Considerations for LTAD of an Elite, Early Specialized Golfer
Tue Aug 30, 2022 by Liesbeth Pauwels
With nearly 7 years of individualised strength & conditioning, TPI & yoga training under her belt in which I had the pleasure to guide, Noa van Beek (now my alumni) embarks on her overseas American dream as a D1 student-athlete at the Kansas State University. As I reflect on our time together, I wanted to share some lessons I learned from working with such a talented and dedicated athlete.
While Noa van Beek already was into working out at the age of 9, she joined my stable at the age of 12. Our journey began with training sessions together with her younger sister, Fleur van Beek (verbally committed The University of Missouri). Although they only share a 2-year difference in chronological age, their development age was further apart. Because of that we decided after a short period of time of them training together, to focus on one-on-one coaching sessions instead.
BUILD THE ATHLETE FIRST
For the first few years we heavily focused on developing the athlete first, then the golfer. Since she was not doing any other type of sports, except from yearly fun outdoor holiday activities, our training incorporated a lot of throwing, kicking, speed (they didn’t have superspeed back then but yes we already did speed swings), agility, balance, bodyweight strength, coordination, ball games, stamina, suppleness and skill etc. Through her fast adaptation to fundamental movement and sport skills, her swing coach was able to make quicker and better changes to her swing.
Though not playing other sports afforded her time to develop golf skills, my job as her strength coach was to be sure that her training addressed areas of physical development and athletic capacity that playing golf might not.
Since the very beginning, her parents monthly tracked her height and weight. This helped me to maximise on her windows of opportunity.
WHAT GETS MEASURED GETS MANAGED
Not only do I assess on client intake, I screen and evaluate my athletes regularly to track their progress. If the initial assessment indicates that improving a specific physical quality should be a priority - from thoracic mobility to force production - I want to know if my intervention is having the desired effect.
Noa van Beek has been a part of the national team squad since she was 12. This enabled her to receive a few amazing advantages. As part of the national federation team squad programming, a yearly check up with a sports medicine doctor is accounted for. Those check-ups enabled us to make sure optimal health was monitored. Every time she returns from the USA to The Netherlands, she is now fully supported by the national team physio.
She has always been very athletic and was naturally able to get the gross motor patterns down. Her challenge was then in mobility, form and in the correct muscle recruitment. Overall hip mobility, torso rotation, overhead squat and glute bridge were her biggest areas that needed work. Our priority over the years has been preventing and reducing lower back pain and overuse injuries from high training golf volumes. All of these elements have improved but it has taken a lot of work ethic and dedication. The high volumes of one sided explosive rotational golf swings onto a developing body are taxing. Although she still needs to put in the daily amount of effort in mobility and stability for her body to withstand the test of competitive golf, the mobility limitations and disbalances have improved significantly.
Up until PHV we worked with the TPI junior screen which includes SFMA, after that we moved onto the regular TPI screening and later on also added TPI fitness tests. She also has learned how to work with the constant change in hormones from being a female athlete, rather than working against it.
BUILD THE BIGGEST SKYSCRAPER
If we think at physical capacity like a building, we want to build skyscrapers. The larger the building, the more the athlete is able to do. You'd never build a large structure on a weak foundation, therefore when working with a young athlete we should first establish a solid base of strength, mobility, stability, and movement quality.
Through the years Noa van Beek was introduced to and practiced a variety of training systems like: Eldoa, Olympic lifting, strength & conditioning, superspeed, vinyasa yoga, yin yoga, and of course TPI exercises, helping to make her a very well-rounded, durable athlete. Her favourite is heavy lifting like deadlift in which she hit a 3RM of 67kg at the end of the 2021 season.
It was during her senior year of high school that Covid hit. During all lockdowns we continued working out via facetime, which enabled her to experience structure, routine and fun during an uncommon challenging time where (tournament) golf was not an option.
At the start of her college career, she now also understands the signs of her body and has the proper care routines down. These are the routines that enable her to play the sport she loves for a long time, preventing burn out and overuse. She does foam rolling, knows how to do a proper physical warm up that includes activation of the key muscles and movement patterns before playing, has her individualised cool down post 18 holes, understand how to get the most out of her body by fuelling the right way on the course. Additionally, when to elevate during training or when to rest and recover has also empowered her. All super important elements of a long-term successful golf career. Within our LTAD planning and coaching philosophy, I have always encouraged my juniors to explore and learn. To become independent. To help them understand the value of being in a resourceful state. This gives them the bandwidth to develop while I can keep safety boundaries in check. If they are able to take advantage of this, like Noa did, it makes them very powerful athletes.
Unlike other situations which I have encountered over the past decade of coaching golfers, Van Beek her parents have always demonstrated unwavering support throughout my LTAD curriculum. Back in 2015, golf fitness didn’t have the popularity as it has now and many people were still sceptic about it, especially in Europe. Since the very beginning, her parents never questioned whether performance coaching and TPI workouts were good for their 2 daughters. In fact, they encouraged and applauded it! I know this is one of the reasons why both Noa and her younger sister Fleur are very passionate about training and improving their strength, speed, and all other athletic abilities. It makes up for the fact that they show up to my training sessions ready and prepared and are always willing to do what it takes in the session. This has also been a fun challenge as a coach to structure programming in a way that they can push their limits in a safe and nurturing way since they would happily never stop training.
“I started working out when I was nine years old, so I feel over all these years, it has really helped me in my golf game, getting stronger, gaining more speed, more distance. I feel like you really need all those different kinds of aspects, like the nutrition part for your energy on the course, your mental part will, of course, help you, so I feel like you're not going to get the best out of your game if you're not doing all the different aspects.
I have been working with Liesbeth from almost the beginning when I started. And I feel like she really helps me with different kinds of parts of my golf game, the nutrition part, my mental skills, and also my physical parts. I feel like that's something that has improved over the years as well. So it is not only the technical golf part, but also all the other parts, that helps you. Eventually, you will become a better player.
I'm really happy that I was working with Liesbeth, because she has given me so much support for all the different kinds of parts that are needed in competitive golf, which eventually helps my performance. So I feel like working with a more specialized coach has helped me a lot.” - Noa van Beek
Nearly 10.000 hours of dedicated individualised and holistic approach to long term athletic development training for golf provides a super strong fundament for D1 student-athlete Noa van Beek. I’m confident that all of this will enable her to flourish at college workouts, in tournaments, the pace of student-athlete life & beyond the golf course!
Liesbeth Pauwels is a golf performance coach for top amateur and professional golfers. She’s builds strong resilient golfers since 2010. While she’s currently based in Amsterdam, her students are international. ]