They literally came to Orlando from around the world on a mission to grow the game. All told, golf leaders from 12 countries joined Jan. 21-22, together as one, to further the game for golf’s next great generation at the 3rd PGA Global Youth & Family Summit at the Orange County Convention Center.
A global golf think tank where TEDx meets golf next.
“It’s incredibly exciting for the PGA of America to have the opportunity to learn from the foremost junior golf experts in the space,” remarked PGA Vice President Suzy Whaley, PGA/LPGA.
Hosted by Golf Channel broadcaster Charlie Rymer, PGA, the two-day global youth golf think tank expanded upon the PGA’s mission to understand more about how people of all ages learn the game most effectively, in order to help drive new players into the game and increase retention success.
“I think it is one of the best education events I’ve ever attended that the PGA has put on,” said Tom Morton, PGA Player Development Director for Haggin Oaks in Sacramento, California.
The sold-out crowd of 220 attendees were extremely impressed with the array, depth and knowledge of the 24 presentations from 32 world-class experts and talented speakers, who are recognized leaders in their youth and family area of expertise and business development.
Now a biennial tradition since 2014, junior golf leaders have traveled to Orlando to discuss golf’s most critical mission—to grow a diverse pool of boys and girls who want to play the game from all walks of life.
In fact, one gentleman took a 16-hour flight from Dubai, while a woman golf professional in attendance said she discovered a golf instruction best practice offered by PGA Professional Nicole Weller for teaching the game to preschoolers nearly a year ago, as she was surfing online in Italy.
“You’re in for a treat today,” said Chair Rick Murphy, PGA. “There’s so much incredible information but if you can pick up just one or two nuggets, and bring it back to your facilities to grow your business, that’s key,” said Chair Rick Murphy, PGA.
Over two days, golf’s most impressive youth and family think tank offered rapid-fire, 30-minute presentations that offered extensive insight and programming ideas for PGA and LPGA Professionals, and other industry leaders. The information presented was designed to help grow their business among existing customers and create new players.
“This two-day event is growing in stature worldwide,” said Dr. Stephen Norris, Executive Vice President and Chief Sport Officer at the Canadian Sport Centre Calgary. “When I travel around, people know about it, and talk about it, and that will go very well when we look at the future of the game.”
“We’re all here to learn and enhance the value what PGA and LPGA Professionals bring to their place of employment,” said Rymer.
The final day kicked off by examining how growing a pipeline of boys and girls who play the game leads to both growing the game and business of golf.
Dr. Richard Bailey, of Berlin, who leads research for the International Council of Sport Science and Physical Education—the worldwide umbrella body for sports science and education for Olympic sports, and companies such as Nike—kicked off Day 2 by discussing the importance of professionalism and integrity in teaching. “I personally think the PGA is leading the way around the world in showing new standards.
“Literally, the evidence suggests that coaches, teachers and parents are the divisive factor [in having successful outcomes with children]…If you think that you can continue teaching by just using the same things you did 20 years ago without adding new practices, teachings and science, that’s the definition of arrogance.”
Looking at pure scientific evidence, Bailey will turn your most comfortable theories and hypotheses on their heels. Taking a contrarian, based-in-scientific-fact only approach, Bailey dismisses the widely popular “10,000 hours” theory of practice to become an elite expert in anything as “journalistic fiction.”
He also claims the visual style of learning is a modern-day myth, with no basis in science fact, along with the ever-popular growth mindset theories. He claims they are all rejected strictly from a scientific standpoint. Yet he’s willing to discuss with others, if they feel he is completely off the mark.
“Criticism is an act of love,” explains Bailey. “We have a moral responsibility to question not just other people but ourselves.”
Norris went in a different direction speaking to the framework of the evolving “American Development Model” which is based in the Japanese belief of “kaizen”—continual improvement or a change for the better.
“Going on all around us, sport is changing,” said Norris. “For me, despite the challenges of golf in North America, there is a world of opportunity. Anytime there is a chance to tie hundreds of thousands of children and their parents to the game, there’s a world of opportunity.”
He urges that age-appropriate teaching be implemented. “One of these days Google and Amazon will turn their attention to sport, because they will take seriously the ages and groups we take for granted, children and their parents. We need to understand that an 11-year old is not half a 22-year old…and an 8-year-old is not half a 16-year old. We must understand that…ADM is a foundation document that goes from youth to adolescence to adults. We need to look at how we can provide the world-leading instruction for golf."
Norris presented a video that featured Jack Nicklaus and Annika Sorenstam, who spoke to how they were multi-sport athletes growing up. Nicklaus insisted that his children and grandchildren do the same and not just be solely focused on one sport, in order to develop a well-rounded person, as well as to prevent burnout.
Approximately 70 percent of Olympic athletes in 2012 played multiple sports growing up. That is why the days of the one-sport only until the kid is driven to the brink—both physical and mental health wise— may be numbered.
“I am pleading with you to learn and embrace to move forward positively,” said Norris. “The opportunities are huge and more importantly you will be doing the right thing…You have the opportunity to shape current leaders and future leaders for the United States of America.”
PGA and LPGA Professional Susie Meyers joined PGA of America Hall of Fame Member Michael Hebron to discuss practical applications of teaching.
“Maybe P-G-A should stand for ‘Pleasurable Game for All,’” said Hebron. “I don’t want to be known for who I coach. I want to be known for how I coach….I used to ask about the kids what they shot. Now, I ask them about the shots they like because it’s an enjoyable journey [for the child to recall].”
It’s about changing perception. For example, talk about if the putt went too long or too short not if it was a good or bad shot.
How you talk to kids is important. Care without confrontation. React without ridicule. Interest without intimidation. Support without stress. Promote without pressure.
Hebron insists these are the only words parents should only say to a child after playing a sport: “Have fun. Play hard. I love you.”
“It’s not about learning styles; it’s about how we learn,” explained Meyers. “We talk about approaches of swinging the putter, and their own style will show up.”
For high school kids, technique is important but focusing on emotional management is vital.
“Misses happen all the time,” says Meyers. “You got to make the task on the golf course so simple, like holding your breath, that they just naturally do it, and recall it on the golf course.”
It’s like planting a seed in the ground for the long-term health of the game. Hebron rhetorically asks: “Isn’t it a fair judge of a youth program that they are still playing golf at age 30?
“Everything is about finding the middle,” adds Meyers. “Allowing them to find the middle is better than telling how to do it.”
Jim Thompson, Founder/CEO Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) in the San Francisco Bay area, presented his vision of youth sports as a Development Zone, which has attracted the involvement of many elite coaches, athletes, academics and business. He strongly believes in the power of positively in coaching.
“What does positivity do? It builds and broadens. Negatively coils and restricts.”
He stresses how coaches have evolved from the old-school, field general Bobby Knight's of the world in the 1980s to the player-friendly Steve Kerr's of today.
Thompson speaks to upward spirals and downward spirals that can lead to various outcomes but can be paved by the coach. “I think there has been a sea change in what positive coaching is…Intensity does not equal negativity….The best practices of great coaches is that sports has an endless progression of teachable moments. Every game has an opportunity to make better athletes and better people.”
He preaches the importance of mistake rituals. Brush off after three seconds, and move on. “A mistake is a time machine. It takes you out of the present, and puts you in the past.”
It’s the importance of a player being connected to their coach and their teammates—believing they can improve, together.
Innovative programs such as PGA Jr. League, Drive, Chip & Putt and the more recent PGA Junior Golf Camps have made an immeasurable impact on the future of the game, by providing avenues for children to pursue the game, and the dreams that lie within it, at the grassroots level.
“This is really substantial—enhance your life, enhance your value,” says Bob Baldassari, Director, Youth Golf Development for the PGA of America. “You don’t grow your business behind the golf counter or in the golf shop. You grow your business by getting out there.”
For example, Sherri Pla, PGA Head Golf Professional for the City of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, ramps up her programs by starting with beginners at the camp level as a feeder system for her PGA Jr. League programs, leading to individual coaching.
“PGA Jr. League was an amazing opportunity,” said Pla. “When we launched Jr. League as a PGA-sanctioned program, it caught on like wildfire. We were hoping for 40 kids and just blew it out of the water…For the first time running a Jr. League program, we got 84 kids.”
She ran ads on Comcast, through schools and the City’s municipality to promote the league. She wound up with 30 percent new golfers; 40 percent golfers already in her program; and 30 percent were kids who came back to her program after drifting away. The end result: it drove kids to stick around in the summer and fall, too.
“These programs provide credibility and branding,” said Pla. “Drive, Chip & Putt, Jr. League, Camps, they’re all a win-win.”
PGA Master Professional Ralph Landrum, the President/Owner of Landrum Golf Management in Crestview Hills, Kentucky, was the first in his Section to embrace PGA Jr. League. He had similar year-round retention. “It brings a lot to the table…It’s a different ball game for us; we never had a team sport before…It was an absolute revenue driver for us. The marketing materials make our job easier to get the word out to people…We’re truly trying to grow our game…With the PGA branding, it just works.”
Changing the face of golf impacts business by driving new revenues from untapped sources. “People want to see people that look like you,” explains Summit Chair Murphy.
It all boils down to the environment that is created and cultivated.
“Culture is the way we do things here,” said PCA CEO Thompson, author of “Developing Winners in Sports and Life: The Power of Double-Goal Coaching.” “If you have a great positive culture, it’ll change the people who are in it.”
Other speakers on the final day of the PGA Global Youth & Family Summit presented by OMEGA focused on the global game and communication. Among the worldwide experts were: Kevin Smeltz, PGA Director of Instruction at Bishops Gate Golf Academy in Hilton Head, South Carolina; John Godwin, PGA of US Kids Golf; UCLA Distinguished Research Professor Dr. Robert Bjork; Harvard University Psychology Professor Dr. Daniel Schacter; “Train Ugly’s” Travor Ragan; LPGA Professional Kate Tempesta, Founder, Owner and President of “Fun” and Kate Tempesta’s Urban Golf Academy in New York City; and Spencer Dennis of Edufi.
“I hope you’ll leave here positive about the PGA, positive about the Summit, and positive about your growth-of-the-game experience,” PGA VP Whaley stated.
PGA Past President Gary Schaal explained the next step. “If there’s that many people curious about getting about golf, we’re in great hands…The Summit was great because the subjects were so diverse…It’s now all on the PGA Professional to convince the owner, the board or the bank that this is what to do, because it will yield the following—not only are we growing the game but here’s the bottom line.”
The 4th PGA Global Youth & Family Summit is planned for January 2020. Stay tuned. A world of possibilities for the game of golf lies ahead.