I just came across an online article published in GolfDigestWOMAN, (dated May 2012) by Stina Sternberg, that asks the question: Women Golfers: Wired to Fail? It focuses on the recent research of British PGA Pro, Sue Shapcott that presents the fact that women golfers, especially those new to the game are convinced that they’re going to fail at golf!
What???!!! Tell me it isn’t so. It’s true that I’ve had my share of discouraging moments out there on the golf course. (My last round had me in the trees more than once.) But, like most of my golfing friends, I play for the fun, the networking and the chance to just get outside and play for a few hours in the sunshine.
Perhaps a lot of this expectation of failure has to do with the internal/external motivation for why a woman would even want to play the game. But this is just from my casual observation of women golfers with whom I’ve played. The golfers who keep coming back week after week do so for the love of the game, not for the scores. (Though it is always nice to win those token prizes or $ in the pro shop at the end of a round.)
What Sue Shapcott is doing is serious research. She is a doctorate student in Educational Psychology at ASU, and is using Attribution theory to study hundreds of golfers (men and women, both advanced and new) to determine whether they see their golf game performance as something they can control and improve; (adaptive attribution) or as something over which they have little or no control and improvement is just not possible; (maladaptive attribution).
That’s about as far as I want to go with presenting the scientific theory behind the study. You should read the article itself for more specifics.
The study is still a work in progress but the results so far are impressive. Here is just one factoid (the bold italic type is mine):
Shapcott’s study found that most men, even rank beginners, never perceive themselves as being unsuccessful, while most women do. “That alone is interesting, and from a motivational perspective speaks volumes,” Shapcott says.
Why is this true??? One possible explanation offered by Shapcott is what she calls “Stereotype Threat.”
“‘Stereotype Threat’ is when we belong to a group that’s expected to underperform, and when we’re reminded of that in either a conscious or an unconscious way, then we do underperform,” she says. “Studies have been done with women in math and science, with white men playing basketball, with African-Americans and academics, and it’s a real phenomenon. So, in my mind, women when they go and play golf are always under this stereotype threat, based on this culture and this environment.”
What should we do with this information? This study is very timely in light of the PGA’s emphasis on bringing more women and families into the game of golf. (Read one of our earlier posts from the PGA show this past January. Guess Who The PGA Is Counting On To Save The Golf Industry) How can this information help improve the chances that a woman who begins to play golf, will feel positive about the experience and want to keep playing? Not only that, but what about women encouraging their friends, spouse, kids to get out there and play the game?
Having been an instructor for Hank Haney’s golf academy in Dallas, Sue knows the importance of positive encouragement when it comes to teaching golf to women. “Women golfers take more lessons than any other percentage of the golfing population, so as golf instructors, we’ve got a really good chance of doing something about their motivation and the attributions they make.”
Sue is continuing her research and for the next year and a half is collecting feedback from golfers of all abilities. You can assist her by taking part in the short survey for her study by clicking here. Your answers are anonymous.
What do you think? Do you think women are predisposed to fail at golf? Does the “Stereotype Threat” really exist? Add your comment in the space below.