Tour Professional Caddies Double as Sports Psychologists

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New research suggests that the role of a tour professional's caddie is a multi-faceted one. Traditionally, tour caddies role in the caddie-player relationship was to help reduce workload for the player by carrying a heavy tour bag, pacing off yardages for the player, and helping with club selection. Researchers from Australia and England (Lavallee, Bruce, and Gorely, 2004) recently conducted an investigation into the role of the caddie in the caddie-player relationship. The findings suggest that a caddie's role goes beyond just carrying a heavy golf bag.

Tour caddies today are increasing thought of as an important "team player" to help players perform their best. Beyond the obvious duties of a Tour caddie performs, an important role in the relationship is the caddies ability to help golfers stay focused on the golf course, make good decisions, and boost a player's confidence when it's time to execute a golf shot. Enhancing focus, confidence, and decision-making skills are typically tasks that have been carried about by sports psychologists or mental game experts off the golf course to help improve a golfer's performance. However, the relationship between a caddie and tour golfer is critical to enhancing the player's performance and working as a team to produce optimal performance.

The researchers discovered two distinct mental game roles caddie perform that ensure golfers have an optional mental state prior to execution of a golf shot. The first was the caddie's role in helping a golfer be confident in his or her decisions. Caddies help a player to feel confident in club selection, target selection, and general game strategy by confirming and reinforcing a player's decision-making. The second role was the caddie's ability to help maintain an optimal mental state during a four-hour round of golf. The caddie often serves as a "compatriot" as one golfer stated and monitors the player's mental state to ensure that he or she is focused on golf, reacts well to mistakes, and is decisive when it's time to hit a golf shot.

The study suggests that to optimize the relationship, caddies need to be part-time psychologist, part-time cheerleader, part-time mind reader, and part-time coach. The most important psychological role for caddies is to help players be more confident with decision-making during a round of golf. A caddie evaluates the decisions that a player makes and can either agree, disagree, or provide an alternative plan of action. If a caddie is uncertain or displays hesitation or doubt about a player's decision, this can lead to a lack of confidence or commitment on the part of the golfer. On the other hand, a caddie that confirms or reinforces a player's decision can help the golfer be more confident and committed to a plan of action, which is critical for successful execution.

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The decision-making during a golf game is especially important when a player is under pressure or has a chance to win a golf tournament and every shot is perceived a important. If the golfer looks for confirmation from a caddie on club selection or strategy for example and the caddie hesitates or acts uncertain, this can place doubt or indecision in the player's mind increase the chance for errors in execution. The outcome of the caddie-player relationship during shot-making is that the team has an appropriate plan for each shot given the circumstances, are confident in the plan, fully committed to the plan, and is highly focused when it's time to execute the shot.

The researchers conclude that a caddie-player relationship is optimized when a player is familiar and comfortable with a caddie, the goals and responsibilities are clearly defined for the team, and a high degree of trust exists between the player and caddie. This sounds like good teamwork from this author's perspective.

Copyright 2005, eMaxHealth.com

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This article was written by Patrick J. Cohn, Ph.D.

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