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Kids Golf Advice

Here at UK Kids Golf we are committed to not only providing great golfing opportunities for your young golfer but also the information you require to make their relationship with golf a long term success. We have teamed up with a number of leading experts in the fields of Nutrition, Fitness, Psychology and Coaching to make sure you have everything you need to keep your kid on course.

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Got The Next Tiger?9th March 2014

In 1997 Eldrick Woods exploded onto the world of golf winning a major championship, the US Masters, in his first full season as a professional golfer, a feat almost unheard of in professional golf. His amazing rise to dominance shocked the sporting world in a way not previously encountered Woods became not just a sporting superstar but a worldwide icon. Some commentators have created a popular belief that talent is evident in the very young and that this can be used as a gauge for later sporting success.

A popular belief has emerged within sport (and especially within golf since the emergence of Tiger) that youngsters with a level of ability at an early age should be seen as potential future champions and a vast amount of interest and support is given to them in the pursuit of this aim. Children as young as 2 years old are being touted as the next big thing to hit the world of golf. Parents are asking coaches for advice on how their 4 year old can take their game to the next level; and some coaches purport to be able to them make it. In 1993 a study which looked at the development of expert performance in a range of disciplines including literature, art and music and identified the 10,000 hour rule. They argued that this number of hours of deliberate practice was a major determining factor in expert performance. The conclusion to be drawn was that the notion that an individual’s capacity at an early age should be the key indicator of future ability was flawed, the study contended that a large amount of time devoted to specific practice activity coupled with a number of other supporting environmental factors were key in producing excellence. Other studies have challenged this thinking.

In 2001 the Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) model which takes an Athlete Centred approach to talent development. The LTAD concept rejects some of the models of young athlete training and competition programmes, which are largely based on chronological age, and instead seeks to identify the developmental stages of young people and develop specific programmes of activity or training matched to these developmental stages. A further contention is that the attempts by sports to recruit young and encourage primary school aged children into sport specific activity can actually be counter-productive to the development of talent as it often leaves the participant without some of the fundamental physical and cognitive capacities required for success on the world stage. To this end work seeks to develop Physical Literacy within young people as the building blocks for later sports specific skill development. Later studies of young athletes and their development, suggest that the early years of a child development through sport should be characterised by sampling with specialisation in a given sporting domain being restricted to later stages of development. The suggestion was that the early years of development should be focused on what is classified as deliberate play that is, play structured by the rules and boundaries of organised sports, coupled with a small amount of deliberate practice; would do more to develop and nurture emerging talent and ensure that the potential for drop out is minimised. Thus as a child gets older and develops a broader understanding of themselves as individuals and their ability at given activities, then more time can be devoted to practice and the true development of excellence.

Young children’s definition of themselves and their interaction with the world around them is too underdeveloped for them to be overly focussed on a single specific sport. As children develop, so does their ability to accomplish tasks and they begin to understand their capacities in relation to others around them. The argument can be made that if children are focussed on specific sports too early there is potential for them to become disillusioned with their own standard of performance in relation to others, with the further danger that they may evolve an overly restricted view of their own ability leading either to demotivation, an artificially limited conception of their ability or at worst complete drop out from the sport. It seems then that there is a difficulty for anybody who is committed to the development of golf in that on the one hand there is a pervasive cultural mindset which suggests that having children start the game young will achieve results and generate a new generation of champions.

On the other hand there is a body of research fuelled by academic study of elite sports performers which indicates that this is precisely the opposite method for development. Instead, young people should develop as young sports people through generic sports ability programmes aimed at the development of key fundamental movement skills according to their developmental capacity and that only at later stages should sports specific activity be encouraged.

Golf is still reeling from the phenomenal emergence of Tiger Woods, his example of development and subsequent dominance of the sport has become a powerful symbol to follow by many. Furthermore the emergence of the precocious abilities of Michelle Wie on the ladies golf scene has only served to further this thinking and provide evidence for those who would suggest that starting young is the only determinant for success. These examples coupled with the desire for companies who are willing to pay vast sums of money to associate with young sporting talent serves to create an environment which is extremely hostile to suggestions that young people should not become sport specific too early

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Author: Simon Jackson

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