October 24, 2022

Tom Jeffers: Allow for Fun in Youth Programming

Tom Jeffers, the 2012 PGA Nebraska Section Youth Player Development Award Recipient, is the PGA General Manager at Indianhead Golf Club, in Grand Island, Nebraska.

Tom Jeffers on the importance of allowing for fun in youth programming:
It may seem elementary, or considered common sense, but the primary ingredient in every successful youth golf program is FUN. Kids are kids no matter what activity they’re engaged in or what sport they’re playing – and the only way for parents and coaches to ensure children want to continue participating is by delivering an enjoyable experience every time. At Indianhead Golf Club, we have created a youth golf program that provides a fun atmosphere for our youngest golfers. Our program has structure, but is not ultra-structured, and is fast-paced and diverse to keep the kids engaged. We invite local high school golfers to assist with the youth golfers (in exchange for playing privileges), and they inevitably become the heroes of the sessions. The young kids look up to the high-schoolers and aspire to be just like them someday, listening to their instruction better than that of our own golf professional staff. The sessions generally consist of ninety minutes on the range, and putting green, and then one or two holes on the course. Mixing it up like this keeps the kids on their toes, and allows them to anticipate what comes next. And when the class is over, they enjoy staying on the golf course with their instructors. By incorporating games like Cornhole, as well as other fun activities that encourage physical action, competition, and camaraderie, we are accomplishing our goal of instilling FUN into kids’ golf. Finally, each July we host Junior Golf Fun Day, during which many games are played, prizes are won, hot dogs, chicken fingers, and ice cream are consumed, our range picker is pelted by the kids on the range, and Golfzilla even makes an appearance.

Tom Jeffers on the business impact of allowing for fun in youth programming:
In teaching children, I don’t stand – I kneel. I ensure that I get down to their level and speak to them with terms and phrases, instruction and requests that they can understand, are receptive to, and that get results. The success of our overall youth program has spun off a girls-only group, whose motto is “Boys Make Good Caddies”. We strive to make our youth programs conducive to the things that kids like, keeping it relatable at their level so they can build upon the instruction each time out. We are always giving out treats during our lessons and clinics, motivating kids to work hard and perform when needed, but to have fun at the same time. Ask a ten-year old if that is even possible and he’ll tell you NO WAY. Ask him again after the session and witness his surprise that one can combine learning, hard work, and fun. We recently started a 4-6-year-old group that enjoys a one-hour session for three consecutive days. Keeping it short and to the point makes it easy to provide the fun aspect that will ultimately bring them back time and again. All PGA Professionals know that once you get the kids involved, there’s a good chance you’ll get mom or dad hooked as well. We’ve experienced that over the years, as our women’s programs, rounds of golf, private lessons, food & beverage revenues, and golf shop sales have all grown just as the youth golfers at Indianhead have grown in our program. In fact, some of them have become employees in later years. They come back looking for jobs and realize that the part of their lives that include our wonderful game started right here on our range, our course, and in our clubhouse. It is very rewarding to play that small role in their lives, all in the name of fun

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