A Parent's Role in Golf - Part One
Being the parent of an athlete is not an easy job. One thing I’ve learned for certain, the impact a parent can have on their child both on and off the course is huge. This can be either a great advantage or disadvantage for the child. You see, sometimes what we think may be the optimal way of supporting our kids might not always be the best way.
I’m writing this as both the father of two kids and a golf coach. I’ve always been very familiar with the coaching side of things, but now my daughter plays tennis, and I’ve experienced being on “the other side.” Having experienced both sides, it has become much clearer to me how we as parents can help improve our child’s development, and, unfortunately, how we can hinder it.
One very important factor I’ve realized (which is crucial for parents to understand and accept) is that our child’s development is not linear. We can’t think of it as an industrial process that we build; rather, it’s an organic process and we give them the tools. You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink.
As coaches and parents, we must be aware of the signals that our athletes send us every single day, especially when starting a new challenge. They constantly read our signals, especially the ones we aren't even aware we were sending, and in most cases, they'll copy the behaviour patterns that we show in different situations. For example, if the parent loses their temper over a bad swing, the child will learn to lose their temper over a bad swing. Monkey see, monkey do. The problem with this is it could result in the child severing their interest in a challenge before if even gets started.
Let’s look at the challenges our kids meet when they go to practice with the intent of developing their game. I’ll define development in this case as learning new tools that add value to your game on the course. When a player takes on the challenge of learning new tools, they will undoubtedly face failure in some way; this is normal. Failing is a natural and important part of development.
In our junior program( and at home, for that matter,) we try to not use words like “mistake” and “failure,” because those words typically have a negative connotation. Instead, we talk about the opportunity of improvement. We want to make it exciting and fun to find their own opportunity of improvement, then work to make it a habit. The ability to embrace challenges will increase your athlete’s chances of reaching their goals; furthermore, it will provide them with more joy in the process of getting there.The most important thing we can do as parents is create optimal conditions and environments in which our kids can learn and flourish. One of the best examples of this is to let the student see their parent learning something new, and, even more so, let the student teach the parent something new. Right now, my daughter is trying to teach me how to do a handstand. In this situation, I have an incredible opportunity to show her exactly how I want her to react and behave in a learning situation without having to tell her. She will naturally copy my behavior, and this will then transfer over to her tennis lessons, just as it will for your students on and off the golf course.