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The Learning Performance Continuum: Developing and Transferring Skills

By Team Game Like Training

When practicing golf, you must ask yourself if you are training to learn, or, if you are training to perform.

A player who is in the early stages of making a change to his or her swing falls into the bracket of “training to learn.” Therefore, the type of training tasks in which this player engages should look very different from that of a player who is about to peg it up and compete in a golf competition.

This distinction is one many golfers fail to make. This results in thousands of golfers engaging in sum zero practice each week – basically, putting in time and getting nothing out of it.

Imagine if we lived in a world where golfers understood how to work on their golf games and why practice would help them retain new skills and, eventually, to transfer those skills to the course.

Now, imagine if you were empowered to transfer those skills without having to run up dollar after dollar in coaching fees. Well, if you combine an understanding of the “learning performance continuum” with a practical application of K-Motion’s technology, perhaps you can.

The Learning Performance Continuum

Our brains learn, change shape and make new connections by experiencing cognitive stress. Cognitive stress induces a deeper form of learning that takes place only in a training environment that encourages a certain set of conditions. Hitting your favorite club 50 times in a row to the same target is not a desired environment; doing so fails to stimulate cognitive stress, and zero learning takes place. So, what does the optimal training environment for learning golf look like?

Training to learn

Being deliberate – We aim to shoot par when on the golf course, but we also should be trying to achieve a different kind of par during practice based on three actions: PLAN, ACT, REFLECT. When training to learn, every ball we hit should have a clear movement-oriented goal. When we action this goal, we must disassociate ourselves with the outcome of the shot and become focused solely on accessing the desired movement during reflection. The biofeedback function on K-Player can help achieve this by measuring and providing feedback on movement.

Optimal spacing – To forget is to remember. This idea sounds counter-intuitive, but, ultimately, by adding the spacing effect to your training, you will be placing increased time between each rep. This creates cognitive stress as your brain / working memory is challenged to recall previous successful reps, inducing a deeper learning than takes place when you are simply machine-gunning balls down the range. So, training to learn, making sure to monitor time between each rep ‒ hit 20 balls in 20 minutes ‒ rather than just raking and hitting with no space to forget what success feels like ‒ is an ideal strategy. With K-Coach, you can increase spacing by setting a target number of reps for the student to complete before hitting the ball, or, you can change the duration of time the student has to hold any given position for it to count as a successful rep.

Optimal variability – I have said it once, and I will say it again: To forget is to remember. And, along with creating space between each rep to create cognitive stress, varying the task helps achieve that kind of stress. So now, while also limiting yourself to 20 balls in 20 minutes, focus on one swing queue for the first five balls, then another for the next. Repeat as needed. With K-Coach, you can set the number of reps needed to complete an exercise before it will move on to the next. Utilize this tool to encourage your students to engage in one swing queue at a time while tracking how many successful reps they achieved in the five balls they hit.

Optimal challenge – At some point, we want to move along the continuum while remaining in the learning phase. This is when hitting 20 balls in 20 minutes and changing tasks every five balls become too easy. We need to increase the challenge point to maintain cognitive stress while sustaining learning. The way to do this is by increasing both spacing and variability.

For example, your five-ball sets now become three-ball sets, and you must sink a 3-foot putt between each set. We also should reduce the parameters on the biofeedback, again upping the challenge point as successful reps are now harder to achieve.

At some point, you will need to test the new movement pattern in a wider context along with the addition of stress. This is when you begin to look at training to perform.

Training to perform

Increase context – Golf is a problem-solving game that takes place in an extremely variable environment. You may be able to access the desired swing motion of a flat lie, but can you adapt it to a ball-above-feet stance from the semi-rough with a crosswind?

When training to enhance performance, we must make every effort to recreate and simulate situations we will be faced with on the course. This will help us regulate learning as we develop the ability to chunk information.

Chunking information is putting together multiple pieces of information to create a complete picture. Developing the ability to chunk helps us learn how to access and adapt new swing movement in the context of the golf course. The absence of it drastically decreases our ability to perform.

Gamification – Games have outcomes, just like a golf tournament. Practice that does not contain outcomes will not help us prepare to perform; instead, it is extremely tough to inoculate the stress response that can occur under the pressure of playing for a score if we have not experienced this type of response in training.

If golfers fire their stress response, it is highly likely that their golf motion will become impeded, and the desired motion (the learned motion) will regress back to its old pattern. Therefore, when training to perform, we must implement outcome goals for our training games to determine if the player has the ability to access the new motion under this type of stress.

The ultimate goal is not to perfect a golf swing. Rather, the goal is to be able to learn how to adapt your generalized motor pattern to both the environmental and psychological demands of the golf course. Learning to adapt during training to perform is equally as important as evolving movement during training to learn.

WARNING! Unfortunately, the learning performance continuum is not as linear as we are currently making it appear. Often, players have to move back a step on the continuum, and some may even find themselves stuck in the gray area between learning and performance.

Fear not ‒ here are two great ways to utilize K-Coach to determine whether you are ready to step forward or backward in this learning continuum.

  1. Removal of all biofeedback ‒ Remove all biofeedback and ask students to perform a successful rep. When they feel they are within the desired movement parameter, they will provide a verbal expression. If the coach is happy with both the data provided by K-Motion and the students’ verbal expression, the students can then proceed to hit a shot with the increased challenge of striking a ball ‒ while still trying to achieve the desired change in movement.

  2. Speed variability testing – The goal of speed variability testing is to find out the maximum speed at which a student can maintain the desired movement patterns. As swing speed increases, the student’s ability to maintain this pattern is challenged, thus providing insight into how effectively he or she has learned the new movement.

Using these two tests, you can now make a more insightful decision into which phase of training the student should engage in next. Will the student step back toward learning or progress to training to perform?

K-Motion

During the training to learn phase, feedback from the vest is a vital component in assisting us with learning.

However, several questions remain. Am I ready to train to perform? Can I move away from the gray areas that lie in the removal of the feedback?

This answer is likely yes. Furthermore, at this point, the golfer should be engaging in a contextual game, but he or she should still be wearing the vest to collect data.

On completion of the game, and only on completion, review the data collected on your movement and compare it to the desired data. If you performed well during the game and achieved the desired movement data, you may be ready to make your way to the course and undertake the challenge, space, variability and context provided by a live golf competition.

If your movements regressed, perhaps you still require more training to learn and should return to a movement-based circuit with the aid of biofeedback.

Whichever it may be, rest assured that both understanding the learning performance continuum and having K-Motion as your guide will create the optimal environment for your golfing education.

******

Our mission is to educate and inspire the golfing world to think differently and train differently. We want to take what the learning sciences and research in to human performance are telling us, make it accessible, digestible and practical for golf coaches and golfers across the globe.

Learn more about team GLT at www.gltgolf.com

Mason Mullally
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