What are the complexities of junior golf? Part two.
Junior golf is nonlinear, complex, and far more unpredictable than you might have originally thought. Here, we dive deeper into some more critical aspects of a junior golfer's development beneficial for parents, and coaches.
What is Early Specialization in golf, and what we think about it?
One for the coaches & parents:
This is the most talked about subject in junior sports, and research shows us that specializing early can lead to injury and burnout. Often, we find that juniors do not play enough sports. Or, even worse, they play too much of only one sport. Playing too much of just one sport at such a young age is commonly referred to as early specialization, which can be detrimental to the overall development of a junior athlete.
The key challenges I always come across are from a cultural side, where different cultures encourage early specialization. Those golfers who early specialize and come out of the other end to the professional ranks seem to have very short careers, and most we never hear of again. The other reoccurring trend is to mention Tiger Woods, and how he was playing golf as early as the age of 2. If we look at the history and learn more about Tiger’s background growing up, we find that golf was his primary sport, but he also played other sports like track, baseball, and football. Sergio Garcia is another example we hear, and he jumped onto the professional scene as a 19-year-old kid. A large population of people thinks that to be as good as he was at 19, they must specialize early. Once again, Sergio Garcia, similar to Tiger Woods, had golf as his primary sport, but also played soccer.
As a coach, I'm sure you'll have this problem. Or, if you are a parent, keep the quote below in mind.
“How happy would you be if your student, son or daughter only ever did one subject at school, from the age of 8?” -Dr. Martin Toms
This is a wise piece of advice from Dr. Martin Toms of Birmingham University, United Kingdom.
Find a Junior Golf Coach - Not Just Another Teacher
One for the Parents:
Golf has now become full of specialist, ‘swing coaches’, ‘short game coaches’, ‘putting coaches’, ‘biomechanic specialists,,' etc. I believe this is a good thing for a golfer's development, and it gives people the chance to study their chosen topic. This type of specialist approach has started to happen with junior coaches.
If you have a son/daughter, don’t just look for the easy option of going to the one that is nearest, look for a specialist junior coach, or a coach who has had success with helping juniors develop and learn. Those who have had success with introducing and keeping juniors in the game possess transformational leadership characteristics, which is what every junior golfer needs. My good friend Oliver Morton is one of the best junior golf coach specialists I know, and he has golfers travel to him in Scotland.
Benjamin Bloom, author of ‘Developing Talent in Young People,’ published a thought-provoking, factual, and evidence abundant book filled with information on a number of musical students. The lives of these students going through their childhood and teens engaged in the musical instruction were captured in the hope of finding more reasons behind why experts become experts, and why nonexperts stay nonexperts. Interestingly enough, there were three distinct phases that students go through (early, middle, and later years.) Even more interestingly, Bloom found that students working their way through those three phases changed coaches, also. Beginner students were suited to a beginner type coach, intermediate students were suited to an intermediate type coach, and advanced students were suited to an advanced type coach. We are not suggesting that the coaching abilities of a beginner coach are less than an advance coach, but what we are suggesting is that coaches who have the skill set to work with beginner type golfers typically develop a very skillful way of doing just that, and so typically tend to instruct that type of golfer. There are coaches out there, passionate coaches, that have spent their lifetime working with junior golfers, and have developed a very high skill set founded around educating, inspiring and retaining such youngsters. This is the coach you must seek out for your child.