04.16.2013
Uncategorized

LESSONS THAT MATTER: EXAMINING THE JUNIOR GOLF MINDSET

post by corey lundberg

lessons that matter

As I meet more and more coaches, I have begun to notice a common denominator among a certain group– junior golf coaches.  All the best ones seem to be relentlessly cheerful while radiating their passion for growing the game and working with young athletes.  Why are they so positive and upbeat all the time?!

Mull it over for a second.  Think about the best junior golf coach that you know and test my theory.  I’m pretty confident it holds up.

Is it a requisite or just a coincidence that those seemingly naturally happy coaches gravitate towards junior golf?  Or perhaps it’s a result, a natural by-product of the positive work they do making a meaningful impact on the lives of young people.  These coaches do work that matters.

Everyday they connect with an impressionable student at a critical time of their development as people and golfers.  Subsequently, it seems that these expert junior coaches adopt an approach far different than what is common from their adult instructing counterparts.

Because the typical adult student seeks instruction with very specific directives concerning a fix or a flaw, the attention and efforts are focused there– say, fixing a slice.  But a junior golf coach is tasked with much more than fixing.  Their curriculum extends beyond ‘How to Golf’ and encompasses a far richer set of topics:

The list goes on, an expert junior coach could expand upon that list for days.  And that’s not to say that some coaches don’t implement similar curriculum in all their lessons, its just that these types of lessons are especially expected in developing young golfers.

About half of my coaching time is spent with young athletes.  While I love coaching all golfers, my time with the juniors is certainly the most gratifying.  I feel like I’m making a difference and living up to every coach’s most paramount mission: enriching lives. So as I’ve pondered the fundamental differences in coaching these two groups, I have begun to ask myself a question — ‘If it’s so gratifying, why have I not been approaching EVERY golf lesson with the same mindset?!’

As soon as I leave the juniors and begin a lesson with an adult golfer, my mindset shifts drastically.  Instead of striving to serve as LIFE ENRICH-ER, I too often become ‘INFORMATION TRANSFERRER’.  Not quite the same ring to it.

Can a lesson in which the teacher acts exclusively as a transferrer of information ever really matter? The slice or the hook might disappear, but the precious opportunity to make an impact on another human may be lost.  If all we do is spout our vast knowledge of the golf swing and its various subtopics, is it possible to really make an impact?  Does your time spent coaching really matter?

Maybe the shift in mindset occurs because expectations from our adult students are so different.  Both coach and student have many years of indoctrination of what a lesson should look like.  But while the pupils may come with different life experience and expectations, what would a typical lesson look like if the ‘Junior Golf Mindset’ was applied?

What if the goal was always to enrich a life, not just fix a slice? 

Here are a few concepts that allow a great junior coach to make a lasting impact on students.  To me, they represent cornerstones of what I see as an effective Junior Golf Mindset.  As you read through the various elements, ask yourself if you approach things the same way in every lesson or if it changes depending on the age of your student.


Connection. If you visit your favorite junior golf coach on the lesson tee, you might have to lower your eye level.  They know that getting down on the same level as the junior golfer is an effective way to connect and communicate.  While the adult golfer may not require the same kneel down maneuver, too many coaches fail to make an authentic connection.  Connection can be sacrificed for credibility.  With kids, your authority is assumed, it comes with the title.  So for some, with an adult it’s more important to be seen as the authority than to make the authentic connection that creates trust and acceptance within the learning environment.


Discovery and Empowerment.  Because nothing will bore a group of 10 year-olds quite like an hour-long lecture on ball flight laws, we are forced to get creative with young athletes.  Instead of telling them, we show them.  We have them experiment and explore.  Their shorter attention span forces us to allow students to experience new concepts, not just be told about them.  This experience lends itself to a deeper understanding that empowers them to self-coach.


Failures and judgement.  When a fragile young ego is on the lesson tee, we approach failure far different than we do with adults.  We frame failure as a positive part of the learning process.  They’re young; we expect them to mess up as they go.  Yet for adults, failures can sometime seem unacceptable.  Our interactions lack the same compassion that seems so much easier to exhibit for our younger students.  We don’t deal with failures as delicately, yet adults are just as affected by the judgement and disappointment accompanied by a perceived failure.  Too much emphasis is placed on immediate results without respecting or embracing the role of failure in the developmental process.


Fun and Games. I end every one of our junior sessions with a game.  For the juniors, it’s a light and fun way to apply the lessons of the day.  But it’s also an essential step in bridging the gap between understanding and performance.  The benefits of implementing challenges and an opportunity for ‘play’ in all lessons are abundant: maximize the enjoyment factor, increase the likelihood that students transfer new skills to the course, and introduce effective practice habits.


Long Term Learning.  Obviously we approach juniors with a more long-term approach.  After all, we have more time, right?  The sky is the limit and skill and ability seems so malleable at that early phase of growth.  We focus on establishing a solid foundation of fundamentals from which our juniors can develop skills.  Emphasis is placed on educating the golfer about an effective learning process, not on urgent solutions that are often unsustainable for golfers who seek a quick fix.  What if we approached every student with the same sense of possibility and hope?


Simplification.  With a 6 year old, you don’t have many options when it comes to demonstrating a new motor skill.  Every concept has to be distilled down the most fundamental idea.  Instructions have to be succinct  but vivid.  The possibility of overwhelming students with a litany complex instruction and information disappears simply because it’s no longer an option.


Think back to that happy-go-lucky junior golf coach.  Maybe they’re so happy because they approach each lesson with the fascination and creativity that is inherent in working with young people.

After examining these ideas, it’s easy to see that those coaches are on to something.  While they leave it to the rest of us to argue and trivially debate the finer technical points of the golf swing, they go out and make a difference everyday.  And the very same mindset that allows them to enrich lives, makes them more effective coaches!

If the same attitude is applied to coaching students of all ages, more effective lessons are inevitable.  And it’s more fun to boot!  Instead of just spewing information, each day is approached with creativity and passion.  Every lesson would matter.

Maybe the concepts above are unique to my own experience.  I’m anxious to hear thoughts from others on the subject, I have a feeling that I’m not alone.  Please feel free to leave comments describing your own experience.  I look forward to exploring the topic more.

— CL


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18 comments.

18 thoughts on “LESSONS THAT MATTER: EXAMINING THE JUNIOR GOLF MINDSET

  1. FANTASTIC! On the heels of my busy Tuesday…I get this gem in my inbox. Corey, I can’t agree with your sentiments and observations anymore than what you’ve described. I spend half of my teaching with these awesome youngsters that are like sponges. The joy on their faces at the sound, feel, and sight of a perfectly struck golf ball is what keeps me coming back day in and day out. Of course our approach is slightly different with the adults but I strive to keep it as simple and as clear with them and I do with the kiddos. Kudos to you for sharing your thoughts and allowing me to collect and organize my own through yours. See you next week for USKids. Thanks for hosting! – CML

    1. Christy, Glad to hear that I’m not on my own. I think you’re right, their reactions and receptiveness are certainly a reason for the high gratification. Working hard to shift my mindset, though, approach each session the same. Looking forward to next week! CL

  2. Perhaps one of the reasons adults struggle to improve at the game is this approach that is too far removed from the childlike learning experiences of a young athlete?

    Thank you for the article and the six concepts. I especially like the long term learning idea. The golf magazines are selling the idea of bandages, when golf improvement really comes from building skills over time, which kids get.

    I was out practicing yesterday and unfortunately witnessed a 10 year old boy being verbally assaulted by his well meaning dad about making ball first contact on pitch shots. It was almost to the point where I was ready to step in but I resisted. Next time I’ll direct the dad to your blog Corey.

    1. Nick, I think an extension of the long-term learning concept would be patience. There is more trust that the learning process will be effective if we give it time and stay patient with the junior.

      But with the typical golfer, if the ‘fix’ doesn’t produce immediate results, it’s on to the next thing…

  3. Corey, as usual you NAILED it. I felt as though I was just reading my random thoughts, put on the paper in a proper coherent way. All your writing is awesome, but this was perfect.

    After teaching a lot of juniors in the 1st few weeks in the job here, I’ve realised my coaching with the adults has been much more child-friendly. It is unbelievable how the 50 year old business man gets as much enjoyment (or more!!!) in trying to beat me in a chipping competition, or highest shot challenge, whereas I always thought they just wanted lecturing too…

    Keep up the awesome content!

  4. Corey,
    Your insight is much appreciated and spot on! Having cut my teeth like so many others by starting out teaching juniors and advancing into the “grown up” arena, I initially just did what I knew how to do best. Engage, interact, influence, instruct, evaluate, and, most of all ENJOY!

    Then I became “learned” and thought I had to abandon those techniques that had been my foundation for so long. Not so!

    Once I returned to “my roots” and began to explore the idea of giving myself, not just a lesson, to adults of all levels of experience, I grew again as an instructor and my students grew as not only golfers but as life long friends.

    I admit that I learn much more from my students, both young and old, than they probably learn from me, but let’s not let that get out, okay?

    Great job! Keep up the good work!

    All my best,
    Carole

    1. Carole, your secret is safe. As long as you let me steal ‘engage, interact, influence, instruct, evaluate, and enjoy’. Sums it up pretty nicely! Kicking myself for not including ‘influence’ in the article….

    1. Aaron, thx for reading. I’ve enjoyed your material as well. I’m trying to plan an AZ trip this year to learn a few things from the supercrew you guys have there…

  5. Corey

    Very interesting and enjoyable piece, brings back the idea of coaching people rather than teaching or instructing golf. Amazing for me how children enjoy the experience where as adults seemingly want a result for the money the have spent

    Look forward to more posts

    Alan

    1. Alan, I think that’s the way forward. As Rick Jensen says… don’t book a lesson, hire a coach.

    1. Rudy, Thx for checking it out. I saw your name on the US Kids registration next week. Going to be a lot of junior golf brainpower on our lesson tee at CW that day! We will have to chat then…

  6. Great stuff Corey, I get laughed at in the FB group anytime i mention that I teach golf as opposed to the golf swing. I think adults would improve much faster if they could find a coach/teacher that thought and taught with this methodology, and make no mistake, this is a method. Or at least it better be 😉
    Great work!

  7. Corey, came across this and you are 100 pct right in my book. I spent many years working in the corporate world but now work with business and sports people on changing mindset and they could learn a lot from this approach.

  8. Great article! I absolutely agree! I’ve been coaching clients this way for some time and find it not only unbelievably effective but incredibly fun! The client benefits from the process on so many fronts. They have fun, they have better skill retention long term and in the end THEY own their golf game and love it!

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