3 Life Skills Golf Will Teach Your Child...That May Surprise You
By Ryan Dailey, co-founder of Operation 36 Golf
It’s no secret that sports can help kids develop skills beyond what we see on the field or in the gym. And after teaching hundreds of kids over the past ten years, we have personally witnessed the transformation of so many of these kids. But there are three skills in particular that make golf a great teacher:
1. The dying skill of how to interact with people, aka ‘social skills’
Social skills are both verbal and non-verbal skills we use every day to communicate with others. The problem is that none of us are born with these skills, and they need to be developed. As our society continues to move more and more to a digital experience where face-to-face interactions are minimized on a daily basis, the opportunity to develop world-class social skills have been drastically reduced.
In one round of golf, both verbal and non-verbal communication occurs well over 100 times. Golf is different from sports such as basketball, football, hockey and soccer. Yes, those other sports are great and you do learn social skills in them. However, in Golf, the number of opportunities a player has to interact with others is dramatically higher than, say, when you are skating up and down the rink as fast as you can to get the puck.
It takes a player approximately 30 seconds to hit a shot after you factor in your club decision, pre-shot routine, hitting the actual shot and then your post-shot routine. If you hit 5 shots in a hole, that is a total of 2 minutes and 30 seconds. If a normal hole takes 10-12 minutes, that leaves quite a bit of time for you to interact with the others in your group. Sometimes you are talking with them while other times you are reading their body language to see how you can best help. We see it all the time. A group of 3 players leaves the 1st tee and nobody knows each other. By the time they come back to the 9th green, after being together for 2 hours, they are chatting it up and exchanging phone numbers to figure out when they can practice/play again together or hang out.
2. Problem solving – but parents must allow for this.
In recent years it seems that the easiest solution to a problem is to ask someone else. We see it in our children, employees, students, coaches and even ourselves if we aren’t careful. In our rush to get on to the next item on our to do list, we have fallen into the poor habit of asking others in hopes that they will have the quick answer.
In golf, a player is constantly solving problems. Here are several common problems that arise:
- What club to hit off the tee?
- What club to hit as we approach the green?
- Which way does this putt break?
- How hard should I hit this putt?
- Where should I stand when my competitor is hitting?
- Who hits next? Do I go or does my competitor go?
- I’m in the trees, do I punch out to the fairway or go through that 3” gap and try to pull off a Phil Mickelson shot?
- I’m starting to feel some pressure and get nervous. How do I best deal with that?
- The player I’m playing with just hit a great shot, should I compliment them or stay quiet?
We need to be careful as parents to not solve all the problems for our players or they will never build that “problem solving” muscle. If they never build that muscle, they will be lost when we are not around, they will not confidently make any decisions and their performance will suffer long term.
More importantly, they will never develop the ability to bounce back from a poor shot that they committed to and took ownership of. If Dad makes every decision, if they hit a poor shot, they can always blame Dad a little bit.
We’ve observed plenty of parents over the years who solved every little problem that came up and the student never took ownership of any decision or developed that decision-making muscle.
The minute Dad wasn’t present and they had to make a decision on their own, they were terrified. If they made a poor choice, they didn’t know how to handle it emotionally and they fell apart on the next shot and sometimes the rest of the round. If players go through that cycle enough, they will end up quitting the game, and we have certainly seen our share of players who have done that. It’s sad to see, and it was preventable.
The next time your player is trying to choose a club to hit a shot, don’t jump in and tell them what club to hit and why. Let them take ownership of solving the problem and sit back and let them learn. If they make a poor decision, that is their opportunity to learn from it. We don’t want to take that learning opportunity from them.
The most successful employees, students and coaches we have had were expert ‘problem solvers.’ When a problem arose, they would rub their hands together like a mad scientist in excitement as they couldn’t wait to solve the problem.
3. Personal accountability
Personal accountability is the belief that you are fully responsible for your own actions and the consequences from those actions. This could be the most important skill that any human being can develop and cultivate.
Without ‘personal accountability,’ a person never looks within for the solution, they always are looking outward by blaming others, the environment, their childhood, their parents, the government, the weather… the list could go on and on.
Golf is an individual sport and ‘personal accountability’ is built into the fabric of the game. If you make a high score, it is on you. If you hit a poor shot, it is on you. It’s black and white, there is no gray area. When you walk off the 18th green, you sign your scorecard and the score that you sign for is what you did.
For many folks, this is the first sport they have ever participated in where they have to take 100% accountability. In football, the score on the scoreboard is not representative of one person; it is the collective efforts of everyone on the team. The same is true in basketball, hockey, soccer and all team sports.
Thus, a player can, if they choose, not take responsibility for their mistakes and not learn from them. In golf, you really have no choice. You are accountable for your score and then it is up to you to problem-solve a solution to play better next time.
On the positive side, golfers who get used to the rinse and repeat cycle of playing, being held accountable for their score and then using that as motivation to seek out improvement, tend to develop some wonderful habits that will serve them well in their future.
Ryan Dailey, PGA is the co-founder of Operation 36 Golf along with Matt Reagan, PGA. They have dedicated their careers to building a developmental program and technology to introduce and guide anyone in playing the game of golf. The Op36 development model is currently being used at over 525 locations in 11 different countries around the world. To learn more about Operation 36 golf, go to op36.golf or watch their new YouTube series, “My Journey” . If you would like your child to be taught by an Operation 36 coach, who values such lessons, find a facility near you here.