The old wisdom in golf told us that that specialization was necessary for a junior golfer to achieve his or her fullest potential. But new information and successful multi-sport golfers now suggest just the opposite. There is good reason to believe that if you are raising a golf champion, involving him or her in many different sports is the best thing you can do.
Recently, the U.S. Olympic Committee released a report that said that a majority of elite athletes play multiple sports well into high school. The report also said that standout young athletes play sports because of a love of activity and of sport in general. The average Olympian played three sports until their fourteenth birthday. Let’s rewind and replay that again: standout athletes become skilled because of a love of activity and competition. Golfers are the same, and well-rounded athletes make better, more balanced golfers who are less susceptible to injury.
The Titleist Performance Institute (TPI), of which I am a member, promotes the multisport approach for junior golfers. Jordan Spieth is the perfect example of a player who has clearly benefitted from this approach. As a young athlete, Jordan played football, basketball and baseball. In a recent interview with Purpose2Play.com, his mom, Chris, said that it was important to her that Jordan learn that “life is more than one sport, one goal.” When he was twelve, Jordan wanted to specialize in junior golf and his parents didn’t allow it, because they were worried that he wouldn’t get the right balance. Jordan’s TPI certified coaches also knew that golfers are at risk for overuse injuries because of the repetitive and uni-directional nature of the golf swing. Playing different sports, and using both sides of his body, allowed Jordan to avoid the injuries that plague many young golfers. Finally, the throwing motion that he used both as a pitcher and a quarterback developed the kinematic sequence (using the ground to push off with your feet, turning your hips, and torso) that is at the heart of a good golf swing.
Jordan Spieth is not the first Major champion to come along who had a multisport background. Jack Nicklaus competed successfully at football, baseball, tennis, and track and field. Both golfers showed uncanny poise and composure during the heat of battle, and Jordan seems to be following Mr. Nicklaus’ lead in living an exemplary life both on and off of the course. Aside from the physical benefits of the multi-sport approach, the life-long lessons of sport – hard work, never giving up, teamwork, friendship, and the heart-ache that sometimes life simply isn’t fair – are all skills that will benefit your junior golfer and guide him or her through the ecstasy and heart-ache of competitive golf.
BY: Paul Kaster