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Leopardstown Golf Centre, Torquay Road, Foxrock Village, Dublin 18, Ireland

It’s all about the ‘wiifm’!

junior_golf_image1It’s no secret that I am hugely passionate about junior golf. It’s the future of our sport and often neglected by clubs and coaches alike. When coaching children you have to think like a kid yourself. You have to understand what drives and motivates children when they come to you for coaching. They are not worried about swing plane, backswing or follow through. In every session you have with children they will ask themselves a few key questions and you must have your answers to these key questions answered well before they arrive at your club for coaching or if you’re a parent you must answer these questions if you want to boost your kid’s enthusiasm for the sport you love.

One of my youngest students Patrick with his hero Rory!

What are these questions? I read an amazing book called ‘Motivation in the Classroom’ by Ian Gilbert and he explains that all kids think about is the ‘wiifm’, that is ‘what’s in it for me’. You must set out the answer to the wiifm straight away. In my coaching I answer the wiifm for a number of issues at the outset of every session. I clearly explain the wiifm for good behavior, for helping others, for learning the most, for asking the most questions and for competing as best you can in the games we are about to play. I have read a lot lately on whether you should train children like athletes first or like golfers first along with a lot of debate on the LTAD (long Term Athlete Development) model. In my opinion a better question is, are we developing a world class attitude in our kids? Are we giving them the motivation they need to become the best they can be in whatever sport they focus their attention on. It’s widely known the type of encouragement Tiger was given by his father during his development. He cultivated the focus and competitiveness that everybody thinks Tiger was born with. In reading Phil Mickelson’s book I noticed that his dad set him challenges constantly in their backyard practice area to encourage Phil to have fun and motivate him to practice. In the video below you will hear Anthony Kim talk about his Dad doing something similar with him.


When setting up activities or games or making technical changes within the context of these games you must answer two questions for the children you are about to coach ‘Can I do this?’ and ‘Will it be worth it?’ . For example ‘If anyone holes five putts in a row from 10 feet, they will become King/Queen Putt until someone beats their top score’ or ‘maybe if you try this chip shot with a different club you will be able to keep it lower and that means you could beat the top score ever’.

The questions that I use to assess my junior coaching are:

  • Is this fun?
  • Would I want to do this if I were their age?
  • Are they motivated?
  • Am I rewarding learning and developing strong mindsets?
  • Am I equipping them with the tools to continue learning when I am not there?
  • Are they making the connection between learning and success not results and success?
  • Is there a clear pathway for development? Increasing difficulty/always something to strive for?

I will always help kids develop the skills and attitude they need to play this game to the very best of their ability and provide them with the motivation they need to strive for improvement through constant and never ending learning.

‘You can teach a student a lesson for a day; but if you can teach him to learn by creating curiosity, he will continue the learning process as long as he lives.’  ~Clay P. Bedford

Anthony Kim talks about the challenges his Dad set him