Junior Golfers and Training (When is it time to start?)

“The development of physical literacy during childhood and adolescence is of critical importance in children’s attitudes and motivation towards future participation in sport.” 

-Dr. Jean-François Richard 

Helping junior athletes develop is my passion and I hope to share this passion with as many junior golfers, or junior athletes as I can. When you’re a young golfer you have so much potential and the only thing between you and your goals is yourself. That’s a powerful thing to be around and if I can inspire some of these juniors to push themselves to the next level, then I have done something amazing. 

As we age we lose our passion for sports because it seems unattainable to become elite. It’s not, but life gets in the way and we have to take care of our families and our careers. Sports have to take a back seat while we move forward in other areas of our lives. Which is totally fine and we should be doing that but seeing a junior athlete realize they have what it takes and giving them the tools to get there is what I want to do. 

When I was a kid training wasn’t what it is now. Not even close! When I grew up I played basketball at a high level and I didn’t workout in the traditional form. I played outside everyday and participated in as many sports as I could. Is that training? You better believe it is! My son who is 4 years old runs through the ladder and throws around my smallest medicine ball. Is it structured exercise? No, it’s play, but it’s also building an athletic foundation for years to come. 

Nowadays kids have golf coaches and trainers at 7 years old. I should know because I’ve trained a 7 year old! When I work with him we don’t lift weights but we move his body through different movement patterns. By moving his own bodyweight that is strength training for him. KIDS DO NOT NEED WEIGHTS AND EQUIPMENT TO GET STRONGER AND FASTER.

A lot of people / parents want their kids to specialize way too early and are missing a MASSIVE opportunity to build athleticism in these young athletes. Every sport presents a new challenge and demand on the body. This is how the best athletes in the world develop into who you see on on the highlight reels. Lebron James played football and basketball and he excelled at both. Brooks Koepka was a high level baseball player before committing to golf. Gary Woodland played college basketball. Tiger Woods was a child prodigy but he isn’t the norm. Before we start talking about training juniors and development there’s really only one thing I want to get across and here it is: 

Put your kids in as many sports as you can and have them try as many physical activities as possible.

Think about the demands of different sports. Baseball for instance asks the athlete to be able to throw, run, jump, slide and more. Soccer athletes will become very good at endurance events from all the running and they will also develop a lot of leg power from kicking so much. If we just play golf then we’re only really challenging the athlete to walk the course and swing the club. There are obviously other performance building attributes such as coordination, balance and agility but not to the same degree as other sports. That’s why it’s so important to have young athletes compete in multiple sports. So they get exposed to all these different demands and they develop all these different skill sets. 

Once they are teenagers then you can start to specialize. That doesn’t mean they can’t practice certain sports more than others, it means that they should be exposed to as much as they can in order to really bring out their full potential. Athleticism is built when we are young and refined when we are older. That doesn’t mean it can’t be developed later in life, just means it’s A LOT harder. Use the junior athletes “sponge years” as I like to call them to assure they soak in as much as possible. 

With the advancements in coaching and training, athletes are working on their bodies earlier than ever before! 

Like I said , my youngest client was 7 years old, and I have seen some major improvements in his movement efficiency since we started to work together. He’s almost 9 now and it’s been amazing to see his progression. There really isn’t an age when young athletes should start training. They should start as young as possible! My four year old has already started running, squatting, lunging, jumping, planking, skipping and throwing. These are all skills that we work on in the gym as adults, so why not kids? 

People get scared when we talk about training and kids. There isn’t any reason to be afraid of training at a young age; you just shouldn’t load a child’s movements with resistance at a really young age. Once they have developed proper movement patterns then you can start to challenge them with small loads. The most important things to focus on with junior athletes is endurance, balance, coordination and movement quality over quantity. 

Endurance 

Endurance = Stamina and Longevity

Do professional golfers ride carts?

No!

Therefore, we need to develop a base level of endurance to be able to walk the whole course and still feel strong on the 18th tee. If we take it a step farther than you must be able to do that for 4 days in a row. I’ve heard it more than you might think. “I’m so tired by the end of the 3rd or 4th round”…why is that? A couple things most likely but it could be you don’t have the endurance to make it through the marathon of a golf tournament. 

Building a solid foundation of muscular endurance and aerobic capacity are great places to start with junior athletes. Doing lots of volume with little to no resistance is the way to go. This can be things like running through ladders, cone drills, calisthenics and basic movement patterns (Squat, lift, lunge, pull, press, carry) done continuously. 

A lot of the time as adults we find endurance training hard, boring and monotonous. That statement holds true for our kids too. They don’t want to do boring activities for 30 minutes in order to increase their muscular and aerobic endurance. So, we have to make it fun! Fitness and exercise can be fun if we make it engaging and into games. 

Balance

Balance = Posture and Maintaining Angles

Balance is extremely  important when it comes to the golf swing. If you are out of balance, during your swing, then it’s hard to be consistent and maintain your posture.

Below is the Titleist Performance Institute Screen that I use to test balance called the Single Leg Balance Test:

This screen challenges the athlete’s base of support and visual feedback. Most professional golfers can maintain balance for 16 – 20 seconds per leg with their eyes closed.

How long can you hold for?

This is the beginning to understanding your own body. If you can’t maintain balance how are you going to play a sport at a high level? The answer to that question is you won’t. Balance is the foundation. 

Being able to maintain your centre of mass over your base of support or “balance” is a crucial part of movement capacity developed in juniors. The golf swing is very dynamic and requires a lot of stability. You need to be stable through multiple joints at different times while creating a lot of force, speed, power and finally all while maintaining your balance. No easy feat! 

Balance training is to be incorporated into anyone’s workout program. Put these drills in your warm up routines or even your cool downs (more of a challenge because you’re fatigued) and you will see  the benefits. This is something that young athletes usually pick up fairly quickly too and it builds a lot of confidence! I like to use drills like single leg balance, single leg balance with eyes closed (with a partner and competition), passing a ball on one leg. 

Coordination 

Coordination = Consistency and Power

Coordination is a very important thing to develop in junior athletes. Why? Juniors have to deal with their bodies changing at a rapid pace and must be able to complete tasks as they grow, literally. We all remember the kids in high school or elementary school who grew too fast and fell over their feet all the time. That’s because their coordination hadn’t caught up to their bodies yet. This really has to do with their neuromuscular connection. If it is efficient then we are efficient, but if it’s not, we suffer in areas such as coordination, power development and balance. Especially as the junior athletes age and enter their developmental stages.

Exercises that challenge balance, mobility, stability and power are usually the best exercises to work on coordination. You need to be efficient with movement to be coordinated and the golf swing is a complex movement that requires high efficiency. The more you train and play sports the more efficient and coordinated you’ll become. 

Movement Quality 

Movement Quality = Foundation to Success

Another big aspect of junior development in terms of training, is movement quality. What I mean by this is how well you can perform all the major movements in the gym (Squat, lift, lunge, pull, press and carry) as well your ability to walk, run, skip, throw and jump. All of these movements are the foundation of strength and conditioning. 

Assuring young athletes can perform these movements perfectly will help them to progress to the next level. That doesn’t mean we have to load those patterns but just assure that they can be completed efficiently and easily. I wish someone taught me these things when I was a junior athlete. The difference between now and then is when I was growing up not a lot of people did strength and conditioning, now everyone does it and if you’re not, then you’re behind. 

Movement Quality is the biggest key to assure progression to a higher level of athletic ability. The better mover you are the higher your potential is in sport.

Check out a few videos that I’ve created regarding junior development:

In conclusion, young athletes shouldn’t be afraid to go to the exercise, in fact, they should start exercising as soon as possible. It will definitely set them up for success later in their athletic careers and life. Make it fun to create positive habits that will last a lifetime.

Hire a coach to help them with form and exercise selection and to reduce the risk of injury and movement impairments. Take a look at my website for training options or contact me at markcormier0@gmail.com if you have any questions about working with me.

From Average to Elite.

Stop misusing your time doing the same thing in the gym expecting a different result! Let me develop a personalized plan to maximize your potential and start living the life you deserve. We will identify your limitations and turn them into your strengths! Take your athletic ability, game, body and LIFE to the next level! Don’t waste another minute. LETS GO!

Check out the ways I can help you go From Average to Elite:

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Thanks for reading! Until the next one……

Mark

CSC Performance Coaching

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