How do Junior Golfers Become Successful?

  • Article Posted By: Iain Highfield
  • Performance Psychology Consultant
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Article Posted By: 
Iain Highfield
Performance Psychology Consultant

Legendary basketball coach John Robert Wooden won ten NCAA national championships in a 12-year period, including a record seven in a row (no other team has won more than two in a row). One of Wooden’s most famous and thought provoking quotes was this – It is possible to outscore your opponent and lose and it is possible to be outscored and win.”

This quote can be applied to many and maybe every aspect of our lives, but to me it’s a quote that is extremely applicable to junior golf and something I wish parents and players could decipher.

Decoding Wooden’s words would help junior golfers break free of the strangle hold of results. A junior golfer searching for fulfillment, identity, or happiness in a golf score will more than likely be repeatedly disappointed. This can rapidly lead to the PlayStation becoming a more attractive option rather than having to test their mind and body on the fairways of your local course.

However, if parents and junior athletes could engage with Wooden’s words and understand that a twelve year old winning a junior golf tournament has absolutely no bearing on the child’s future in the game (at this age results are likely linked to advantages from playing the game for longer than the rest of the field or physical advantages from early maturation). And often the players that ‘win’, lose because the little shiny trophy creates a fixed mindset that slows down or halts the development of psychological characteristics of excellence.The players that are perceived to be losing, if the people around them create the right environment, will start to develop grit, resilience, drive and a mindset that is driven by long term mastery, not being able to put a trophy on their mom’s fire place.

"We're all absolutely equal in having the opportunity to make the most of what we have." - John Wooden

So again, I would like to draw your attention to the words of the great Mr. Wooden and close out this short blog with another one of his quotes. “Success is peace of mind attained only through self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do the best in which you are capable of.”

Wooden valued character development and motivation above winning or skill acquisition. He communicated in a way that created neither external pressures nor outcome focus and established an environment where the journey was more important than the destination. How many more smiling faces and fulfilled young golfers would we see on the course if this belief was the norm in junior golf?  

(I’d urge you to listen to Wooden articulate his genius in this video https://youtu.be/0MM-psvqiG8.)

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