This post is an add on to a shorter column I was asked to write for The First Tee of NH. The First Tee is a great youth golf program that aims to help young golfers fall in love with the game of golf, but more importantly they try to instill several lifelong lessons that translate into life outside of sports.
I love the game of golf, but never played for a team or competitively in tournaments. I just play for fun. I was given my first set of clubs as a bright eyed 3rd grader by my best friend’s father. Luckily, he was a lefty too. He also set me up with one lesson from the local pro, and after that, off I went to figure it out on my own. Several of my friends played competitive golf in youth tournaments (some of which I caddied) and continued to compete all the way through high school. I loved football too much to play on the golf team, so I only played with them for fun. But when you play with people who are better than you, there is only one thing to do….FIND A WAY TO GET BETTER! As we got older, they got better, and I got stronger. The only reason I was able to hang with them on the course was because I could hit the ball further. I continue to play golf today, and have gotten a little bit better, holding a handicap in the single digits, I still don’t have the touch that my friends do, but I can still hit the ball further, and give myself a fighting chance because of that.
I guess that was just a long intro into getting to the point that because I played other sports, and am athletic, I was able to draw on previous athletic experiences to “figure out” my own style of golf game. Nowadays youngsters are “playing” less and less and participating in year long single sports more and more. Tremendous growth can be attained by playing. Not the playing that happens while on organized teams but rather the type of play that happens when in the backyard with buddies or on a playground where the rules and teams are made up by the kids without the help or instruction of adults.
Huge motor development growth occurs when adolescents are subjected to a vast array of athletic situations such as running, jumping, climbing, playing tag, crawling, somersaulting, wrestling and many more. Just because your child plays on 3 different travel teams throughout the year doesn’t mean they have the motor control, strength, or coordination to be a resilient athlete who will be less susceptible to over-use and non-contact injuries. Adults are stopping huge growth in athleticism, self-confidence, and self-worth because they are hovering over top of their children and not letting them explore movement, fail, figure it out for themselves and creating the success on their own.
So what can we do to combat this? LET THE KIDS PLAY! Let them make up games, and teams, let them climb trees, skin their knees, try as many different sports as possible and have self guided discovery. As adults we try and make things easier for children, and we may be handcuffing them to gain some of the best learning experiences they will get in their lifetimes. Failure isn’t a death sentence, on the contrary, it will allow the kids to learn what doesn’t work, what ways are faster, what ways are harder, and what they enjoy the most. Let exercise, activity, and play become a lifelong journey. By creating the healthy habit of play as a child, we are setting them up for a life of health, wellness, and curiosity.