a mobility book with the heading for the task and it stores all the movements it has developed for that task in that one book. They are hard to change due to the hours of engrained repetitions which has become the body’s dominate habit and go to sequence when carrying out the task. This is sometimes referred to a muscle memory (movement patterns).

To give you an example, let us look at walking. A mobility book has been developed for this motor skill which was been refined from when you were a child. You are in stage 4 of the 4 stages of learning being unconsciously competent, the motor skill has been engrained with direct neural pathways making this mobility book your dominant habit when tasked with walking. Imagine you tried to change a part of how you were walking where your left foot takes a full step and your right foot takes half a step. How much time and practice would you have to put in to make this your dominant walking habit? (Be able to do it without having to think about doing it).

This is the reason that you can perform in a lesson but as soon as there is an introduction of pressure or you stop thinking about doing the change without the required hours of practice, your original dominant habit will come to the fore front. Due to the complexity of the mobility pattern, it is quicker to start a new mobility book than to try and change a part of the existing one and this is where the issue lies.

Usually lessons are given with minor changes to the existing pattern which can work as a quick fix at the time but when there is the introduction of pressure like a score card in competition or a long period of non-practice, the dominant habit will come to the fore front which can be supported by conscious thought of self-doubt or lack of trust in the new changes which leads to a whole new area of the 2 main mind-sets as described by Dr. Bob Rotella, the practice (trying to do) and playing mind-set (let it happen) with how and when you should be in one over the other.

There are 4 stages of learning (which I will go into in a later post) that the body and brain connection goes through when learning a new motor skill and building the new mobility book which takes multiple, slow moving, perfect repetitions to start the building process of new neural pathways. Only when you have developed and engrained the new Mobility book to the point of Unconscious competence, will you be able to play without having any swing thoughts which is where you can play freely with no interference which is where we are all aiming for.


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