Guiding the young golfer

‘I think one of the things that we need to learn and teach our children is that it is not important to compare ourselves to others, or compete or pursue. All we have to do is be ourselves. Discover who you are and express who you are with abandon’ – Anita Moorjani.

Through the years of coaching children, I often have witnessed how confidently they will step up to a 20ft putt, free from doubt and trusting their natural instinct to roll it into their intended target. Young children generally place very few limitations on what they believe is possible. It is sometimes through the conditioning of society around them that layers of limitation can potentially start to build. It is only as we get older do we start to question or doubt, increasing our fears and patterns of limiting beliefs.

‘Children are happy because they don’t have a file in their minds called – ‘all the things that could go wrong’ – Marianne Williamson

I remember vividly the day I was coaching a young 7-year-old little girl. Following my conversation with her in the English language, she then turned around to her Swedish mother, spoke fluently in her mother tongue and then proceeded to tell me she also spoke a 3rd language owing to her father’s Dutch side of the family! This little girl had simply taken on board what was around her and what she was exposed to; it was natural to her to speak several languages! She had yet to develop any beliefs or limitations about languages being a challenge to learn or that understanding more than two languages could potentially be a really difficult feat, especially for a young child.

What does it mean for the young golfer?

The brain waves of a young child up until the age of 7 operate at a slower almost trance like state of Theta, hence they are very receptive to the influences around them. They are like little sponges. As a teacher or parent it is extremely important to be conscious of what influences, thoughts and beliefs are being created around them.

Young Children carefully observe their environment and download the worldly wisdom offered by parents directly into their subconscious memory. As a result, their parents’ behaviour and beliefs become their own’ – Dr Bruce Lipton

Children want to have fun and for them, and in fact everyone, golf should be fun. However, children can be prone to feeling the pressures of the people and loved ones around them. They want so much to fulfill their parents’ expectations and hopes. I have often witnessed where this transforms into tension and disappointment as the child places pressure on themselves if they don’t feel they have succeeded in certain tasks. Tears have flowed when they have been the first one to drop the bean bag in a fun, warm up game or they missed the final putt to pass their bronze certificate.

It also stretches into young adulthood. Governing sporting bodies and coaches, who take the reins as the child progresses, can be a great influence. If a child’s perception of his or her self-worth is measured in whether they make the National squad, shoots 72 or qualifies for the tour, the pressure that puts on that child will potentially cause him or her to falter and crack at some point, even to the degree where their interest in the game weakens and an alternative grabs their attention as a replacement.

A supportive role where they know they are loved regardless of the outcome is the very best platform we can create to allow children to develop, enjoy and fulfill their goals and dreams.  I truly believe that within sport and within life itself, if we can provide children with an unconditional love, support and acceptance that no matter what score they achieve on the golf course, whether they gain their red certificate in their junior coaching class or shoot a sub-par score in an elite junior event, they are loved for the fantastic human being that they are. When they know this to their core they will truly excel. It can at times be the longing and pressure of seeking love, acceptance and approval from the people that mean so much to them that places the tension and resistance into their progress.

It’s about having fun

Ultimately it’s about having fun, whatever the age! This certainly doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for dedication, goals and focus, however when the young golfer is encouraged from a place of self-love, worth and belief, regardless of the outcome, fantastic results in the long term potentially transpire and certainly with a great deal more enjoyment in the process.

Based on psychological research, the 3 healthiest statements parents can make as they perform are:

Before the competition:

  1. Have fun.
  2. Play hard.
  3. I love you.

After the competition:

  1. Did you have fun?
  2. I’m proud of you.
  3. I love you.

Following decades of research long time coaches Bruce Brown and Rob Miller from Proactive coaching concluded that there are six simple words parents can express that produce the most productive results. When college athletes were asked what their parents said that made them feel great, that amplified their joy during and after a ballgame. Their overwhelming response:

‘I love to watch you play’

Unconditional love and support, free from judgement regardless of the outcome, creates an environment that allows each child to thrive and develop whilst embracing the ultimate goal of having fun.