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WHy Kids Quit Golf

And how playing the long game pays off

Every year, 40 million children in the USA participate in youth sport. In this era of early specialization, we are seeing children get burnt out from sport at younger and younger ages. Unfortunately, early specialization and other factors have lead to 70% of children quitting sports by 13 years old.

We sat down with Gavin Grenville-Wood, the Head of Junior Education to discuss why children quit, how to teach children the right way and how to avoid common pitfalls.


Why are so many children quitting sports so young?

This is something that we need to be mindful of when creating programs and schedules for children. Even in golf, children are competing at a global level as young as five years old. We are fighting an uphill battle with parents that are getting guilted into having their children compete at such a young age because they are miseducated into thinking this early competition will lead to success down the road.

Coaching children is not for everyone, but with the proper skills, preparation and understanding, it can be one of the most rewarding ventures as a coach, greater than any other coaching experience. To be successful at introducing children to a game for life and sustaining a successful junior program, a thoughtful approach and qualified, skilled coach are absolutely critical.

What is Leadbetter Kids?
The Leadbetter Kids philosophy is to ensure everything we do facilitates kids to fall in love with the game for a lifetime. I’m not sure that we can even begin teaching technical learning into a lesson until they have at least displayed a love for the sport at their level, on their terms. Otherwise, they are not going to see the point in it. To me, fun is defined as a kid that is engaged, a kid that is feeling successful or accomplished achieving things. The Leadbetter Kids philosophy is to ensure everything we do facilitates kids to fall in love with the game for a lifetime.

Kids need to see engagement in the activity, enough to have them want to come back the next week. We need to create an environment where kids can develop physically, emotionally, mentally, and physically. This dips into David’s holistic approach to the game learning how to coach the individual first, the athlete second.

Typically, golf lessons are structured that they are told what to do rather than including them in the process. However, with kids we need to allow children to feel connected to the lesson, even giving them ownership. With that being said, The experience that a child gets with you during a lesson will vary from one child to the next and it is our challenge as coaches to be able to interact with each child and appreciate the differences between each child that is in your care for that hour or however long it is.

“I’m not sure that we can even begin teaching technical learning into a lesson until they have at least displayed a love for the sport at their level, on their terms. Otherwise, they are not going to see the point in it.”

Pressure from parents who want to see more technical instruction.
I always tell instructors, and parents, that we have to play the long game. It’s never about how good the kids are going to be at 12 years old. It is impossible to predict where a 12-year-old will take the sport. All you can do is provide a roadmap and point them in the right direction. If you’re doing the right things, that relate to what engages that particular child, they’re going to love the sport enough for you to be able to dive a bit deeper and expect more from them in terms of becoming a more physical athlete or dedicating more time.”

Get the parents involved.
It is so important to get parents engaged early. Why is it important to throw a football around or swing a tennis racket? We know the skills involved are very similar to that of swinging a golf club. It is a fun and different activity. If you get the parents involved and engaged from the start, then you are sending the right message. They will be much more on board with how you do things and more importantly, why. And when a lesson looks like chaos, which it can, they will understand the meaning behind it and the benefits that come out of it. The chaos is each child doing their own thing within the confines of a group environment. So, it’s going to look different, but they’re all doing the same thing.

Why do we focus on the 5-12 age group?
We all have the inherent skills to teach a teenager, but for us to engage a child between the ages of 5-12 is so much more difficult. The learning environment has to match students’ age and ability. Class structure and length will change based on your student’s age. We have found the best way to groups kids together is by age, not ability; they need to be able to interact with kids at a similar stage of emotional and mental development. Age will be your best reflection of your attention span. As the kids get older, then ability starts to come a little more into the equation, you can divide the students by a combination of age and ability.

What happens at age 13?
Our programs are designed for children ages 4-12. For those looking to teach a more advanced player, any child that goes through our program will have become a more qualified young athlete, ready to go through what you require from them in order to get to the levels that you’re expecting.

Being creative and finding ways to engage children to help promote their social development, especially over the next couple of years because kids will be deficient in that area. They will lack social skills and we need to focus on that, alongside their physical development. 
Examples could include:

  • Social events outside of normal class times
  • Teams
  • Problem solving
  • Treasure hunts
  • Themes around events on the calendar

“Let the kids play”
The game of golf is an amazing sport, we don’t need to change it. It is self-fulfilling in so many ways. We just need to get children on the course for them to experience it.

Kids are absolutely falling behind in terms of their interaction and socialization with each other. We need to emphasize what this generation is missing. It’s huge. Kids need to be allowed to back and get out and play. Play, socialization, and interaction. Provide the opportunity for them to love it and interact with each other.

Interested in coaching children? To learn more about our Leadbetter Kids certification click here.