Many player’s and parent’s approach me and ask what will my daughter or son have to do to play golf at an elite level. Elite level could mean being the best or among the best in your local area, junior golf association, AJGA, college golf and then of course professional golf at the PGA and LPGA Tour level. In the Los Angeles and Southern California area the PGA of America has a great program for youngster’s to develop their golf skills.
To be an elite player it requires that a team effort is implemented that involves the player, parent’s and coach. Huge sacrifices and commitment will need to be made by the family. The parent’s should understand that they should limit the extra-curricular activities that their son or daughter are involved in at school. In the Southern California area and specifically the San Gabriel Valley, many parent’s in an effort to help their child perform better in school have them involved in a myriad of activities that leave little time for the youngster to have sufficient time to enjoy their youth or concentrate on pursuing an interest other than academic. Children are enrolled in martial arts, dance, piano, and tutor’s (even though they are A student’s!). Children are encouraged to play sports and band by many parents, with the expectation that they should be elite in both disciplines! The youngster trying to do many activities will have a variety of experiences but will not be able to achieve an elite level in any of them because they will not have sufficient time to develop the skill set that is necessary to achieve the elite level.
All of the above activities are worthy and should be looked at if the child is interested. If a youngster has a special talent for playing a particular musical instrument or maybe excels in art class or has a propensity for any other activity, then I encourage them to pursue that specific discipline that they are talented at. On the other hand, if I see a youngster that has the ability and potential to become an “elite” player with proper coaching, proper parental involvement and a desire to excel then I will encourage the player and his/her family to pursue golf as their primary focus and limit other activities that will diminish their ability to achieve the goal of becoming an elite player.
I should make an important point at this time. The order of things that are important should be in this order: 1st Family, 2nd School, 3rd Golf. The family provides the structure and stability that will allow and help a youngster practice, play and perform the best that he/she can.
After the “decision” is made, what is the next step? Instruction, practice, practice, practice and more practice. Involvement in tournament play against other’s who are endeavoring to become an elite player. I see player’s as young as 7 or 8 that have made this commitment. The amount of practice time will depend on the age of the player. I suggest that at age 7 or 8 they practice approximately and hour or so a day, yes, every day. At 9 or 10 and up, the amount of practice should increase to 2 to 3 hours per day. In the summer, practice should be 4/5 hours a day and more if they are really committed. I have several player’s that in the summer they practice 5/6 hours a day and sometimes more. These youngster’s have a love of the game and enjoy the experience of practice and playing on the course. At 11 and above the amount of practice should increase to whatever amount of time the player can focus and be productive.
It is important to recognize that QUALITY practice time is more important than QUANTITY practice time. It is absolutely essential that practice is meaningful and the player is not “just hitting balls.” There is a correct way to practice and many ways to practice that will hurt your progress.
Selecting a coach is very important. If you are in a major market area like Los Angeles you have a large number of coaches to choose from. It is vitally important that you interview several potential coach’s to determine their credential’s and success rate at developing player’s to play at an elite level. Parents should ask, “who is the best player or players that you have coached? What level of play have some of your player’s achieved?” Do not be hesitant about asking such important questions. You are entrusting your child to a person that is going to help develop your child into a potentially elite player, so it is vitally important for you to know and understand their ability to develop players.
This is a brief explanation of what is needed to “begin” the process of developing an elite player. The same would apply if one were interested in the “arts” or any other sport.
Good luck to all of you and continue to chase your dream!