HOW BSI IS ADAPTING DURING LOCKDOWN
By Michael Balderstone, PGA Master Professional
With more than 140 student-athletes across 2 campus and 2 sporting codes, including high school and college education, 2 boarding houses and a 25% international student contingent, the operations at Balderstone Sports Institute (and its sister academy TGSE Cape Town) are complex at the best of times. Add in a global crisis and national lockdown to the recipe, and agility and adaptation become key attributes in maintaining a high performance learning environment. We take a look at how BSI in Johannesburg have taken up the challenge during this unprecedented time, and have exemplified the motto to Train Beyond.
Our golf players and coaching staff have been doing a tremendous job of maintaining the training process. We’ve been using a coaching app called CoachNow for many years as a communication tool between player, coaching team and parents. This app, along with other communication tools has allowed us to maintain effective remote coaching and training during lockdown.
In fact, without a ball flight and tournament performances to worry about we have found in many cases that our players have achieved better technical improvements than under normal conditions.
Every student is having 2 private 30-minute sessions per week with their coach, conducted via WhatsApp Video or Zoom. Those students who have the facility for hitting balls are able to receive live remote lessons. Others are doing technical drills or just a check-in with their coach. Students are able to upload unlimited videos to CoachNow, for their coach to analyse and provide feedback. Each player has also been given a technical drill program to work on during this time.
Each student-athlete is having scheduled private check-ins with our Senior Coach conducted via WhatsApp Video. The players are given new home-training programs at the start of each week. The programs focus mainly on technical elements, and are similar to the programs that the leading clubs and academies in Europe have provided for their players.
Technical ability is a core skill of all successful players, so this time provides an opportunity to focus on these skills. The players are expected to do the programs every day, and are providing video evidence of these exercises being done.
The coaching staff are also conducting group session via Zoom, using video footage to provide tactical learning and motivation for the players. These sessions also maintain the sense a community and team spirit within the group.
Sports Scientist Renee Reinecke is conducting live group fitness sessions for all student-athletes across our football and golf programs. These are conducted via Zoom. Our Study Centre students also start their day at 7.30am with a 20-minute Energizer session, live via Zoom before online classes start at 8am. The student-athletes all have sport-specific and age-specific fitness programs to be working on during lockdown, and Renee has uploaded exercise videos on their CoachNow profiles to assist them with this. Weekly fitness challenges are also being set to encourage competitive spirit. Private live remote sessions are also being done with Renee during this period, through either WhatsApp Video or Zoom.
Head of Performance and Mental Coaching Mark Fairbank is setting weekly mental tasks for the students to submit and provide feedback. Topics so far have ranged from identifying lifestyle areas that are hindering performance, learning to put together a course yardage book, learning from interviews of professional athletes, and the importance of sacrifice for success.
Mark is also sharing motivational videos to inspire desire and learning during this challenging time. Private remote sessions with Mark are also available to the student-athletes, particular for helping them to manage this crisis and come out stronger.
Study Centre Academics
Our high school age students follow the Cambridge Assessments International Education curriculum via on online learner management system even under normal operations, so the transition to remote learning at home has been smoother than for most institutions.
We are following our normal schedule, with study hours from 08:00 – 13:00 Monday-Friday. Academic Supervisors continue to support the content comprehension and progress of each student’s work schedule. This includes daily Zoom video calls involving a check-in on study goals for the day/week, a review of work completed, an opportunity to ask questions and request a private tutoring session.
Specialist tutoring is being conducted in small groups for all core subjects via Zoom. Private tutoring sessions are available on request through our new online ‘Ask the Tutor’ service. Academic Supervisors are engaging with parents every Monday and Thursday.
We’ve introduced a growth mindset motivation programme and an online study skills programme.
Examination skills tutorials and test feedback take place during pre-arranged weekly scheduled sessions in small subject-specific groups. A new BSI academic resource database accessible through Google Classroom will also be coming online soon packed with useful resources to support our students’ education and, ultimately, their examination success.
PGA Diploma College Academics
Our academic lecture schedule is continuing as normal via Zoom on this 3-year college program. All of our lecturers have done a great job in transferring the learning from the classroom to remote format. Subjects being covered across the 3 years this term include custom-fitting, introduction to coaching, and business finance. Assignments are being set as normal and we have sourced some additional golf-specific online courses that the students can do during this time.
We have had to postpone all practical learning for now, such as the charity golf day that our 3rd year students were organising as part of their assessment. The event was due to be played in May, and will hopefully still be held later in the year. We were also due to have 3 students travel to USA for 8 weeks of coaching work experience, but travel and visa restrictions have unfortunately put a halt to that.
One of our 5 key values is Excellence, which we define as Striving to be the best we can be and do the best we can do in all situations.
Throughout this challenging period our student-athletes and staff have personified this value, while also ensuring the health and well-being of all remains a priority.
Our staff have gone beyond expectations to create an exceptional environment of learning in all areas via remote means. Our student-athletes have remained physically active, mentally stimulated and emotionally connected. Our parents have overwhelmingly expressed appreciation for the support provided. Challenging times build character, resilience and make us stronger. Our student-athletes will come out of this as better people and better athletes.