It is commonly believed that developing high level golfers or athletes in general requires hours and hours of practice every week starting at a young age.
Aside from sports where you commonly see teenage athletes participating in the Olympics, there is no need to rush development.
This article is going to highlight some of the common mistakes made across youth sports and the more effective route for proper development in a sport such as golf.
While these beliefs are not shared among all areas of the world, Canada is in fact one of the world leaders in this area of study. In some areas of the world, the idea of ‘early specialization’ is quite common.
Early specialization refers to the choice to focus the child’s time on one sport at a young age.
The strategy many associations and golf programs in Canada believe in is referred to as the ‘Long Term Athlete Development’ strategy and it provides many benefits in the short and long term.
Physical literacy is a large component of the Long Term Athletic Development strategy. Physical literacy looks to develop children who are capable of moving confidently and efficiently in a wide spectrum of physical activities.
Physical literacy requires the development of fundamental movement skills. These skills come in the areas of stability, manipulation, locomotion, agility, balance, coordination, and object control.
These skills come from a variety of physical activities and are often the focus behind physical education classes.
These skills help to properly develop the child with the skills to help them succeed as an athlete and as a golfer if that becomes their sport of choice in the future.
Physical literacy also gives the child the tools to remain physically active throughout life.
Long Term Athlete Development for golf focuses on the development of the overall athlete before specializing into a golf. This means that it is recommended that children play multiple sports rather than one.
Often, the choice to specialize comes between the ages of 14-17 years old depending on a wide range of factors such as gender and sport. By participating in multiple sports, the child reaps the benefits of developing sport specific skills.
For example, throwing a baseball requires object control and weight transfer in order to be successful, skills that transfer well into golf.
Golf is a sport where the average male breaking through on the PGA Tour is 30 years old and the average female is 26. This certainly is often ignored when we see superstar athletes such as Canadian Brooke Henderson and American Jordan Spieth on top of leaderboards.
Although these star athletes are young, they both have a history of multiple sports in the past developing them as complete athletes. Golf instruction programs that focus on this long term development are going to be beneficial in not only developing a child in golf but in setting them up to be physically literate for life.
Cody Stewart is the Director of Athletics at the Chilliwack Golf Academy.