August 22, 2017

Talented young performers? Or exceptional families? By Matthew Cooke, World Junior Golf Advisory Board

Talented young performers? Or exceptional families? By Matthew Cooke, World Junior Golf Advisory Board

A recurring myth, I hear often, about high-achieving performers are that they possessed “gifted” abilities throughout their childhood growing up.  It’s commonly known, in the sporting arena, that expert’s obtain some “natural” ability to perform at an extremely high level. It has been alluded to in the past as a particular “gene” of ability, which seems to have been perceived by the world. This, in my experience, is highly favorable to parents and some coaches as it seems relatively easy to understand and on the surface level shows logic. It is, however, very misleading as the development of talent in young people has more to it than meets the eye.

Dr. Benjamin Bloom at the University of Chicago did the most comprehensive research and studies on this particular subject. His data from this study shows that talented young individuals were a byproduct of an exceptional family and support system. Bloom categorized particular phases for these young performers (see phases of participation blog: ) and detailed the specific behaviors of the families and teachers throughout each phase.

At the beginning phase, children are introduced to the game generally very young. Usually, a family member or parent introduces them, typically in a very playful and fun way. This was named “Whitehead’s first stage of learning, the romance stage” and until the child begins to show more interest, this is where they stay. Parents at this stage were found to encourage and engage in a non-judgmental way fostering the fun aspect of the game.

Once the child begins to show more interest, parents tended to seek out local instruction and shifted their roles to that of a cheerleader, and chauffer. Once the child begins to show higher levels of skill he/she generally plays in club competitions and local tournaments, which the parents paid for and sacrificed time and energy for. It isn’t long before parents sought out a more notable instructor, which typically cost more money and could be further away requiring more sacrifice to travel. Soon after children tended to seek higher levels of tournament competition venturing out of local and club events to national and regional competitions. These cost more money and required more sacrifice from parents. Often parents relocated in alignment with their child’s passion, and to provide the best opportunities for further instruction.

Over time, around the point the player is late in adolescence, they begin to seek out a nationally renowned teacher or even an academy to further their skills and opportunities to compete at the highest level. Parents take on the costs, which are higher for the instruction and competition. Families and parents adjust their lifestyle and sacrifice many aspects of their life to allow for this to happen.

Throughout these three phases, parents and families are very supportive, they help, assist, provide, encourage, act as guideposts at times and always have their child’s dreams as a priority., coaches are to do the same.

As coaches, we have a sacred responsibility because we hold in our hands the potential to enable young people to develop into extraordinary players and extraordinary young men and woman.


Matthew Cooke

Game Like Training Golf

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