What is the Protégé effect?

It’s no secret that the act of explaining something to someone else greatly increases your understanding of the subject matter. When this happens, you’ll recall the information more accurately and apply it more effectively.  In fact, both Stanford University and Vanderbilt University are actively engaged in research studies to understand why this is and their research shows that this method may actually be one of the BEST ways for you to learn yourself. 

Growing up you learn from your parents and older siblings and they learn by sharing their knowledge of a subject with you.  When I first learned to play golf it was not hours of lessons that got me going, it was playing a few holes with my Dad and older brother and watching what they did.  It was easy for me as my father was left-handed so I could stand in front of him and simply mimic what I saw.  This is exactly what happened to Phil Mickelson, he is a right handed in everything he does but golf, when young he simply stood in front of his father and mimicked him. 

This is why to excel at anything you need to find a buddy that you can practice with that is just a little bit better than you.  It is always amazing to me how golfers are more focused and learn faster when they can create this kind of learning environment.  I am not saying you don’t need a coach or don’t take lessons, but I do believe that family and friends can teach you as well, and in doing so the research clearly shows that they will get better by sharing their knowledge with you.

As a coach, I have been fortunate to work and play with some of the best golfers in the world. In doing so I have helped them achieve their goals but they undoubtedly have helped me achieve mine, as I have always learned as much from them as they have from me.  The bottom line is surround yourself with people that constantly enable you to learn from their actions and don’t ever be afraid to share what you know as this is how you learn as well.

In Dan Coyle's “Little Book of Talent” he talks about five ways to pick a teacher or coach.

  1. Avoid someone who reminds you of a courteous waiter, (You want a coach that tells you the truth no matter how hard that may be to hear).
  2. Seek someone who scares you a little, (That you respect).
  3. Seek someone that gives you short, clear direction, (Chunks of information).
  4. Someone that loves the fundamentals, (The basis of learning anything).
  5. Pick someone older or better than you, (They bring experience and wisdom).

This book is packed with great advice for any athlete or coach and I highly recommend it.  His research and knowledge makes him one of my Protégé’s.

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