Kelly Sivier on the importance of incorporating non-golf athletic movements into junior golf programs:
After learning about the junior programs run by the Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) and PGA Sports Academy, the golf professional staff decided that our facility needed to significantly upgrade our junior golf program. Our retention level was extremely low, and in order to facilitate a better success rate we needed to look outside the box. As a result we began Junior Golfletics to help develop enjoyment of the game of golf using fun athletic games. Modeled after the TPI program but with our own spin, the 90-minute, two-session (9-12 year-olds followed by 13-16 year-olds) program ran for eight weeks and featured activities involving two or three golf skills each week. Run by myself, another assistant professional and a sports performance/physical education professional, the program used sports-specific athletic movements that centered on skills such as weight transfer, grip, posture and alignment. In addition, the sports performance expert helped to lead the kids through multiple movements working on creating lower and upper body separation, hand speed, leg strength, balance and more, all part of fostering a healthy, fit lifestyle at a young age. During the class we set up multiple stations that included SNAG baseball (baseball using oversized golf clubs and a tennis ball hit off a tee), a “Happy Gilmore” station (the younger kids use SNAG equipment while the older kids use both SNAG and regular equipment with care to reduce safety issues), a station focusing on the skill of the day, and many others. You may be surprised to see “Happy Gilmore” and junior golf in the same sentence but we’ve found that the motion helps to create swing speed and coordination. We’ve discovered that this fun, interactive method is engaging for the kids, makes them excited to play and practice golf, and helps ingrain sometimes boring concepts in a lively manner. For example, teaching alignment can be a fairly mundane concept, but using baseball ideas, such as aiming towards the gaps where no fielder is located, can help teach it in a different, unique manner.
Kelly Sivier on the business impact of incorporating non-golf athletic movements into junior golf programs:
The program costs $50 per session and $350 for the entire eight-week program by paying up front. Overhead consists of the sports performance professional, who we pay $25 an hour, and the cost of whatever equipment we need. We averaged 10-12 juniors per session (or 20-24 for the day), so we easily made up the cost of hiring the professional. I received a Growth of the Game grant from the Michigan PGA Section, which helped to diffuse some of the cost of the equipment, leaving the out of pocket expenses to less than $150. Other impacts have been wide-ranging; eight of the juniors signed up for full-time lessons, which led to a 5-10 percent boost in our bottom line, and we received fantastic feedback from the parents. We stress moving away from a regular instruction model, going against the commonly taught grain to truly reach the juniors, and we’ve seen the benefits of that so far. With a little bit of research on understanding how junior golfers really tick, this program is something that can be a success anywhere.
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