Should Junior Golfers set up their own Golf Practice?

Iain Highfield
  • Author: Iain Highfield
  • GLT Director
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Team GLT loves the sport of golf, but that doesn’t mean we restrict ourselves to only eat, sleep and breathe golf. In fact, we feel it’s extremely important to invest time toward researching and viewing other sports to further develop our coaching philosophy. 

 In 2017, some team members at GLT were fortunate enough to spend time with Dr. Tyler Hollett, Assistant Professor of Learning Sciences at Penn State University - an expert in how humans learn. Being equally fascinated in learning sciences, we spoke to Dr. Hollett about the time he spent studying X Games athletes, and how they structured their training.

Dr. Hollett said he noticed that these students were empowered to choose what skills they wanted to train, as well as how they would achieve the desired results. This occurred via a cooperative learning environment - what we would typically think of as an unassigned mentor/mentee setup. Students would choose a skill they wanted to learn or work on, and, from there, decide their training process. Students who elected to train the same set of skills that day would be involved in the coaching process by modeling & co-training each other to help learn the new skill. 

We at Team GLT believe that this creates an incredibly effective learning environment. The catalyst for learning is ignited through the student’s empowerment of choice to select their own training goals while engaging in the process of training others. The catalyst for learning is then motivation inspired by each other, and is further propelled by the gratification that comes from teaching – an incredibly powerful catalyst if you ask us.

Motivation is incredibly important. If a player isn’t motivated to learn, how and what they are working on becomes irrelevant, as engagement in the task will be low. You can be the greatest coach in the world, but if the student is disengaged in the training at hand, improvement will be limited or non-existent. 

Junior golfers on golf course

Dr. Hollett said that this kind of training environment was centered around Legitimate peripheral participation (LPP) as defined in Situated Learning (Lave & Wegner 1991). This process revolves around the concept that learning comes more from social interactions by novices participating alongside (peripherally) experts, or more advanced participants. This forms a community, and community members teaching each other increases the individual’s value of that experience. This tradition continues as each participant grows in level and passes information to the next set of novices.

At GLT, we’re really trying to empower our students to build their own practice sessions, both on their own and cooperatively. We’ve seen students as young as 8 years old do an exceptional job of designing specific tasks relevant to the development of their game. Equally as important, the golfer no longer wanted to just pass through the mundane process of being asked to putt, chip, and then make their way to the range. The act of choosing ones own pathway for learning is deeply connected to ones own reflections and analysis of where they need to work the most. Getting learners to articulate this kind of reflection is very important for the learning process.  

While this may not be the easiest way to structure practice, there are ample arguments to suggest that it’s a very effective way to create an optimal learning environment. Sometimes it may even look chaotic, and sometimes the students make mistakes, but making mistakes and chaos are also a vital part of the learning process. 

How can you introduce this to your students and what are some of the ways you can implement this concept into your own coaching structure? We’d love to hear from you, so share with Team GLT below what your biggest takeaways from this concept are!

Junior golfer & mentor