Play Less to Play Better

February 12, 2014 Jeff Overholt

There has been much debate about the amount of time it takes to reach an elite level in any discipline. The goal of this post is to elicit thoughts about how we approach competition schedules for our young athletes.  Competitions offer a critical component of a young athletes experience of the game, and the building of a suitable competition calendar should be a major focus of any training plan.

At the end of the day, what we have come to realize is that “Excellence takes time” (one of the new 10 Key Factors in the Canadian Sport for Life LTAD model which I will be referencing in future posts).   The key becomes how we spend our time on the journey to excellence…

One of the ways to slow the rate of skill development in any youth athlete is to expose them to a high frequency of games / competition at a young age and neglect the countless number of hours that are needed in training physical & technical skills. This is particularly true between the ages of 8 – 12, as research has shown that just prior to hitting their “Peak Height Velocity” kids are able to develop skills (i.e. chipping, putting, tee shots, deadlift, squat etc.) at an accelerated rate.

Overcompetiting and undertraining is becoming a norm in many sports and can ultimately lead to sport burnout, increased injuries, and physical and mental fatigue.  Often these symptoms result in the athlete leaving the sport.

Imagine that we think of competitions like an exam at school, an opportunity to “test” skills rather than develop them. You could only imagine how difficult it would for a grade 9 student to experience success in a subject if they had exams every week.  Not only would the student lack time to prepare, but you can image the toll this would take on the student’s body, both physically and mentally.

In Canada, we are at a time when we work with players and families to help support them with designing their competitive schedule for the upcoming golf season. We feel that it is important for the junior golfer to take ownership of the selection process as it will help them to understand at what time throughout the season they need to be “peaking” (very similar to a student understanding when exam’s occur during an academic year).

We encourage our players to take the following approach when building their competitive schedule:

Step #1: Identify “major” competitions – typically 2 – 5 provincial and national level events for most competitive junior golfers.

Step #2: Select “secondary” competitions – 2 – 5 smaller regional level events which grant players “Order of Merit” points for provincial and national rankings.

Step #3: Fill in calendar with 5 – 10 regional and local competitions to help prepare player for their “majors” – these would be competitions at the players home club or golf courses which they have experienced success at in the past.

Once the player’s schedule is in place the coach can now help them peak for competitions through various strategies.  One of the key strategies is “tapering” – a special training period immediately before a major tournament during which the training and practicing is decreased to achieve a peak in performance. More scientifically, tapering produces a superior biological state characterized by ideal health, quick adaptability to training, and a very fast rate of recovery. Tapering is a strategy that has been a norm in other sports but has been seldom used in golf.

Tapering for a junior golfer would typically consist of the following strategies:

Recommended Time period: 3 – 4 Days prior to competition

  • Physical Training: Reduced to excellent warm-ups and cool down
  • Golf Practice: Elevate intensity (quality repetitions) and slightly decrease volume, frequency (# of sessions), and duration (shorter time) – Ensure to spend the majority of your time simulating competition conditions in practice. Please reference post on “Deliberate Practice Essentials” for ways to ensure golf practice is high quality.
  • Stress: Eliminate all stress!!! Unload all stress from your life outside the athletic arena.
  • Rest: Extra sleep and recovery – ensure that you are never training if you are fatigued.
  • Nutrition/Hydration: Consume high quality foods (stay away from processed foods) and ensure you maximize water intake.

Implementing these strategies prior to competition will ensure that the athlete’s body and mind are fully ready to handle the demands of the competitive environment and have the best opportunity to succeed.

Please contact us if you need any support selecting the appropriate competitions for your junior golfer and navigating the competitive junior golf landscape in Canada.

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