By Michael Riggs
Junior players love the praise of their parents.
Think about how many times a youngster says, “Hey mom, look at this,” before she rolls a putt toward the cup. It is always fun to watch the beam on a young player’s face after a successful shot. While kids love to be successful, even more kids love to be recognized by their parents for their efforts.
The time will come, soon enough, where the end result will be the yardstick for success or failure. In an adult world, the outcome seems to take front and center. Did you make the sale or not? Did you complete the job or not? Did you win the game or not? But, for young golfers, this should not be the barometer of their success.
The absolute best motivation for Junior is to hear his parents say, “Hey, great try… you really gave it an awesome effort!” By taking this approach, he hears, “We recognize your effort and all we will ever ask of you is that you give it your best.” This is the perfect message to send to a young golfer. After all, when a young player old misses a putt or shanks a shot, he surely wasn’t trying to mess up – he gave it his best effort.
The psyche of a young golfer can be very fragile. Parents should inspire and reinforce excellent effort regularly at a young age. Unfortunately, the opposite is too commonplace in junior golf. A young player — playing the game to have fun, learn some skills, and make some friends — becomes disinterested and afraid to play because he doesn’t want mess up, let mom and dad down, and be criticized for not playing well.
This is what might Junior actually be thinking when his parents criticize during or after a round?
“I messed up… but I tried my best… mom and dad are upset with me for missing shots… so my best isn’t good enough… so if I stop playing I can’t mess up anymore and mom and dad will stop being upset with me… so I’ll pretend to not like the sport anymore.”
If Junior quits golf, he will miss all of the fun, learning, and self-development that are the benefits of playing the great game of golf.
This is what Junior might actually be thinking when his parents praise him during or after a round?
“I feel good about myself… and I especially like it when my mom and dad tell me how proud they are of me… I really love playing golf and I can’t wait to get back and play some more tomorrow!”
The competitive side of golf will come soon enough. So, for the youngest players thru age nine, or so, it is best to offer heavy doses of praise to help boost their love of themselves, appreciation for a best effort, and a genuine love of the game.
Hey, parents! Heap on the praise when with your Junior player. Resist the temptation to be critical and negative.
In Another’s Words
“Keep golf fun with your kids. If it stops being fun, they’ll stop wanting to play.”
— Curtis Strange