Thursday, January 25, 2007

Growing the Game – Day 4 – Enter, Enjoy and Excel

Dr. Stephen Norris

They use the slogan Enter, Enjoy and Excel to talk about their Long term approach. The guide sets out to clearly empower the child and parent to expect a nurturing environment to begin their experience with the game. Once the player has established their interest in the game and then shown a little skill that can be encouraged, the guide helps establish where and how additional coaching or teaching can be added to improve the child’s ability and enjoyment of the game. It also deals with issues such as gender separation at key times, the variety in personal development schedules, and the need to make sure slow developers are not left behind like they are in hockey. Finally this helps explain the role of parents to help them know what to do and what not to do.

The next stage of our conversation was about not following the standard pattern we always have used and pointing blindly to the successes that it has achieved. Golf needs to get away from the problems of hockey, such as a majority of NHL players are born between January and March, due to the way the drafting system separates players out during puberty, so that a late child is always placed at a huge physical disadvantage. In hockey the biggest issue is there is almost no way back in once the player has been by-passed by the system. In golf, none of the latest crop of great players was a junior champion, which shows that the path of development is not as simple as you might think – or as hockey makes it out to be.

Think of how many players are discarded when they are not far enough along at key times. The Guide sets out a system where a player can find his or her game later in life and can still enter (later) into the elite development system through a system that allow reportage. Dr. Norris went on to say there were other areas where we needed to break the conventional thinking such as looking at less conventional ways to teach, run tournaments and train players.

He continues to explain that you need to hit 1000’s of shots to learn the motor skills to play well. Yet golf is about hitting as few shots as possible and making the least amount of swings. Players even stick to the shots there most confident with to score rather than get inventive of creative during a round. Doesn’t it make more sense to find a way to encourage kids to hit more shots, develop new skills and to make a more solid impact on the ball? He went on to say eighteen holes take too long and is not as productive as training. The reason kids don’t practice much is the adult version of practice is painfully dull. He felt an alternative is needed like a Big Break like skills course, the idea of short courses or technical training areas meant to stimulate and teach at the same time. His ideal facility would be a swing facility with a mixture of shots and a movable target system made to develop more skills.

As a kid I used to play overland golf at twilight. We also played our own version of the Big Break challenges for quarters when we were bored with playing too much. No wonder I had a great short game as a kid and don’t posses that skill as an adult. I mentioned to Dr. Norris that the new chipping facility I built for St. Catharines Golf & Country Club has a three hole short course for young kids built into it. We certainly may not be able to accomplish the big facilities, but small footprints can still me be made into very flexible teaching and practicing facilities used to the kids skills since they hit the ball shorter distances.

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