Since 2006, Golf Canada has brought on a team of trained professionals to head up the sport science department for the high performance teams.
The support staff is comprised of four professionals: Jason Glass (Strength & Conditioning), Greg Redman (Physiotherapist), Adrienne Leslie-Toogood (Psychologist) and Nicole Springle (Nutritionist). Together, they address the sports science needs of all 20 athletes on the men’s and women’s National Team and Development Squad.
The golf swing is a fluent, elegant motion that requires the body to work in full unison to hit the right shot. What does that mean exactly? Head down, shoulder’s square, knees slightly bent, leading arm straight, hands turn on impact – you get the picture.
All of these movements take a toll on the golfer, especially professionals and the athletes of Canada’s Amateur Team, who take up to 10,000 swings a WEEK.
The job of the Sports Science staff is to address the areas of the golfer that are affected by the growing frequency of swings required to remain competitive and continue improving.
Strength training & physiotherapy
Physical fitness has become a necessity to compete at the highest level. Building strength and balance helps the golfer hit the ball further, shape shots easier and stay healthier.
“Essentially, Greg (Redman) and I are looking for a dysfunction with the athletes – if we find one, we begin to break it down at a very basic level and then start to piece it back together” said Jason Glass, Strength & Conditioning Coach. “The two of us must work hand-in-hand because if he (Greg) resets a movement, it is pretty much useless unless we reinforce it”.
Redman elaborated on the comments of Jason Glass, explaining their working relationship in more detail.
“The golf swing is said to have the same principles to some degree – but these guys are all very different machines” he explained. “Whether male or female – some are bigger, some are taller, some are smaller. Jason and I need to create a different plan for each athlete accordingly”.
What is the most common strength issue they encounter? Stability. They explained that most golfers don’t have the inherent stability that they need to generate the energy for a powerful golf swing.
Team Canada’s athletes are also advised to follow proper nutrition plans in order to keep their bodies healthy and strong. However, each individual requires their own unique plan based on their needs, preferences, food availability and habits.
“I always remind my athletes that my ultimate goal in working with them is that nutrition will not even be a factor when they get into competition” said Nicole Springle, Team Nutritionist. “Poor nutrition should be the LAST reason that something goes wrong out on the green because out of all the factors that can play a role in your performance, nutrition is one that is completely in your control.”
Springle continued with further insight into the strategy behind her athlete plans.
“I think people often miss the fact that athletes are real people. Some people I talk to seem to think that athletes just go around eating tuna and protein powder. Athletes live regular lives too, they go to birthday parties, they like chocolate, they go out for dinner…if you don’t build flexibility into an athlete’s diet and teach them how to make appropriate choices in any given situation, not just the ideal one, the changes they make are often short lived.”
A large part of golf is mental – time in between shots, course management, assessing your lie, awareness of the scorecard/leaderboard and so on. The mental side of the game requires attention, especially as it becomes more complicated for amateur athletes as they enter more and more competitions. Enter Adrienne Leslie-Toogood, Team Psychologist.
“We all have vulnerabilities and the better we know ourselves and our natural tendencies, the better able we are to manage those when they get in the way of performance” she said. “Golf is unique because they cannot get their energy out by slamming someone into the boards. They have to learn to manage their emotions prior to the next shot, and they have to be aware of how their decisions might impact choices they make on the course”.
Leslie-Toogood meets individually with the athletes of Team Canada at each training camp, helping them calm their body and mind through biofeedback training.
“I have them complete some assessments that allow them to learn more about themselves and what this might mean for how they respond in pressure situations” she said.
To conclude, Leslie-Toogood shared a philosophy that she likes to follow.
“Most people confuse my work as helping the athletes become ‘mentally tough’. I prefer to think of it as resilient.”