Children need to learn to play with joy before they play with technique.
An experience I had last week with a parent really represents the fundamental truth of the words above and why I think JOY in the learning environment is tremendously important.
A mother who was considering enrolling her child in our program asked me how much of what I do is instruction based. She was very concerned with her child learning proper technique.
I am asked this question often, and my answer is always the same: We do not teach to simply teach the golf swing and other golf fundamentals, we teach to grow golfers. My goal is to get children excited about the game— which means tuning into what they really need in that moment. Are they distracted by an overhead passing plane? Great, let’s use it the game/lesson at hand! Instead of chipping to birdie’s nest be a pilot launching a parachute into the hoop. Are they tired from the heat? Great, it’s time for us to take a break, incorporate water balloons into the game, hydrate and reconnect.
ALL developmental elements of a child are important, and I strive every day to address students’ needs as they arise. We create a dynamic learning experience by staying present to exactly what a child is requiring, in the moment they are requiring it. Certainly we are teaching grip, aim, stance and posture. However we are teaching it in a way that the children can relate to, feel comfortable with and incorporate into their learning their way. For example, instead of asking a child to pivot we “smoosh a bug”, we have “trophy finishes” etcetera.
The mother wasn’t sure and she came later in the week to watch a class. At the end of the class she asked to speak to me in private. “I get it,” she said. That was it. So simple. By staying present, and watching herself, she was able to tune into the experience we provide and understand that through fun, joy and play, the children are in fact learning golf.
Why is joy important to learning? When we positively associate an experience, we want more of it. Children will not come back to golf because they are successful at it— they will come back because they like the FEELING success brings—they like the feeling of joy. My point is that feeling is there far before proper technique. It is there far before we approach a real course. It is there simply in what it feels like to stand tall and proud in a lesson.
Last week we took a group picture in one of my classes. I realized that every single child in that shot had been with me for four or five years. They come back. Because they like the sport? Certainly. Because they like spending time with me? I hope so! But I suspect, really, because they experience joy in our lessons. Play is dynamic— which means it’s constantly evolving. When technique is appropriate, we introduce it. We want to be constantly striving, constantly growing. Constantly moving forward. My point is that what propels that motion is not a perfect swing, or a perfect score. What propels that motion— what pitches us forward—is love of the game.
PLAY to succeed. PLAY to grow. PLAY to learn.
By: World Junior Golf