Supercharge your team’s performance

Upgrade your players’ improvement cycles.

The number one question on any coach’s mind is: How do I make my players better?

How do I make my players better?

On the surface, it seems like an easy question to answer (just get better! Hit balls, putt, chip, work out!) but when you dig deeper into this performance question it gets more complex. Just hitting balls on the range isn’t necessarily the answer, neither is spending more time on the putting green. The answer is more specific than that, and is about how you approach the entire improvement cycle for each individual player. Ultimately, every college golfer has about the same amount of time to practice, so it is hard to really outwork other college players.

It’s about finding the most efficient ways in which to spend time at practicing golf for each individual player.

Instead, it becomes about finding the most efficient ways in which to spend time at practicing golf for each individual player, i.e. what is the biggest bang for a player’s practice buck? This principle is also called ‘The Pareto Principle’ or the ’80/20 principle’, which says that roughly 80% of the results come from 20% of the causes, or translated into golf terms, 80% of the results come from 20% of the practice that players do every day.

So how do you figure out what each player needs to do? You use the Anova Improvement Cycle below which consists of 3 parts:

Anova.Golf’s improvement cycle – an improvement cycle that uses data and statistical analysis to supercharge performance.

  1. Collect. It all starts with collecting information from your On-Course performance. This is the ultimate proof of how your improvement process is evolving – your on-course results tell you exactly what happens during your practice and tournament rounds. This also establishes what your current performance level is so that you can see if you are actually improving. Your on-course performance stats is what all of your improvement efforts should focus on.
  2. Analyze. Here is where we put your player’s stats into a relevant context. By themselves, the stats don’t really mean anything, but put into to a relevant and appropriate context, they have all the meaning in the world. So what is an appropriate context? It depends on the player, but the key is to look at your current performance level, then decide what your target performance level is (this can be another player, team, tour average etc).
  3. Bridge. This is where we create a plan to to bridge our player’s performance gap from the current performance level to the target performance level. This can involve many things and these are specific to each individual’s needs based on a statistical analysis of each particular player’s individual needs.

What are you optimizing for? Avoiding a common pitfall

If you are not measuring a player’s on-course performance in detail, using a statistical software like Anova.Golf, you end up in a situation where you don’t have any objective data to base any deep analyses on. Typically, what ends up happening for a player, is that he/she goes to an instructor and books a lesson (“I want to get better”). The instructor doesn’t have any statistical information about what actually happens to the player on the course, but still has to come up with something to tell a student during the hour or so that the student is there. Without other options based on data, many instructors have no other choice but to bring out a video camera and start filming the player’s swing to come up with technical solutions to this ‘improvement problem’.

So what we have done now is created an improvement process with Swing Technique at the top, and then we work everything else off that and it would look something like this:

An improvement cycle that starts with Swing Technique as the number one priority will optimize for swing technique and not on-course performance, and this is not an efficient way of designing an improvement cycle.

Golf is, without a doubt, a very technical sport and technique is an important part of any improvement process and it may very well be the one thing that is holding the player back. Or it might not be that issue at all. The issue with the above method is that the improvement process has been started with the wrong priority as the player and instructor have put technical prowess at the top of the process, rather than putting on-course performance at the top. In our opinion, this is a very inefficient way to design an improvement process if your goal is to improve your on-course performance. I would like to add that this isn’t necessarily the instructor’s fault; it’s just extremely difficult to do anything productively other than working on Swing Technique without having any data on a player’s on-course performance as you are effectively ‘working blindly’.

The bottom line is that if you’re not optimizing for on-course performance, then you can’t be surprised when your on-course performance isn’t improving.

The bottom line is that if you’re not optimizing for on-course performance, then you can’t be surprised when your on-course performance isn’t improving.

The way to optimize for improved on-course performance

At Anova, we propose to have ‘On-Course Performance’ as the number one priority when designing an improvement cycle. In everything we do, we should strive for improving the player’s on-course performance.

The way Anova users design their improvement process to optimize for on-course performance.

We start with on-course performance, and work backwards. We do a statistical analysis, define what are target performance level is and identify performance gaps.

The key is optimizing for on-course performance.

Let’s say that we have a freshman player who’s immediate goal is to crack the starting lineup. We therefore select the number 5 ranked player on your team as an appropriate target performance level and for the purposes of this example we figure out that the player has a performance gap on approach shots from 125-175 yards. Now what could be causing this? There can be many reasons to a performance gap in a skill and we should ask and test for a variety of possible causes:

  • Technique – does the player have an obvious technical deficiency causing the performance gap?
  • Does the player know how far his clubs are going?
  • Is there a way the player can come up with an alternate shot shape/pattern that will generate a tighter shot dispersion?
  • If the wind is off hurting and off the left, does the player know how this is effecting his distances?
  • How wide is the player’s dispersion and how does it change in different weather conditions?
  • Are the majority of the player’s shot ending up where he/she is aiming? If not, where should the player aim in order for the shot to end up at the desired location?
  • If the pin is tucked 3 paces from a water hazard, does the player adjust his/her aim appropriately?
  • How does the player’s performance vary from the fairway vs from the rough?

As you can tell, there are a lot of factors here that you can and should focus on that are also incredibly important, if not equally important to working on swing technique. In fact, swing technique is only one of many important factors to consider and test for during this stage in the improvement process, where the main focus on improving on-course performance is always kept as the number one priority.

we are trying to find the areas where the minimum amount of time spent practicing will generate the biggest possible positive result in improved performance

You as the coach have to make a subjective decision here based on your knowledge of the player, the amount of time available for practice, and your perceived analysis of the opportunity for improvement based on each test. But this is the fun part – we are trying to find the areas where the minimum amount of time spent practicing will generate the biggest possible positive result in increased performance.

We believe that what really makes a difference here is the player-coach relationship.

We believe that what really makes a difference here is the player-coach relationship. Armed with the detailed performance statistics that Anova can offer, and in combination with the skills, experience and deep personal knowledge that the coach possesses about the player and about the player’s game, the stage is set to achieve incredible things.

It’s really incredibly motivating, and starts with collecting the on-course performance data with Anova.

Next up: Crash course in statistical analysis. 

About the Author:

Thomas is a professional golfer and has played events on the European Tour, Web.Com Tour, Asian Tour, PGA Tour of Australasia as well as on PGA Tour China/Canada/Latinoamerica. He built Anova.Golf when no existing products could answer his detailed performance questions. The resulting information from Anova was astonishing: what he thought of as his biggest strength ended up being his biggest weakness.

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