I recently watched an episode from Haney Project: Charles Barkley and was unimpressed. No not with the show, I think it is great. But with the process of how Charles is going to fix his swing. After the first meeting Charles was told that he was going to have to do a “Tiger Day.” A “Tiger Day” involves getting up early and hitting thousands of golf balls with breaks to work out and eat. I understand how this works for refining a swing like Tigers (and you’ll understand by the end of this) but it pretty much ignores all modern motor learning research. I am by no means an expert, but if you hang around experts you will pick up a few of these key points. Let me explain what could (or should) have been done with Mr. Barkley.
There are different neurotransmitters in the brain that relate to motor motor patters. One of these is used for “automatic”tasks: Tying your shoes, blinking, and cursing at the ball going out of bounds are all examples of automatic responses fueled by one form of transmitter. A second neurotransmitter is used when learning a new skill that actively involves short term memory. When Tiger is hitting thousands of golf balls, he is doing so with the power of one neurotransmitter. When Charles Barkley is concentrating on making swing changes, he is using the power of acetylcholine, the short term memory and learning jet fuel we have in our brain. Ok, enough of the nerdy stuff, here is what this means.
Charles Barkley (and you) only have enough energy for a small amount of focused effort when learning a new pattern and using acetylcholine. It is actually better, for longevity of the patter, to hit 50 balls with focus over more days than it is to hit large amounts of golf balls in a single session. Tiger day is good for Tiger, but is it good for Barkley? I don’t think so; at least not in the long run. It does make good TV though to see a thousand golf balls teed up and a nearly defeated staring them down the way he did Hakeem “the dream” back in his day. But don’t for a second believe that it is the best way to LEARN a new pattern the way Charles is doing it. On to my second gripe.
Where is the physical assessment??? Charles is going to do boxing to get in golf shape? And Hank Haney is going to allow this? How does that help Charles stop that transition move of diving his head down 2 feet where he looks like he is inspecting the golf ball, like a two year old looking at a lady bug? Well at least he’ll be in a good position to give an upper cut to the golf ball after that move.
Hey, a good offense is the best defense, right? I read an article on ESPN before the show aired and in it the interviewer stated, “But Barkley’s self-taught swing started to deteriorate as he lost flexibility from the series of back and leg injuries that eventually forced him to retire from the NBA in 2000.” Was I the only one that thought, hey if lost flexibility was how his swing went bad, maybe some increased flexibility would help fix it. Maybe Charles could try a little yoga or some other form of golf flexibility would help him have a chance of bringing the club down on plane. Or maybe he could hit 8 hours of golf balls and make golf improvement seem like a full time job. I hope that Charles doesn’t scare off golfers from making potential changes, because it’s really not as hard as he is making it seem