How do you successfully parent junior golfers? What does this actually look like? What should parents say to their children after they have finished their round?
Recent research has sought to investigate what being a great sporting parent looks like and how parents can optimise the positive impact they have on their child. Here’s what they found…
Top tips on Parenting Junior Golfers
- Develop Goals Together
Setting effective goals can sometimes be difficult, but consistent and regular communication allows you and your child to feel comfortable in discussing what they want to achieve and what you hope they will achieve. The goals you set together should be challenging but realistic. For more tips on how to master goal setting, see our blog "How To Do Goal Setting Right".
- Create a Supportive Environment
Children often feel shame or are embarrassed if they play badly or make mistakes. Parents can therefore play a key role in reducing their child’s fear of failure by creating a supportive environment, where mistakes are met with encouragement and positivity and seen as an opportunity to learn.
- Talk About What Your Child Likes to Do When Practicing and Playing
Listening more than you talk is key. Better understanding what your child enjoys doing at the range and on the golf course means you will be able to guide and support them when they are practicing or in competition. Ultimately, it’s their experience, not yours.
- Support and Guide Your Child
A child’s mindset is often shaped by their parents’ reactions to setbacks. Research suggests that parents can help improve their child’s performance by having high but accurate expectations, and accompanying these with high levels of support. Communication that focuses on your child’s effort, not their abilities, is also key for developing a growth mindset in golf.
- Work With, Not Against Your Child’s Coach
The more harmonious the relationship between parents and coaches, the better. Parents naturally spend a lot of time with their children and should use some of this time to try and reinforce what the coach is teaching their junior golfer. Remember: the coach is the expert.
- Socialise with Other Parents
The very nature of golf often means that parenting a junior golfer and watching them practice can be a lonely place; but through socialising with other parents you can create a larger support system for both you and your child. Athletes who have a good team around them are often more motivated and cope better with stressful situations, hence they perform when it really matters.
- Learn How to Manage Your Own Emotions
A child’s experience and enjoyment are often impacted by their parent’s ability to manage their emotions. The more control you have, the higher the quality of the feedback and support you offer, and as consequence the extent to which your child enjoys their sport increases.
- Model Healthy Behaviours
Often, a child’s view of their participation in sport is shaped by their parents. It is important to remember that both within and outside of the golf environment, your child will pick up on how you conduct yourself and may copy these behaviours.
- Be a Fan, Not a Coach
When asked, children often say that they want their parents to be involved in their sport, especially when they provide common sense advice (i.e. on practical aspects, effort and attitude), rather than coach them. Most parents are not PGA professional coaches, and whether or not you agree with the swing changes your child’s coach is making, your job is to support them.
There is a lot of pressure placed on junior golfers to cut their handicap and later play off plus figures or turn professional. All too often, this pressure becomes too much and reduces the extent to which the child actually enjoys playing golf.
Research suggests that, at a young age, parents shouldn’t place too much pressure on their child but instead provide support and encourage them to play a variety of sports, allowing them to decide for themselves what they enjoy, whilst also increasing their child's chances of becoming “elite”.