England (East) Region
02 Feb 17
Stoke by Nayland PGA Professional Roly Hitchcock has completed five years of study to become one of the country’s most qualified golf coaches. And he admitted: “It’s all to ensure we get more people playing the game.”
Hitchcock is now one of only half a dozen golf coaches in Great Britain and Ireland who have been awarded the PGA Level 4 UK Sports Coaching certificate from Birmingham University.
He said: “It was a lot of work – more than five years in all. It was very involved. I remember getting to the fourth day and suddenly realising the enormity of what I had taken on. But I am really glad that I hung in there and completed level three and four because the benefits are definitely worth it.
“I learned so much on the course that I can put into use on a daily basis. And because there were expert coaches from other sports like cricket and football taking the course at the same time, I also learned a great deal from them. I got a fascinating insight into how they go about coaching effectively, especially in a team environment.”
Hitchcock, who is England Golf’s East Region Girls Under 16 coach, revealed part of the coaching involved putting himself back into the position of being a student.
“We looked at so many aspects of coaching over the months and years,” he said. “You had time to reflect on how effective you are as a coach, thinking about what it is like to be a student again, considering how they learn best and in what kind of environments.
“There was so much to learn on creating the right kind of culture for coaching. Because ultimately what you want is groups encouraging each other, but also challenging each other.
“During the WPGA International Challenge at Stoke by Nayland last year, I invited a couple of the professionals to come over to the practice ground and give the county girls a masterclass. Experiences like that really motivate. It all helps to build the right environment where players can learn and achieve.”
Hitchcock said the course even looked at effective practice – and this was another moment when rubbing shoulders with other sports helped the depth of learning.
He said: “The cricket guys had been out to India and watched teams there practice. In India the practice nets are not on the side of the pitch – they are in the centre. They do everything they can to recreate the realism of bowling or facing balls on a match day.
“It made me look at the importance of recreating competition conditions on the practice ground. How to prepare for each session. How to focus harder on each ball in a realistic pressurised environment, applying skills challenges to each ball you hit.”
But it was the presentation at the end of Hitchcock’s five-and-a-half years that was most important to him - and Stoke by Nayland, who part funded his studies.
The Essex County Boys coach said: “My presentation at the end of the course was all about how you can set up different coaching and membership experiences to suit the many different golfers there are out there. By creating a variety of programmes for coaching and memberships you have more chance of drawing people into the club – and then keeping them interested once you have.”
Family taster sessions at Stoke by Nayland a perfect example. While kids are involved in games-based learning, parents are brought together to socialise and have coaching sessions as well.
“There are so many ways you can achieve the aim of reaching out to all the different communities. I see the golf experience as being like an escalator that will keep taking students and members up through their golf journey.”