The Best Golf Parents Advice
The Biggest Mistake that Golf Parents Make with their Competitive Junior
Every parent wants the best for their competitive junior golfer. Parents want their young golfers to be successful and achieve all they can in their sport. For that reason, parents devote a lot of energy and time to help their children reach their potential. Parents are motivated by their desire to help and usually have the best of intentions. Even though parents desire to help, they often become the biggest impediment to their child’s improvement, performance and enjoyment of the sport.
The biggest and most common mistake that parents make with their competitive junior is when they cross the boundary from parenting to coaching. For many parents, it is difficult to maintain that boundary. It is a parent’s natural impulse to help, give advice and correct their child when they veer slightly off course.
Some parents want “golf success” more than their child. These parents become domineering and critical of their child’s performance both in practice and tournaments. These parents give too much feedback, analysis, criticism and evaluations of their child’s play which sends a very personal message to their young golfer… “I am not good enough!” This unintentional yet negative message leads to feelings of inferiority, low confidence, inadequacy and low self-esteem.
You can choose your role as a parent to a young athlete. You can opt to be in the foreground, meddle in your child’s athletic career and interfere with their overall golf experience. This choice provides ZERO benefit to all involved and will most likely cause a strain on your relationship with your child.
Your other option as a golf parent is to be more in the background and allow the coach to coach. Your role in this option is to foster confidence, grow your child’s self-esteem and be a part of your young golfer’s support team. This alternative helps your junior golfer learn the sport faster, perform better, enjoy their athletic experience and feel good about themselves during the process. The choice is ultimately yours: supportive parent or nagging critical coach… asset or liability.
While your child needs a coach to teach them the ins and outs of the sport, your young golfer needs a parent who is supportive and unconditionally accepting no matter what happens on the golf course.
What are the characteristics of a supportive golf parent?
There are seven specific characteristics of a supportive parent of a competitive junior golfer. Just as your competitive junior works on his/ her golf game, you should take the time to develop your parent game. These several things will give you the tools to help your child play better golf and enjoy THEIR sport more.
Supportive parents of junior golfers:
- Define success in terms of personal improvement – To effectively parent your competitive junior, you must stop defining success by wins and losses. There is more to success than winning. Success is the constant pursuit of improvement. Of course, there will be ups and downs but success is facing challenges head on and looking for ways to overcome obstacles. Success is a process, not an outcome. When parents focus on outcomes (scores, rankings, wins), it creates anxiety and fear of failure in your competitive junior. Alternatively, focusing on the process of improvement fosters independence, confidence, positive emotions and resilience. For example, think of the joy and excitement your junior experienced when they first learned to drive the ball off the tee straight and with some distance. That moment was successful not because of that one shot but because they were persistent as they progressed through all those necessary learning steps required to succeed. Therefore, it is important for you to stress to your child the process of improving rather than the outcome.
- Are encouraging, not critical – Parents hire coaches to coach and, therefore need to allow coaches to do their job without interfering. Not only does this approach help coaches, if frees your junior golfer to compete without fearing parental judgment. You should be your child’s greatest fan and be there when they need your emotional support. Some parents equate criticism with instruction but even though your intentions are to help, criticism sends a negative message to your child. Think if another parent spoke negatively about your child or the newspapers/ social media criticised your child… you would be flat out angry and defend your child from such attacks. If you don’t condone such verbal abuse, don’t contribute to it by giving so much negative feedback to your child after every round of golf or practice session. Leave the coaching, instruction and technical feedback to the coach. The last thing your child needs and wants to hear from you after a substandard performance is everything they did wrong on the golf course.
- Treat golf as a game and not life-or-death event – Golf is a game and games should be fun. The “golf as a game” approach doesn’t imply your child will take the game less seriously. Think of how competitive a family card game can be. You can have fun and compete simultaneously. When your junior golfer is having fun, they will learn more quickly and perform at a higher level more consistently. If you demand perfection from your child, he/ she will feel more pressure resulting in inconsistent scores. Your child should never feel that love is based on how they perform in the sport of golf. It is imperative that you help make the game of golf fun for your child in order for them to have a successful experience in the sport
- Allow their child to set goals for themselves – Sometimes parents are you more invested in the success or failure of their junior golfer than the child is themselves. These junior golfers often feel that golf is more important to you than it is to them. Some parents try to set goals and achievement standards for their child but this backfires most of the time. High parental expectations create an unbearable amount of pressure for a junior golfer. In an attempt to lessen pressure, junior golfers tend to try less hard (mentally giving up) in the sport. This creates more frustration for the parent as they see their young golfer perform well under their ability. This cycle will never end until you give your competitive junior some autonomy over their sport. If it is your child’s sport, then your child should set the goals. Let your child talk to his coach to get feedback and advice on realistic achievable goals.
- Love their junior golfer unconditionally – You are probably saying, “I already do that,” but parents often unwittingly send a negative message to their young golfer. When you are critical of your child’s performance, don’t manage your emotions effectively or withdraw from your child after a bad round of golf, he/ she may perceive that you somehow love them less or that they are being punished for poor play. It may not be the message you intend but it is the message your child hears. This damages their self-worth and self-concept and may be the most damaging thing you can do to your child. Your child should golf for the right reasons instead of for the fear of disappointing you. Your role as a parent is to build the self-esteem of your child and give them the tools to navigate adversity. If you react negatively to your child’s poor play, they will learn to do the same. Remember that golfers of every level perform best when the feel positive and believe in their abilities.
- Teach their junior golfer that failure is not final – Failure can be a gift if you learn from it.
If your child can learn to fail forward, they can use mistakes to benefit future play. When your child doesn’t fear failure, he/ she will take more risks helping them to achieve more of their potential. Failure is feedback and gives you valuable information how to approach the game differently and smarter. Teaching your child to view setbacks and adversity in a positive light will help them overcome future obstacles. Adversity helps them climb rather than hold them down. Teach your child to put their performance in perspective and give them the tools to rise above challenges.
- Avoid comparing their junior golfer to siblings or other golfers – Comparisons only serve to lower the self-esteem and self-confidence of your child. Comparisons are destructive messages that tell your child that you do not think they are as good as someone else. Keep your child focused on their game and their progress. Foster the excitement of exploring their individual potential with the game of golf.
If some of these points caused you to re-think how to effectively parent your young golfer, then you have made the first step. A little change and commitment will prove to be beneficial for all involved with your competitive junior.
ACTION DRILL: Defining your Responsibilities as a Golf Parent
Your role in your competitive junior’s golf experience should be more than a chauffeur or bank teller. You need to take an active role as a golf parent in order for your child to get the most out of their sport. By knowing your responsibilities, you can optimise your role as a supportive golf parent.
- Encourage your junior golfer on a daily basis.
- Foster confidence by highlighting your child’s successes.
- Talk to your child about what he/ she wants from the game of golf.
- Provide a supportive atmosphere for achieving their goals.
- Keep and preach perspective. Golf is a small part of your competitive junior’s life.
- Help your child understand the valuable lessons golf can teach.
- Let the coach do his or her job.
- Be there for your child emotionally during difficult times.
- Be your child’s biggest fan!!!
If you want your competitive junior to improve his/ her golf game, then step up to the plate and improve your parent game.
To learn more about how you can improve your mental game performance,
take the free 4-minute mental game quiz.