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How to successfully coach your children at golf and improve their desire to learn in school
Learning has to be fun, easy and quick to keep the average child entertained. So what can you do to assist in this process? Helping kids to learn has many advantages over adults. Kids learn with more sensory awareness - they use the right side of the brain more creatively and more innovatively than adults. They also learn with a degree of fearlessness unknown in adult learning. The secret is to keep them that way.
When I was at school (they did have school back then) the teacher made us stand up and answer questions when we did not know the answers - hardly confidence building. My geography teacher 'Nunc' made me stand up and display my 'navel port' and from that point on he would only ask me spelling questions.
I went through the O-level years just learning to spell the difficult words to save myself from humiliation. This was not an ideal base for learning. So how can we create a great learning session and use it to help our children at school?

'A good teacher teaches you how to teach yourself better.' John Holt

First and foremost don't teach. Trust in your young pupil's talent by showing them great swings from videos, CDs and books. Ask your child to pay particular attention to the balanced follow-through position; immediately they have made a good swing they should feel more stable.

Ask them where their hands are at any moment in time. Ask them to notice any part of the movement that does not feel free and relaxed - they should be feeling like a well-oiled machine. Ask them to listen for the swish of the club and notice when it can be heard after the moment of contact. Reading the Inner Game of Golf (by Tim Galwey) will give you some great ideas on how to set up fun sessions that will bring you closer to your child.

On one of my training courses I sent would-be golf coaches, both men and women, to a local school to ask children how they had fun. Among all the delightful feedback came two rather distressing pieces of information - they liked to make noise and break things. But I thought 'fantastic, I can use this'. I set up targets on the range that made noises when hit. A dustbin lid worked well. I also acquired some empty glass bottles (this may not pass some risk assessments) and placed them on poles as targets. Kids, who usually manage to stay focused for about 15 minutes, remained on the range for two hours. And they were fixated upon the target and not on the ball - a good lesson.
As a postscript to that exercise I was doing a teambuilding exercise with the Essex county team (a bunch of 14 to 40-year-olds who all benefit from being treated like kids now and again). I borrowed some plates from the golf club which were again used as targets.

Again the level of focus displayed was quite remarkable compared to the usual comparatively lackadaisical approach. Most times team members just hit ball after ball without genuine feedback. Now every team member was making minute adjustments to their swing speed, direction, feel and rhythm while becoming immersed in a small inviting target. Imagined if that could happen while junior was doing his homework.

'I never allowed schooling to interfere with my education.' Mark Twain

Dos with kids
Notice what they do well and tell them;
Find ranges with interesting varied targets that give proactive feedback;
Create a atmosphere of curiosity, 'what would happen if you...'
Make sure clubs fit. This is possibly the most important aspect of the technical side of the game;
Start with putting, including games at home;
Sign them up for organised group programmes after you have watched a session and have observed the kids enjoying constant attention;
Only suggest they try something. don't tell;
Ask: 'What was the most interesting thing you learned today?'
Play gentle rhythmic music in the background;
Use simple language and deliver it in a gentle style.

Don'ts with kids
Sign them up for group sessions that amounts to a five-minute 1-2-1;
Tell them what they did wrong. Instead ask them what they will do differently next time;
Never say 'No' or any word with a negative connotation;
Make learning competitive and point out when they make progress;
Ignore evidence of frustration, deal with it;
Let them copy your swing unless you have the perfect swing;
Embarrass them or raise your voice;
Tell them to hit the ball. It will not encourage a balanced swing;
Let them hit a full shot until they can regularly strike a rubber tee peg with a good swing;
Let your enthusiasm overpower theirs.

Conclusion
When they have learnt well, ask them to notice how they maintained their interest, focus and enthusiasm. Get them to affirm that learning can be fun. Then when they go off to school ask them what they would like to learn today. When you can manage to get them to ask themselves better questions in class, like 'what is interesting about this' or 'how could this be interesting' you will give them a potentially superior base for learning.

It certainly beats learning to spell just to avoid humiliation.

Peter Hudson is president of the World Golf Teaching Federation of Great Britain and coach to the Essex county team. He brings 30 years experience to ScottishGolf readers who are keen to get the most from their golf.
He says: 'I don't just teach what to learn but how to learn.'

More information about Peter Hudson's approach to coaching can be found on his websites - www.yourgolfcoach.com and www.wgtfgb.com or call him direct on 08700 114 292.



©    22 - FEBRUARY 2005



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