In life and in golf, our most valuable resource is time. When we’re young, we mistake the fact that fewer obligations means we have ample time to pursue our goals but as we get older, it becomes quite clear that success often depends on our ability to manage our time and use it productively. In a long-term specialization sport like golf, where success takes years of hard work, even younger players need to be careful to use their time wisely.
Several years ago, I created the following illustration as a guide to help our students make better use of the time they allocate to golf.
For competitive junior golfers, dividing golf time into three distinct areas: training, practicing, and competing, can accelerate progress and reduce frustration.
Any activity that requires conscious thought is considered training. Almost all skilled activities require training. Think about the amount of training the military, police, pilots, etc. must undergo to become skilled professionals. Often training can be uncomfortable or fraught with failure. During training, it’s important to put aside expectations and judgement – results are unimportant. Here are some examples of training:
Practice is the bridge between training and competing. It can best be described as the time in which you evaluate and test your results to determine if you need more training or are ready for competition. Although we might be aware of our training goals, practicing gives the opportunity to begin to shift thoughts from the conscious to the subconscious state-of-mind. Here are some examples of practicing:
Players are competing whenever they’re on the course and keeping track of score. When competing, results are all that matter. This means that successful junior golfers must understand the changes in both approach and thought process that need to take place when they leave training and practicing and move to the course. Tour players play their best golf when they quiet their mind over the ball and eliminate technical thoughts. That’s typically something less experienced golfers have difficulty doing. Here are some keys to competing:
Junior golfers hoping to reach their potential and avoid long periods of frustration, must be disciplined enough to manage and track their time according to their development phase and tournament schedule. Using the model above and adjusting the percentage of time devoted to each area -- training, practicing, and competing – will provide a competitive junior golfer with a way to get the most from their golf time.
It’s the time of the year when many of us take a look back and assess the previous 12 months to learn and prepare for the next year. It can be a very useful exercise, especially if you follow these simple steps which have been tailored to the needs of junior golfers.
Perform an Annual Review
This process will enable a parent to look back and celebrate the victories (I’m not necessarily referring to tournament victories), evaluate the failures, and decide on the changes or shifts that are necessary to make 2018 more successful for a young golfer. This can best be done by writing the answers to the following three questions.
1. What went well in 2017?
2. What didn’t go so well in 2017?
3. What does your son or daughter need to do differently so that 2018 will be successful?
Create a System and Forget about Goals
Most of us attempt to set some goals but struggle year after year to accomplish what we outline on paper. A far more productive approach is to commit to a process of improvement – in other words a system for accomplishing goals.
Here’s an example:
· Your child’s goal is to win a tournament. Their “system” details what they do at practice each day.
You can keep things simple and reduce stress by focusing on the daily process and sticking to a schedule, rather than worrying about big, difficult-to-achieve goals. Goals are strangely at odds with long-term progress. Goals are about short-term results. Systems are about the long-term process. Goals suggest you can control things that are uncontrollable. Forget about predicting the future. Build a system that is reliable and signals when adjustments are necessary.
In summary, goals are good for planning your progress. Systems are good for actually making progress.
Prepare Your Child’s Tournament Schedule in Advance
After completing an assessment of 2017 and putting together an improvement system for 2018, it’s time to plan out your son or daughter’s tournament schedule. Preparing the schedule in advance increases the chances that your child will perform well when it counts the most and will help you save on travel and other expenses.
When exploring which tournaments to play, it makes sense to follow these guidelines:
· Register for a mix of tournaments so that your child can be tested by strong competition in some events and then can compete to win in other events. I recommend competing on one of the regional tours like the Texas Junior Golf Tour (tjgt.com). They have a variety of tournaments to test competitors of every level.
· If your son or daughter plays high school golf, be sure to check the team schedule to avoid doubling up on events. Also check their exam schedule. It’s hard to compete when preparation or sleep are in short supply.
· Make sure your child’s instructor knows which tournaments are the most important so that he or she can ensure that your child’s game is peaking at just the right time.
If you follow the three steps outlined above, you will be putting your junior golfer in position to have a successful and rewarding 2018.
Jeff Isler shares his observations, insights, and experiences on the game of golf and those that play it at a high level.