Are you aware that the average PGA Tour player competes in 35 events per season, winning 80% of their annual prize money (tournament revenue) during a 7 week period? So, what are they thinking and doing during the other 28 weeks?
The best player in the history of our sport is the legendary, Jack Nicklaus. He averaged 22 weeks of competition per year, never playing more than 4 weeks in a row. His winning weeks were more than double that of his fellow competitors.
Successful people do not necessarily possess more talent or super natural technique. They have learned how to do things in a certain way, precisely and consistently. (And I’m not talking about golf swing here) Nicklaus certainly has the Pro’s Secret, and I am about to give you more insight into the power of the old cliché, “plan your work and work your plan.”
Summer golf tournament season is soon to be a weekly opportunity for several competitive golfers.
In this blog I will share my thoughts from personal experiences learned from the successes and failures over years of playing and coaching high performance golf. We will also discuss patterns of habit that I have observed with the greatest players in the game, including my mentor, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Annika Sorenstam and Tiger Woods. And finally, I will give you suggestions on how to best organize a competitive schedule in waves, so the athlete peaks during the correct time and can progress stronger through the entire season of golf. Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Yani Tseng, and Annika Sorenstam’s successes provide the proof that a competitive schedule must be organized in waves, to allow the athlete to strategically peak and recover where most advantageous.
In high performance athletics, competitive burnout is a real thing that can cause slumping and a precursor to injury. Burnout in athletes can occur for several reasons, but most commonly when subjected to extended periods of linear stress. Playing seven weeks of tournaments in a row, beating balls from sun up to sundown combined with heavy fitness training, added pressure to perform well by family members and racing against a ticking clock! It can be a fine line between growing through challenge and crossing the threshold into mental and physical exhaustion.
Growth without the potential of burnout can be realized through proper awareness, planning and self control. Scheduling an athlete’s training with varied cycles of development over a defined period of time is commonly referred to as “Periodization Training.”
The first documented Periodization Training is credited to the Russian Olympians of the early 1970’s. They dominated the world in every weight lifting match including the Olympic games, due to the fact that their athletes peaked when most critical. In golf, Jack Nicklaus was the first to focus his schedule so as to peak for the majors and several top performers and coaches have since followed his example of competitive cycling and plan their schedules accordingly.
It was Dr. Jim Loehr, of LGE Sports Science and author of Mental Toughness Training for Life, who shared his knowledge and experiences in wave training for peak performance with me during our involvement in opening the first High Performance Prep School for golfers in 1992. To date, hundreds of athletes later, I have learned the power of cycling an athlete in this way for them to experience their finest performance during their most opportune time.
If success is when preparation intersects opportunity, then planning to be on the correct road at the right time is a reliable map to success.
The graph below illustrates a model cycle that flows through four specific periods and developmental themes: Development, Competitive, Peak and Recovery.
The Development phase can last between one day or as long as one week for athletes that are fundamentally sound and competitive. During this training period the coaches and athletes focus heavily on swing mechanics, physical fitness to include strength training, aerobics and flexibility.
Depending on the athlete, the competitive phase tends to last for 3-5 weeks. During this period the coaching focus turns toward positive thought process, course management, scoring zone and light conditioning. Daily goal setting keeps the athlete focused on attainable results. Positive affirmations, self-talk, diet, hydration, and sleep habits all play a crucial role in the overall performance and are monitored by athlete and coach daily.
Peak performance happens when preparation meets opportunity! Duration is typically 1-2 weeks, it is the period within the performance cycle when the athlete is fundamentally sound, full of positive energy and confidence to peak.
Coaching focus during this period is to keep the athlete mindful of the moment, positive, relaxed and calm. Reminding the athlete to enjoy the journey and aggressive approaching and embracing every challenge.
The average player is winning 80% of their annual prize money within a seven week period. Those focusing on development and recovery during the non-peak times continue to improve. Those that don’t, burn themselves right out of the game!
For a fierce competitive athlete, taking time off whether playing well or playing poorly, can be the toughest discipline of all. Too many athletes want to continue playing when they feel like they are close to winning. Or they fight harder and train longer when they are playing poorly.
It’s hard to be disciplined enough to follow a schedule and stay on course for the long haul of the season, and for the athlete’s long term future. Fear and insecurity are the greatest reasons for not allowing recovery, thinking if time off is taken, the athlete falls further behind. Truth be told calming down will allow the athlete to speed up their quest for high performance.
Recovery is just that. No playing or practice or working out. It is sleep, eating what is desired, and having fun with non-competitive activities. Depending on how the athlete feels, the recovery should be anywhere between one-five days.
The chart above illustrates Tiger’s 2000 season on the PGA Tour by performance and weekly schedule. The vertical axis shows the highest points being his victories and the lowest being time away from the PGA Tour. It is helpful to see performance charted over a 12 month season as often times our perception of what is transpiring is very different to the reality of actual performance for the duration of season and calendar year.
You will notice Tiger’s symmetrical cycling pattern mirrors Annika Sorenstam’s during her 2000 season. This is no coincidence as these great performers strategically planned and trained for peak performance.
The coaching goal with your athlete should be to educate and motivate on the importance of organizing and following a plan and strategy for successful growth. Remember that thoughts become reality and what you give energy will grow. Our coaches assist athletes in preparing for an annual competitive schedule based on their present ability and competitive goals.
The following is an excerpt from Napoleon Hill’s, Think and Grow Rich. A study of successful people found that they were not smarter, or more prepared, or had more opportunities, nor did they have greater resources, they actually failed more often than people who were unsuccessful. Luck does not lead to success, because success cannot be maintained through luck. Defining success has to do with a much larger picture of the person’s life, past, present, and future, and winning the lottery of life, is just an event.
They had one thing in common, they kept plugging away and rarely, if ever, looked at a failure as an end of the line attempt, or even a failure. Science will test and test and test, and as experiments complete, they are not really “failures” just a process that creates data and more data leads to more data.
Successful people learn as they go, to have an attitude of learning and continuing, and eventually find themselves exactly where they want to be.
You now have the information to help your athlete create the wave and ride it successfully toward victory. You have the awareness that every player goes through a cycle of up and down, and that a written strategic plan identifying where the athlete is at present, and what the goals are for a 12-month season breeds confidence and mitigates self doubt, prevents burn out and averts injury, and creates the best possible scenario for peak performance now, and in the immediate future and long term.
We look forward to having your junior golfer here this summer, planning their work and working their plan!
A Top 100 Teacher by Golf Magazine and PGA class-A Professional, Brad successfully competed on the Austral-Asian PGA Tour and Hogan/Nike Tours, developed the training curriculum for high-performance juniors at Saddlebrooke Preparatory and applies these experiences to his teaching and coaching at Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando. Brad was awarded the North Florida PGA Teacher of the Year and Junior Golf Leader of the Year, Edwin Watts Golf Top Instructor Award, along with the honor of Top 50 Instructor in Florida by Golf Digest.