You are in your office, or behind the counter of the pro shop, or maybe on the driving range finishing your lesson and waiting for the next lesson. Wherever you are, your lesson starts when you immediately see your student, or students, approaching you.
You are now in teaching mode. No words are used as you are analyzing the visual aspects of the approaching student. The student is giving you signals, or body language, as to their personality and emotional state.
As the student approaches, you study the following:
- The walk: Is their walk smooth or jerky? Do they move athletically? Is their stride long or short and jerky? Smooth walkers usually will have a smoother flow to their body movements, and perhaps their golf swing. Short-stride walkers will usually take a short backswing and rush the swing.
- How is the balance of the student while moving? Balance is the most vital ingredient to skill movement, and not just in athletics. If there is a balance problem, that is going to be your first approach to the golf swing.
- Does the walking stride show nervousness? Is the head sagging down or gazing around side-to-side? Such may signal a lack of confidence or an embarrassment in the fear of not being able to do well. This will require an assurance by you to make the student feel comfortable and more at ease. One of the things an instructor has to do is make the student feel a little more self-assured by having the student realize that many shots and attempts will go wrong and not to feel embarrassed when it happens. Mistakes are part of the learning process. The student must leave their ego at home.
The student must realize the lesson is fun and learning is fun. Maybe a little humor will ease the student, but be careful, as humor is only humor if the student interprets it as humor.
Some students will show too much ego and be aggressive and demand better results. Sometimes this is shown in their aggressive walk towards you and how they approach your personal space by standing too close to you with an “in your face” attitude.
The student’s attire may also show some personality: the style of clothes, how the clothes fit the body. Color may show a comfortable, conservative attitude, or a flamboyant attitude with loud colors. Comfortable clothes may show a relaxed nature, while tight-fitting clothes project a certain image for fashion. Loose, comfortable clothes may indicate an easy manner and a possible easy golf swing. Tight clothes may indicate the possibility of a tight, restricted swing. A fashion-conscious-attired person maybe very aware of their looks, and as a result will be concerned in how their golf swing looks to others.
The handshake can tell a lot. A firm handshake is ideal and may be a clue to their gripping the golf club. Too strong a handshake may well mean that the student is tight and believes in overpowering the golf club. A weak handshake may show a lack of needed strength in swinging the club. However, sometimes women use a weak handshake in the false impression of trying to be feminine and lady-like until they get the chance to swat the ball, as some may use vigor and perhaps borderline violence.
Voice can be a key to personality. A loud voice may mean self-centeredness in trying to be in control and the center of attention. Such a student often ends up dissecting the instructions in an attempt to show superiority in knowledge of the golf swing. It is amazing how some students, more so with men, want to tell the instructor how well versed they think they are in the golf swing.
If a person is too passive in their voice, the student may be shy, with a fear of failure, and produce tentative attempts in swinging at the golf ball. Some may find smashing the golf ball as therapy in the release of tension and frustration. A smashed bucket of balls may leave a good feeling.
We have just analyzed the student. Now, we will look at how you, the teacher, should convey yourself to the student. This is highly important to the student, as a good image will give the student confidence and satisfaction that things will go well.
- Thesmile. Your first contact naturally should be a smile that wrinkles right up to the eyes. Lack of eye wrinkle usually indicates a false smile, as just the lips move. No matter how bad your day, do not indicate such to the student. The student is not interested in your bad day.
- Look your student in the eyes. If you look away, do it slowly, and not as if it is boredom or the student being insignificant.
If there is more than one student, move your eye contact to all members of the group, so each student receives equal eye contact time. If a student receives little or no eye contact, they will feel ignored by the teacher. Being ignored is deadly.
It should be noted that eye contact and smile work together for a comfortable relationship. Eye contact and no smile may make one feel uneasy. Eye contact with no smile may show uncertainty in your emotions or feelings to the student. It may be the old “Evil Eye” of Li’l Abner comic strip fame. Eye contact and a smile are comfortable to the student.
Remember, too much staring or too little staring at your student will also make the student uneasy and uncomfortable. Too much staring may give the student a feeling that you are scrutinizing them. Too little eye contact may show disinterest.
- Body position. Always face the student with your full body. This way, the student feels they have your full attention and interest. With half a body facing the student, the student will feel you want to move away from them.
- Do not fidget, wiggle, twitch, squirm, or scratch. Be careful of hand movement, as it may signal disinterest. Standing confidently shows you are interested in helping them. Habitual good posture is the first mark of a good and confident teacher. Poor posture shows disinterest and lack of attention to the lesson, and may also indicate your poor attitude.
When you meet a student for the first time, it is a formal meeting, and not an old longtime-friend meeting. Informality will come with time, so do not push the friendship in a back slapping attitude. Over-doing the friendship aspect may give the student an uncertainty of you.
What you have just read are tendencies. Individual tendencies vary with each individual, so do not overreact on one tendency. Usually, accurate readings occur when more than one signal or tendency prevails.