One of the greatest joys of teaching is contributing to a person’s success and to see them experience the same enjoyment from accomplishment that I have. Another great joy is learning from teaching. I find that instruction is often an experimental process of watching and waiting to see which instructions resonate and which ones don’t. It’s like standing in a Petri dish and seeing what grows.
New achievements are worthy of celebration but to be honest, I don’t take much credit for my student’s successes. This might be because as much as I learned from Moe Norman and give him credit for showing me the path to a great golf swing, I’m the one that did the work. Moe didn’t get me out of bed at 5 am or drag me to the range to hit 800 balls. I did that. Sure, Moe encouraged me and helped me when I asked. I am surely grateful for that. But I still did the work.
In a recent lesson with my student Reed Howard who I believe is inches away from being on a Tour stage, one of my other students commented that Reed was lucky to work with me. I thanked him but quickly dismissed my importance.
“Reed is doing the work; I am just shedding light on the subject,” I said.
That is what teachers do. We shine a light on the path and find ways that the student can travel with haste. If he steps off track, we simply point him toward the light. It’s the student’s job to keep walking the path.
Sometimes staying on track is hard and seems impossible. The path is riddled with obstacles, even boulders. In one practice session last week in Phoenix, Reed made 1600 swings. (This included 1200 practice swings and 400 balls).
My students took notice of how much time he spent rehearsing the swing and not hitting actually hitting balls.
Here is what he says about practice:
“Practice is like pounding a rock. It’s like a boulder. You keep hitting it and it seems like nothing happens. Then one swing breaks the entire boulder into pieces. You must keep hitting the rock until it breaks. Sometimes you are so close and you stop hitting. You can never stop pounding the rock”.
He gives Gregg Popovich credit for the “Pounding the Rock” analogy. I give credit to Reed for teaching it to me. It is a fitting analogy for what I experience as a teacher. But we can take the analogy of a step further.
Sometimes the student is attempting to do too much at once. He is carrying too heavy of a load. Maybe the student is trying too hard or focusing on the wrong things. Maybe she is distracted or not paying attention. An important function of a teacher is to lighten the load and teach the student to step back on the path. To do this you might need to lessen the weight and lift the rock off of the students back.
There is no question that Moe Norman pounded rocks when he learned his swing. It was the first thing he said to me when I met him. I asked him how he learned his amazing golf swing.
“Hard work, you can’t buy it,” He said.
As much as we would like, nobody can hit the rock for you. This is because everyone has their own challenges to overcome. Inside the rock is each individuals goal. Just as Moe knew, you are on your own journey and must pound your own rock and breakthrough yourself to reach your potentials.