Let The Kids Play
One of the hardest conversations we have as coaches is a parent who is “too involved.” No parent will admit to it, but we see it all too often in our Academies. Before I go any further I would like to say that many times parents have good intentions behind it or have no idea what they are doing could be hurting their junior. Not allowing your junior to learn by self discovery will hurt them in the long run. Ask questions, but never tell them what to do.
One of the juniors favorite rules in the Academy is the No Parents In Class rule. This is because the juniors (under supervision of the coaches) are able to make their own decisions, learn from trial and error, and not have any pressure from parents. Without parents around juniors around the ages of 7-16 will try new things, not be embarrassed by mistakes, and be more social with their friends. This creates an environment that fosters creativity and learning. The right environment takes a lot of work to create and can be taken away easily.
Our Operation 36 Golf Matches are the only piece of the puzzle that parents are welcome to attend. Parents want to see their junior do well and pass their division, sometimes at the detriment of long term growth for the juniors. One of the worst things you can do for a junior is to give them the answers and tell them what to do.
Many of these answers include: where the putt breaks, what club to use, where to aim, mechanics on the course (this one is probably the worst), and how to hit different shots from different lies. Not giving your juniors the answer may result in them shooting a higher score (on occasions) but they will become much better for it.
Ask questions. Never tell a junior what to do. Guidance on the course is fine, but let juniors learn to adapt to their own game. “Johnny, go mark your ball.” “Start reading your putt so you can be ready after your partner hits.” Statements like that are an essential part of how the game works. This is guidance and is important. If a junior makes a decision, simply say, “That was a great try, what can we do different next time.” Critical thinking is a necessary skill in golf. If you rob them of that young, they will always rely on someone else for the answers.
Another example of this was a junior I caddied for once. He was 7 and playing from 50 yards. Every hole I asked him what club he wanted to hit and just about every hole he changed his mind. On the 3rd hole I asked him and he said he wanted to hit driver. In that moment, I could have crushed his dreams and told him no. I could’ve said it would go to far and he doesn’t need to hit it, but I let him take a swing at it. He hit a monster driver over the green. He looked at me like he couldn’t believe it and I said, “Great shot! What could we do differently next time so we don’t hit it over the green?” He replied, “I don’t think I need to use driver till I get back to 100 yards.” The student left that day happy because he was able to make his own decision, tell his dad about how he smashed one over the green, and learned something in the process.