Understanding the 3 Stages of Motor Learning and recognizing what stage you’re in, or need to be in, is a vital part of the learning process. Playing your best golf requires you to be able to respond to the shot in front of you with an athletic swing that is without much, if any, mechanical thought or conscious effort. The reality of your development, however, is that there can be a lot of mechanical thinking, inconsistency, disjointed movements, and feeling a lack of athleticism depending on what stage you’re in. This small glimpse into the science of motor learning will help you better manage your mindset and expectations throughout the learning process.
Cognitive Stage – This is the gathering of information stage. Your coach will inform you of what movement pattern you need to develop, why you need to develop it, and how to go about developing it. If you are having trouble understanding a concept, you need to communicate that with your coach until you do. Otherwise, you are less likely to persevere through the struggle if you cannot logically understand the purpose of what you are doing. It is in this stage where you will learn specific drills and the appropriate feedback to use so that you can begin making high repetitions in the learning zone, also known as the Associative Stage.
Associative Stage – This is most likely the stage you will be in the majority of your time at SMART Golf & Fitness. Once you conceptually and clearly understand the movement pattern or sequence of multiple movement patterns your coach wants you to develop, you are ready for this stage. This is where having a Growth Mindset, Deliberate Practice, a correct idea of what to focus on, and what feedback to use is vital in order to transition to the next and most coveted stage.
Autonomous Stage – This is the stage where you use your “golf course swing”. You need to be able to enter this stage when stepping on a golf course or when your coach recognizes that you’ve actually developed your new motor patterns enough to focus on shotmaking. In this stage you should have little to no mechanical thoughts. Your focus should be on what you want the ball to do and not what your body is doing. It is encouranged to look at these stages as a spectrum, and if there is a swing thought that helps you execute better shots, use it! Just keep thoughts to a minimum, especially in the Autonomous Stage.