Coaching Young Athletes

May 16, 2014 Jon Roy

Igniting Passion for the Game

Helping Young Athletes Learn to Love Learning Golf.

At first glance, the junior practices we run through “Golf Performance Coaches” may look very different from what you may have witnessed or experienced in other junior golf programs.  As you sit in the clubhouse after dropping off your child, you may be surprised to see children running around the driving range chasing soccer balls.   It may surprise you to see tennis balls being hit, kicked or thrown by all the children.  You may see them playing games around the green and giving each other high fives or celebrating a great shot.  You may see rows of young athletes hopping, skipping and jumping across the tee deck.  And it’s all by design.

One of the great tragedies we see in junior golf instruction is a one-dimensional approach to coaching which studies the golf swing in isolation from the game.  In this formula, children are told what they’re doing wrong and then told how to fix it.  This is a uni-directional approach to teaching young athletes which overlooks many facts about learning golf, not least of which is the realization that this approach simply isn’t any fun for the young learner.  Imagine being a young person, trying to master a  new sport, and spending the whole time in fear of getting something wrong.  Isn’t that similar to the memory of all the bad teachers you’ve had through your school days?

In reality, kids don’t need to be told what they are doing wrong, but rather they need to be given an environment where they can discover for themselves how to do it right.  Learning is a two-way street, at least.

Sport-specific skills in golf, and in other sports, are built around fundamental movement skills that transcend all sport.  Young athletes will become great golfers not by focusing on their backswing, but rather by fostering a love for the game and for sport in general.  Developing fundamental movement skills at an appropriate age will lay an athletic foundation which will allow the athlete to learn the game of golf with greater ease and enjoyment when, and if, they decide to specialize in that one sport later in their teens.

Fundamental movement skills are composed of:
  1. Traveling Skills – jumping, hopping, skipping, running, and climbing
  2. Object Control Skills – kicking, striking, throwing, catching, and dribbling
  3. Balance Movements – twisting, spinning, landing, dodging, and rolling

Many parents who watch our sessions for the first time are often surprised by how much time we spend playing games that are seemingly unrelated to golf. Our method is by design.  Our goal will be to turn kids into athletes first and golfers second.  Too often, kids do not develop basic fundamental movement skills because they are thrown into sport-specific, golf-skill development programs only.  Kids are not physically and mentally equipped to handle this type of curriculum, and it usually leads to undesirable consequences like burnout, over-use injuries, dislike of the game, and aversion to future instruction.

In our coaching sessions you won’t see children hitting golf balls for 90 minutes, nor will you see teachers telling kids what to do.  Most of our athletes wouldn’t last ten minutes before expressing boredom if we did that.   Instead, we might have the players engage in a game of golf baseball, tennis, or tug of war, and then have them hit shots that curve one way or another.  The activities we use in our practices all share rotational velocity “DNA” with golf.  For instance, a baseball swing and a tennis forehand both require a weight shift, trunk rotation, wrist hinge and a strike. All of those are found in the golf swing. This type of cross training allows us to teach the basic movements of golf, without having to talk about them.  It’s one thing to let someone drive a car, it’s another thing to open up the hood, explain how the mechanics work, and go into detail about why one’s mechanics are not ideal.  Our experience with kids tells us to let them drive the car with the hood down…

The programs we offer to young athletes will not only help your child to develop to their full potential in golf, but it will also improve their skills in other sports and will enhance their quality of life and health. Kids who participate in our programs will develop a love for golf and will be introduced to the sport in a fun learning environment.  It is important for kids to have fun at this age.  It can be tough to resist the urge to tell them how to do it, but the reality is they will be better served if we can just support them while they work to figure it all out on their own.  Provide them with a great athletic base (FMS) and let them bring these skills to whatever game they love.  To get them playing golf at a later age, we as parents and coaches need to associate the sport with something that is fun and fascinating.  Ignite the passion for the sport and watch as our young athletes figure out how to get the ball in the hole as quickly as possible.  This is how we can create a generation of players who love the game and play it well…

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Comments (3)

  1. raymond roy

    another great article;wish I was young again and be able to participate in programs like yours.Keep up the good work.

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