When we embark on the journey with our children, we assume that playing competitive golf will be filled with exciting times and great memories. But as a late specialization sport in which even the best players lose much more than they win, the ride is filled with unexpected challenges and pitfalls that can test even the closest of relationships. Here’s the good news. By paying attention to some guidelines we’ve developed over the years, you can greatly increase your chances of having a positive junior golf experience.
In this month’s blog, we’re going to introduce the 10 Keys to Being a Great Golf Parent.
1. Make it fun and keep it fun. In the early years, kids play sports to have fun and if it’s not fun, they lose interest. Instead of worrying about technique and other issues more appropriate for older kids, do everything you can to keep things fun and simple. One simple trick is to associate golf with another fun activity (e.g. getting ice cream).
2. Understand the stages of development and key milestones. Many parents underestimate the complexity of the game and the length of time it takes to build the skills necessary to shoot low scores. Each junior golfer develops at a different pace and it’s unfair to compare your child’s progress to another player’s progress, even if they’re the same age. The focus should be on long-term improvement and reaching appropriate milestones.
3. Select and experienced coach that specializes in junior golf and can commit time and attention to your child. This might be the most important factor in your child’s ultimate success. Experience with juniors and their unique development cycle is a key requirement. It makes a big difference if the coach has successfully guided other juniors through the entire process. Finally, make sure the coach you select has enough time and energy to make your child a priority.
4. Support your child’s coach with your actions and words. Great coaches work hard at their craft. They know it takes a mix of experience, knowledge, and interpersonal skills to be effective. When you find the right coach, he or she deserves your complete support. Without realizing it, parents can undermine their child's coach in subtle ways. For example, giving your child the "okay" to quit an assigned task or criticizing your child's coach in front of them weakens the coach's standing and credibility. I recommend supporting your coach's decisions even if you would do it differently.
5. Familiarize yourself with the sport and have realistic expectations. Regardless of their skill, we can’t expect junior golfers to play at PGA tour standards. On a practical basis, it’s important to note that the pros typically have a 12-shot spread between their low and high rounds. With that much variation in the scores of the best players in the game, it is important for your son or daughter to acknowledge the difficulty of the sport and expect the same fluctuation in scores.
In next month’s blog, we’ll look at the next five on the list. If you’re anxious to see the rest of the list before it’s published, feel free to contact me directly.
Jeff Isler shares his observations, insights, and experiences on the game of golf and those that play it at a high level.