ORLANDO, Fla. – Doctors were in the house Monday at the 16th PGA Teaching & Coaching Summit presented by OMEGA, and 700 attendees at the Orange County Convention Center came away with more than a backpack full of prescriptions to improve both their communicative skills, while advancing performance habits of their students in the game of golf.
“The rules of coaching have changed,” said Dr. Bhrett McCabe of Birmingham, Alabama, making his second consecutive appearance at the biennial Summit. On this trip, McCabe closed the Summit and presented news of new coaching challenges that face PGA Members.
“There are different influences now. Recruiting pressure beginning at a much younger age, and before a student knows who they are. We have increased pressure in college, and there is a competition crisis today in society. We are trying to develop people who are ready for the challenges in front of them.”
McCabe, whose clients have spanned the PGA and LPGA Tours, NFL, NBA and MMA, is the sports and performance psychologist for the University of Alabama athletic department.
“Golfers are unlike any other athletes in the world,” said McCabe. “They are the worst practitioners. They prepare to fix problems and prepare for a level of hope that no other athlete prepares for,” said McCabe. “Every other athlete prepares for the uncertainty before them, because they are playing an opponent. Golfers play against a golf course, and sometimes that golf course will punch them back.”
Dr. Ara Suppiah, the Chief Medical Officer of Orreco, is the first medical analyst on Golf Channel. He said he contracted “the deadly disease of golf” after watching television in 1997, as Tiger Woods won the Masters. “I became a golfaholic at that time,” said Suppiah.
A native of Klang, Malaysia, Suppiah’s main job description is heading a company that provides science-driven solutions for optimizing athletic performance. His presentation “Resilience through Recovery” featured excerpts from a forthcoming book on how we can understand the connection between health, dysfunction and fitness. “We all have a triangle that affects what kind of athlete we want to be.”
Suppiah earned U.S. citizenship in 2015, and proudly said the “Star-Spangled Banner” was “like a rock song” to him. He was invited to assist in the U.S. Ryder Cup team room in 2016, at Hazeltine; and in 2018, in Paris.
“I was so proud to hear the National Anthem of America sung for the first time, and especially at that time for me,” said Suppiah. “When you are competing for America, I believe that any athlete must never let the flag fall.”
Dr. Stephen Norris, who left his impact in preparing the Canadian Winter Olympic team in 2014 and 2018, challenged the audience to continue to be creative.
“The way to think about golf is you have these amazing tools and landscapes, yet, you aren’t even allowing yourselves to think differently,” said Norris. “What are you going to put on your dashboard at the end of the event? You get these great ideas. You’ve got to go from thinking about things to pulling the trigger.
“Don’t be frightened. If you have an idea, pull the trigger. Don’t be stymied. The world is littered with ideas that are not acted upon. Are you a wolf or a sheep? Live accordingly.”
Renowned mental skills coach, Dr. Fran Pirozzolo, first visited the Summit in 2000, while accompanied by then New York Yankee Pitcher Roger Clemens and Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson. In his return visit, Pirozzolo shared research progress in neuroscience and psychology, as it relates to golf learning and performance.
“I started Mastery Learning with Bernhard Langer 36 years ago. He stayed on task until it became too easy for him, and he kept improving on it. He’s one of the greats in his learning and mindset. He’s so ideal to work with.
“What can I do this year to improve? Bernhard makes excellent decisions. Here’s a guy - except for driving distance - gets better at everything. We still hear commentators say that once you get to be 26 or 27 everything goes downhill. And, you can’t cure the yips. . . Are they paying attention?”
PGA Professional Ted Eleftheriou, the PGA Director of Golf Program Development, gave a sneak preview of the American Development Model (ADM), which will be unveiled Wednesday at the 66th PGA Merchandise Show.
“ADM is not a curriculum,” said Eleftheriou. “Let me repeat. It is not a curriculum. It is something you can do to incorporate into your program. We need to get away from waiting behind the counters to get out in front and engage with people to find out what they want. We shouldn’t be selling lessons, equipment and merchandise. We should be selling the experience.
“When it comes from the social experience and playing experience, those of us in the room (PGA Professionals) are the only ones who can get them to that. When we bring value, we bring value to the community, facilities, customers and consumers, and we ourselves become more valuable.”
PGA Director of Instruction Trillium Rose of Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Maryland, conducted a panel discussion featuring Dr. Paul Schempp and world-class dancer-turned-judge Tony Dovolani.
“If you got the passion for teaching, you are going to give your student everything you’ve got, and the student will see it,” said Dovolani, who began playing golf in 2007. “Every single lesson should not be about me. It should be about them. It’s not about my accolades.
“Part of performing in teaching is being aware of the environment you are creating, and how you respond. If you put them in a nervous state of mind, you better have the answers to bring them back. You need a strategy. By disarming them, by making them fell empowered, they will remember that lesson for the rest of their lives.”
Dr. Schempp is a professor and Director of the Sport Instruction Research Laboratory at the University of Georgia.
“Any great coach is a great teacher but I don’t think that any teacher is also a great coach,” said Schempp. “A coach orients their students toward competitive performance. A teacher orients their students toward learning. In any sport, the greatest coaches produce the greatest number of winners.
“The people at the top of their field will tell you they are not an expert…The people at the top always want to improve.”