Golf should never define who your child is as a person

by | Oct 28, 2021 | PGA

The advice I give young players and their parents is often about the mental and emotional aspects of the game.

When you consider that golf is one of the toughest sports, it’s actually amazing that so many people fall in love with it. One of the things that make the game so difficult is the mental strain it becomes for many, and especially those who hold promise as they progress.

Club throwing, swearing and outbursts of anger, things like “I’m done! I’ll never play that stupid game again! ‘ everyone has a fun way of preventing these very same people from honing the sport they “love”.

There is a fine line when it comes to this topic and young golfers …. is it just a sense of “passion” for the game or is it creeping into more dangerous terrain for some? Something that can potentially turn into an unhealthy obsession with finding that unattainable “perfection” that so many are looking for?

I’m sure this happens in other concentrations for young people … music, art, other sports, or even finding a 4.0 GPA. At all costs, a teenager must fully understand that golf, or whatever their passion is, does not define them as a person … and never should.

When people, as parents, say nice things about our children, it is in some ways an endorsement of how we raised them. But doesn’t it ultimately feel more fulfilling to hear things about our children’s characters, how they behave, how they treat others than hearing, “Boy, you have a fantastic golf swing”?

Sure, that feels good to hear that too, but like I said, your chosen passion shouldn’t be what defines you as a person.

When we have the opportunity to raise a child in such a fantastic game as golf, it is very special. For those who really and deeply love the game, you will understand what I mean when I say this. Anything a child can learn about life through play, regardless of the level at which they play, is for their benefit as they grow. However, it is important to watch out for cases where the difficulty of the game may have an inverse effect on them … where they are not learning and struggling with the emotional aspects that arise. Children often do not know exactly how to cope with these situations, and while it is good for them to learn, as parents you may need to step in and help.

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to speak to Mr. John O’Sullivan. John is a world renowned speaker in the field of educating young athletes. He is the founder of the Changing the Game project and host of the Way of the Champions podcast. His 2014 TED Talk has almost half a million views. I’ll leave you with one of the things John said that stuck in my mind most as a PGA coach and also as the father of my son and daughter …

“Our children should never think that our love for them depends on the outcome of a competition. When we get upset, sad, or angry when they lose, our children see it and do worse. Regardless of whether they win or lose, whether they play well or badly, tell them after the competition, “I love to watch you play”. That’s it. These simple words help to relieve the fear of failure and the expectation of success, which is a paralysis for many young athletes. “