July 8, 2021

Staffing a Youth Academy

By Brendon Elliott, PGA

In the early days of our Academy, I took on most of the work myself and would have my wife help when she could. As the business grew however, the time came to consider bringing on help. You cannot grow any academy without being able to staff it properly. Not just in terms of keeping your student to teacher ratios in line for group programming, but also to help you, as the lead, find the time to continue to propagate growth. Many times, academy owners only consider the work that consists of the teaching and coaching portion of running an academy and neglect all the “backend” work. Scheduling, marketing, communications, payroll, budgeting and numerous other components of running a business must be attended to and when you are the captain and the crew of the ship, all rolled into one, it can become a daunting task.

When we got to the point of having to consider bringing more coaches on, I originally only considered the following key factors:

  • Background in golf
  • Background in teaching/coaching kids in golf
  • PGA or LPGA Membership status
  • Playing ability
  • Availability
  • Reliability

As time has gone on, I have learned a great deal, which has allowed me to expand my understanding of what constitutes a good coach and member of our team.

My new key factors to consider in selecting a coach include the following:

  • Background in golf
  • Background in teaching/coaching kids in ANY capacity
  • Ability to work well with kids ages 3 to 18
  • Availability
  • Reliability
  • Good business sense
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Pass a background screening

Today, I would much rather have someone with a great understanding of how to coach, who knows how to mentor kids in general and has a great business sense, over someone with solely a golf background. Don’t get me wrong, I would absolutely love having coaches who possess a desire to become a PGA or LPGA member, and that have experience in coaching golf, but those other factors that I mentioned are a must. The latter set of factors laid out above have become some of the more critical ones for me.

Once I find good candidates, I look to have them work through several of the certification programs that are out there for youth golf coaching – US Kids Golf, Operation 36 and the Positive Coaching Alliance, for example. In addition, some other technical certifications such as V1 and getting your coaches certified through your radar of choice are additional things to consider.

I have found success in hiring coaches that have backgrounds in non-golf areas, such as education and marketing, one of whom was completely new to golf. Coach Ricky Collado, other than being a “golf dad”, (his son and daughter are students of mine) has become one of my most trusted coaches. I have also found great success in offering coaching opportunities to teens who I coach. Being that our Little Linksters brand has both for-profit and nonprofit components, I am able to offer community service volunteer hours to high school students, and in some cases, when my students show the initiative, I offer what I call “junior coach” positions. These are paid assistant coaching spots on our Linksters coaching roster. This has proven to not only be great for the individuals I bring aboard, but also to our pre-teen students who see what opportunities they may have with us one day.

There are many things to consider in putting a great team together. In recent years, I have chosen to get a more creative with this and it has been paying off. Perhaps some of the things I have done, which I’ve shared with you here, could prove to work well for you as well. There are surely several schools of thought on how to go about staffing a youth golf academy. These are merely my thoughts and suggestions based on 20 years of experience in the youth golf arena. Obviously, you will have to make your staffing decisions based on your specific and individual needs.

PGA Professional, Brendon Elliott, is a multiple award-winning coach and instructor based in Central Florida. Most notably, he was named the 2017 PGA National Youth Player Development Award winner. He specializes in working with junior golfers, as well as promoting best practices for running your golf business. Elliott is the founder of the Little Linksters Association for Junior Golf Development 501c3, as well as the Little Linksters Golf Academies.