Are you a parent or a mentor of a junior golfer? If so, are you a proponent of the P words of positive, patience and process? If so, congratulations! You're on track to lead your junior to finding his or her best on the golf course and in life. And isn't that our goal? Allowing our kids to FIND their way and to be their best selves?
Why am I writing this today? I talk to so many parents who wonder if they're doing the right things or too little. Most are probably trying to do too much. Think of yourself as a leader and mentor instead of a golf dad or golf mom. How is that different? As a leader or mentor, you want to model good behavior, build a trusting relationship and offer solutions to problems. Poor golf parents model poor behavior/body language, rely on power instead of trust and point out problems without coming up with a process that leads to solutions. Good golf parents model patience, allow love to be the reason for what they do and find positives in what's happening along with some solutions for problems. Some days, the only solution needed might be an ice cream cone!
Being a strong leader for your junior golfer is your job as a parent or mentor. Let's look at the things that make a good leader. Here is a blog from one of my favorite experts, Jon Gordon. In it, he talks about E words. Those are encourage and empower. As a coach, those two words need to be a part of every conversation I have with my players. Telling them what to do is a must as a coach, but encouraging them to give full effort while doing it is also a must. Empowering them to find their own ways, strengths, talents and individual focus is also a big part of helping them be their best.
What does being a good golf parent look like? It entails support. Support means doing what you can, but not all you can. In other words, it's ok to make them clean their clubs, make their own pb&j sandwiches and show up to the first tee on time. Don't build their reliance on you, but instead their independence. We all know that support also means financial means. Give your kid a budget for tournaments and make sure they know that playing in California is expensive compared to driving down the road to San Antonio. Allow them to make tough choices and understand that the money isn't limitless. Speaking of money, don't throw the amount you're spending in their face on a bad day. Keep the reasons for what you're doing based on love. Love of the child, love of competition, love of the game and love for the process. Putting a price on their score or effort points out that you've lost the motivation of love.
Good golf parents work hard on communication. They keep the 3 P words in mind as they stay positive, show patience and focus on the process of learning vs. the results of the day. They give honest feedback, but balance it with encouragement. They empower their child to be better at strategy and decision making by allowing them to make mistakes and then offering alternatives for next time. They stay constructive and offer tools to use or they find experts who can. They hold their child accountable for attitude and they teach acceptance. They know that a game is never as good as the lowest score or as bad as the highest scores, but the idea is to work to have more and more good days.
If you're a parent, look at your conversations after a round of golf. Do you focus on what your child didn't do? Do you focus on mistakes? Do you compare her to others? Do you have a list of problems to be addressed? Does her play make you angry? Do you point out where she is deficient? After years of coaching, I can tell you that these conversations weigh heavily on kids. They don't want to call their folks after a bad round. They will complain of the "broken record" of their parent's admonishments for not being smarter or not putting better. Instead of listening, they tune out or get defensive. I've watched these conversations happen after rounds for 25 years and seen the tears rolling or the phone held away from the ear. I know you don't want to be that parent.
There are a lot of great parents out there, too. They watch their child play and then they listen to what their child thinks about what happened. These parents work to find positives or simply focus on tomorrow being another day. They don't link their child's play with rewards or punishments, but instead let the game provide those motivations. They don't compare their child to others or beat them up for a loss. They are positive, patient and focus on the process. Their kids have no problem calling them at the end of a day and come away feeling better about themselves.
So, where are you on a scale of good to bad as a golf parent? Do you ask questions of your child and accept the answers? Do you rely on and trust the help of the experts you hire to teach your child? Do you keep the criticism constructive and minimal and balance it with praise? Do you offer solutions and tools to rely on? Do you know what you don't know? Do you work on building a trusting relationship? Here is a great piece of writing outlining the relationship Annika Sorenstam had with her mentor Pia Nilsson. The entire article is telling, because it speaks of the trust needed to be a mentor, the honesty and constructiveness of the feedback offered and how it was received and finally, it focused on the uniqueness of Annika. When I was a young coach, I was lucky to have many opportunities to learn from Pia and what she was doing with the Swedish team. I bristled at some of the advice she gave to me, but soon came to understand it and implement it. She was the first person who taught me personally what it meant to be a positive coach.
Remember, very few golfers will play in college and of them, very few will turn pro. Golf and the process of playing at a high level offer so many wonderful life lessons. Don't squander them by making your relationship with your golfer a confrontational one instead of a cooperative one. If your kid is good, she might be the expert in the room!
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