Matt Kilgariff, Director of Player Development at The Bridges at Rancho Santa Fe (Calif.), says we all learn better and faster when learning is made fun. “The best way to break the ice with children and their parents is to set an expectation and assure them that your program “guarantees fun…and results!” He says clubs should strive to create a learning environment where juniors of all levels and abilities feel welcome and can enjoy the game while building a solid foundation.
(First in a two-part series)
It All Begins with Fun!
When building a junior program at your club, there are many things that must be considered, including safety, communication, education, results and FUN, just to name a few.
Start with the FUN Factor
Of course, it is extremely important that you take the time to understand your clientele and what phase of growth they are presently in. You also need to communicate clearly and effectively with parents and students by defining program guidelines, expectations and desired outcomes.
But if you do not include the fun factor as part of these initial conversations, you may lose the student and the parent before you’re even given a chance to start.
It’s a fact that we all learn better and faster when learning is made fun. The best way to break the ice with children and their parents is to set an expectation and assure them that your program “guarantees fun…and results!” Strive to create a learning environment where juniors of all levels and abilities feel welcome and can enjoy the game while building a solid foundation.
The more fun a child has learning and playing the game, the more they will want to learn and play. Take this opportunity to share with and show your students why you love the game. Your excitement and enthusiasm about golf, and the life-guiding principles it provides, can inspire a child.
Our youth are the future of golf! Creating a positive environment in your programming can be a turning point that can turn a new golfer into one that has a lifelong love of the sport.
Creating the FUN
How do you make sure your program is fun? There are two key components: the environment, and the programming.
• Environment—Start with a safe and stress-free environment. This is a key to a child’s development when learning anything new or challenging.
Create a kid-friendly space that is warm and welcoming and where a child versus an adult will feel comfortable. Think about how simple changes or additions to your existing facility can make it more inviting to a child. Provide a quality practice facility, and hire professionals specifically trained to instruct juniors.
• Programs—Structure your programs in a way to keep it light and fun for the students, without sacrificing a commitment toward development. Create a diverse junior program by offering camps, leagues such as the PGA Junior League, and competitive events such as Operation 36 play days. And collaborate with other club department heads to create additional kid-friendly activities that can include games, food, etc.
(Part 2 of “Building a Successful Junior Program” will look at the key factors of instructors, instruction, and program design.)
Matt Kilgariff is a PGA professional who spent much of his career working for Butch Harmon and the Harmon Family. He is currently the Director of Player Development at The Bridges at Rancho Santa Fe in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. Prior to joining The Bridges, Kilgariff was Director of Player Development at The Olympic Club in San Francisco. Matt has also been part of TaylorMade’s National Advisory Staff since 2012.