In my article last week, I discussed the many different factors that play into the reason some youth golfers are successful while others are not. One of the main determining factors is the role their parents play in the process of their development. The role of a junior golf parent is a delicate balance between motivating and supporting, while also teaching their son and daughter to be responsible for their own development. There is no “science” behind this list, other than my 20+ years of teaching and observing those that have passed through my academy and are successful.
Separation. The best parents understand and separate the performance of their son or daughter on the golf course from themselves. I often hear over-involved parents use language such as: “We shot 82” or “We had three 3-putts”. The word WE indicates that the parent somehow had something directly to do with the outcome. It is also a dead giveaway of someone who has not separated the performance of their child on the golf course from themselves. As a parent myself, I know it is easy to live vicariously through our children. However, this does not teach the child ownership of their game, and does not allow them to develop as an individual.
Ownership. Parents of my best players know that making their kids take ownership for their own golf game gives them the best opportunity to be successful. As an example, carrying and cleaning their own clubs, scheduling their own lessons, and even setting their own alarm clocks to wake them up for their early morning tee time are little things that carry a lot of weight. Simple things like these help kids understand that they have the ability to control and determine how successful they become at the game.
Emotions. As a parent, our reactions to performance on the golf course play a huge roll in how a child might feel after a round of golf. Being overly excited after a good round as well as being discouraged or angry after a poor performance can have equally long-term adverse effects. Parents of some of the best students have found ways to remain relatively calm and neutral while in the presence of their child. Don’t get me wrong, as a parent I know that raising a child creates a roller-coaster of emotions. Throw competitive sports into the mix, and those emotions can quickly get to an all-time high. Finding control of your emotions and remaining supportive are keys to raising a successful competitor.
Communication. This last observation is one that, quite honestly, I have found surprising. The communication with the parents of my most successful students has been very minimal. Yes, they are very interested in their child and their development; however we have very few conversations about specific details to their training. The majority of our conversation revolves around the process and the plan that we have in place to help their child achieve their goals. We spend almost no time discussing technicalities such as grip or putting style. At the end of the day, they have faith in my ability to do my job.
Obviously there are exceptions to the rule and not every relationship between a child, parent and coach is the same. My hope is that this article will give you a few things to reflect on while navigating the delicate role of being a parent to a young athlete.
In my article next week, I will be sharing my observations on specific characteristics of my most successful students.