Motor Learning, Podcast, Season 1

Find Your Best Challenge Point with Dr. Mark Guadagnoli and Dr. Chris Bertram

Today we’re talking all about finding your optimal challenge point that enables you to set yourself up for success during a round, and not just during practice.

We’re hearing from one of the authors of the paper on Challenge Point, Dr. Mark Guadagnoli and colleague (and college golf coach) Dr. Chris Bertram.

Finding your challenge point

  Think about it like lifting weights; if you are lifting weights and it’s easy, you are not improving.

That makes perfectly good sense from a physiological perspective. We don’t think about it from a cognitive perspective, but it’s the same thing. If you do ten reps of a bench-press, it’s really only the last three or four reps where you are struggling that help you grow. 

This concept holds true for any kind of learning. In this bench-press example, if you struggle on the very first rep, then that is too much of a challenge.

This isn’t a desirable level of difficulty, it exceeds it. And so we have the sort of goldilocks complex where there is a sweet spot right in the middle – not too much not too little, and I think part of the art of teaching is finding that sweet spot of difficulty.

How this might look

With a novice player, someone who is just beginning or someone who doesn’t play a lot of golf, the struggle for them takes place every time they swing the club or swing the putter because they are not very good. And so repetition there in doing the same thing over and over again is a significant amount of struggle for somebody at that skill level.

But for expert level, collegiate level varsity golfers, a challenge for them comes in different ways. What is the best practice for you at one point, may not be the best practice for you at another point. One of the things that you see people do a lot of times is they’ll practice the same way over and over and over again, and what challenge point says is that you reach this point of diminishing returns if you are doing that.

And that’s why a lot of people will tend to get better and then level off because they haven’t continued to challenge themselves along the way.

MINDSET of practice

The mistake that people make is to think that when they are practicing on a range that it’s not about their mindset, but if you do it correctly, it is absolutely about your mindset.

You learn how to deal with stress, frustration,  and success. You learn how to deal with all those if you are practicing correctly, and then you just bring that onto the course. It really should never be something where you decide you are going to create a mindset on the course.

This should be created before you ever get there and it should be practiced, and you should have learned it by the time you get there. From that point it’s just a matter of executing it. There’s frustration that happens with this during a round, but there’s also the frustration that can happen during practice and in how you deal with that frustration, you start to demonstrate how you are going to deal with it on the course.

It really becomes a more holistic way of practicing; it’s both the mind and body working together to learn.

About our guests

About Dr Mark Guadagnoli

markguadagnoliCheck out Dr Guadagnoli’s book Practice to Learn, Play to Win
Dr. Mark Guadagnoli has worked in industry and academia for over two decades and has taught at several universities including Harvard University, UCLA, UNLV, and USC. He has been featured in the New York Times and other international publications.

Dr. Guadagnoli specializes in optimizing performance, communication, leadership, and learning and has received numerous awards for this work in (multiple time Student of the Year, Teacher of the Year, and Researcher of the Year) and out of the university. In addition to his university work, Dr. Guadagnoli has had an active consulting practice for nearly 20 years. He has worked in the area of corporate optimization with companies such as Zappos.com, where he developed their corporate university, developed and ran executive off sites, and worked on performance optimizations with their executive team.

Dr. Guadagnoli has also worked with companies such as Bose, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Google, Sony, and Panasonic. Dr. Guadagnoli has published more than 100 articles and abstracts and is the author of two books (Human Learning; Biology, Brain, and Neuroscience, and Practice to Learn, Play to Win). Dr. Guadagnoli’s primary line of research is related to the Challenge Point Framework which has been used to teach surgeons, medical professionals, and others who compete in high stress performance situations.

His model of learning shows that appropriate short-term challenges results in long-term and stress resistant learning. He has been invited to present this work around the world including such countries as Canada, China, France, Germany, and Scotland. Dr. Guadagnoli has also worked in performance optimization with athletes in several sports including the USA Olympic Elite Track and Field Coaches and PGA, LPGA, and Nationwide tour winners.

Dr. Guadagnoli is currently a faculty member at UNLV and Senior Scientist at Triad Consulting, Inc.

About Dr Chris Bertram

chrisbertramDr. Chris Bertram is the head coach of the men’s and women’s golf teams at the University of the Fraser Valley.

In Bertram’s 10 years with the program, the Cascades have never missed the podium in the PacWest conference. The men’s team won back-to-back PacWest championships in 2008 and 2009, and topped that by winning three in a row from 2012 to 2014. The women’s team has also excelled in conference play, winning championships in 2013 and 2014.

At the national level, the Cascades’ crowing achievement came in 2013, when the men’s and women’s teams swept the gold medals at the CCAA national championship. Both teams climbed the CCAA podium again in 2014, with the women winning silver and the men taking bronze. UFV has now recorded podium finishes at the six of the past eight CCAA national championships.

Bertram’s passion for golf goes beyond the course, as he also served for 11 years as Director of the Human Performance Centre and as an Associate Professor of Kinesiology at UFV. His research and teaching focus is in the area of motor skill acquisition with an emphasis on the nature of expertise and elite performance in athletes. Bertram has published numerous scientific articles on the game of golf, and recently published a chapter in Science and Golf V. Bertram also meets regularly with golf teaching professionals to discuss how the science of golf applies directly to the teaching and learning of the game. He currently sits on the editorial board for the Annual Review of Golf Coaching and has been featured on the Golf Channel and in the New York Times.

Bertram has a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and a Ph.D. from Simon Fraser University. He was named PacWest golf coach of the year 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2014, and was honoured as the CCAA golf coach of the year in 2013 and 2014.

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