It’s often difficult to identify a good junior coach in your local area. Is it a coach who has gained attention for a star pupil hitting the big time? Is it a coach with all the latest in technology? Is it the coach who posts a full group class picture in July?
As a PGA Professional who spends most of his life in primary schools delivering a combination of golf and maths, and who has spent over 7 years leading classes in mainstream secondary education, I guess I’m uniquely placed to offer you advice.
Here are my top 3 signs that your coach is doing a great job:
Games Based Learning
The sessions are delivered through fun and engaging games differentiated for ability. The sessions will be based a single shot theme with multi level or circuit style games, enabling young players to discover, explore and develop. Ideally they will pairs games to develop team dynamics but also offer individual challenges to stretch the player out of their comfort zone. Coaches delivering a games session, rather than a ball hitting session, are surrounded by enthusiasm, laughter, encouragement and fun.
Sessions are organised and have clear consistent messaging. The coach can split the group into mini groups based on ability and deliver tailored coaching to each with progression visible throughout the session. The young players have lots of input into the games. My young players choose 3 outcomes for every game easy, medium and challenging. This really gives them ownership over their game and makes them equally responsible for their success.
No One Left Behind
Retention rates really highlight the quality of the coach. As we know, participation rates surge at various times during the year for different sports. The spring term with lighter nights and milder weather sees plenty kids and parents come out of hibernation and take up golf, tennis and football. Its not difficult to get full group classes from April through to August. A great coach will have high retention rates all year round and will be as busy on a cold wet weekend in January as they are in June. If the coach has sessions running throughout the year, this is a great sign and shows great commitment.
Coaches often gain credibility for having a stand out pupil who wins events at club or county level. However, a better measure of a coaches quality would be to look at how the weakest or least able players progress. Do they instil confidence, belief and courage in the player to keep going? Are these players having fun, fully joining in and having equal opportunity to succeed?
I’m proud of my Academy for its high retention rates of players from non-golf parents. Why does this matter? These young players have no previous experience of golf, its customs or terminology. They come with a complete blank canvas perspective, as do their parents, and see the sport through a different lens. This may be their 2nd or 3rd choice sport and might be one of 6 or 7 activities they do out of school. This means that you have to truly build their golfing universe from scratch, keep it fun and engaging whilst competing with other activities that they might want to try. Coaches, who have a high retention rate of young players from non-golf backgrounds, are really doing a great job.