I want to apologize upfront that this installment is more an editorial than your typical “sports psych” piece. My performance coaching practice was built on the premise that we are all wired for winning, but we are not necessarily programmed that way. With that said, in my travels this summer I have been appalled by the way some parents are “coaching” their children to become golfers. I had hoped that most of this behavior from the “I want my kid to be the next Tiger Woods” period following Tiger’s explosion on to the golf scene was behind us. Sadly I still see many overzealous parents dishing out tough love coaching clichés and living vicariously through their children at the expense of unconditional love and support that sometimes borders on cruelty. At this point some of you may be in denial and are saying, mind your own business. Well when it comes to performance, the mind is my business.
Remember, your children are indeed “wired for winning” and need your help, guidance and most important unconditional love to develop their success “program.” Most kids are brought into golf by a family member that wants their child to experience and enjoy the game as much as they do. They understand the intrinsic values golf teaches. They also understand not only is golf a metaphor for life, it is a sport that may be enjoyed for a lifetime. Getting started on the wrong foot can have disastrous effects not only on the child’s enjoyment of the game, but their relationship with you. If you sense I may be talking about you, you’re probably right. Stop reading immediately, go hug your kid and get online to www.PositiveCoach.org. This website is a wonderful resource for anyone coaching or parenting a young athlete. It provides great tools and skills to deal with coachable moments that arise on and off the golf course.
Many agree that when a child first shows an interest in learning golf, the parent who is an avid golfer can be a great inspiration. But please keep things in perspective. It’s just a game. Positive reinforcement is a great tool as it encourages individuals to strive to do the best they can, whereas chiding and scolding has the opposite effect. Dr. Elizabeth Hurlock in 1925 designed a study where fourth, fifth and sixth graders were either praised, criticized or ignored based on their work on math problems. The study found that students who had been praised improved by 71%, those who were criticized improved only by 19%, and those who had been given no feedback improved only by 5%. By definition, positive reinforcement not only allows a child to learn expected behavior but increases the likelihood that that behavior will be performed in the future. Be patient, offer encouragement and continually provide positive reinforcement. Remember, anger is the enemy of instruction and children learn a great deal more by watching what you do than listening to what you say.
If you’re a parent who aspires to see their child become a competitive golfer, consider seeking out a golf professional that enjoys working with juniors. Be sure to get references if you don’t know them personally. Stay involved and interested in what your child is learning. Ask the coach/pro questions and obtain feedback after sessions. If you choose to watch, be sure to stay an appropriate distance from the lesson tee. This is your child’s learning time. Your being there shows support; however, you need to provide the space and privacy required for a coach/athlete relationship. This will help them become more confident, self reliant and eventually… their own best coach. Then, and only then, will they take responsibility for their play, have fun and become better golfers.Mr. Molden is a Performance Coach and Consultant who’s helped PGA and LPGA Tour stars, elite athletes, entertainers, business executives and entrepreneurs achieve phenomenal personal and professional results. For more information about his Performance Development Group programs and services, visit Wired4Winning.com and HireStrength.com