Virginia Golfer May / June 2015 - Page 15

THE FIVE F’S OF EARLY SPECIALIZATION TITLEIST PERFORMANCE INSTITUTE Opposite: Healthy children tend to be active in a number of different activities. they’re no longer the big fish in a little pond just because they’ve been engaged in an athletic endeavor. How are they going to handle it? There’s more to it from a health standpoint than the skill of being able to hit a golf shot from 160 yards with a fade or a draw. The ability to have a sense of resilience is important. I have to believe that athletes who play other sports learn hardiness because it becomes necessary. Winning is fun, but the reason to participate in sports is to acquire and enhance life skills, as well as compete and learn. Development of athletic skills should not come before nurturing one’s long-term psychological well-being. A member of two NCAA national championship baseball teams at Louisiana State University, co-author Bhrett McCabe, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist who serves as the sports psychologist for the University of Alabama athletic department. Co-author Tom Cunneff is a senior editor with Links magazine and a frequent contributor to Virginia Golfer. FUNCTION: Much more important than wins or losses is the overall functioning of the young athlete. It’s essential to monitor their sleep habits, desire to practice and social interactions. Highly specialized athletes tend to build their social networks around their sport, which can limit development of necessary social skills over their lifespan. FUN: When their athletic career is over, the young athlete will remember the experiences much more than the trophies, so make sure they enjoy the game, training and competitions. Encouraging athletic FAMILY: Sometimes with overspecialization the parentfreedom is important in child dynamic gets a little out of line. In these instances, helping a child develop the parent becomes the facilitator and the kid becomes mentally and physically. the authoritative person in the family and kind of sets the rules. Parents have to be aware of this and make sure that the kid is not in charge. FAILURE: Since early specialization is here to stay, don’t be afraid to incorporate drills or games that young athletes can’t win, where they must learn to find internal grit and resiliency to proceed. One of my favorite golf drills is called “The Butcher.” Set up eight stations with tees around a hole five feet away. Putt three balls from a start station. You advance to the next station only after making three in a row. Miss anywhere and you have to return to the start station. In order to win, you must make 24 in a row. (For more training games, download my podcast, “The MindSide,” available on iTunes.) FINANCES: Avoid making kids aware of the cost of early-specialization training. I’ve had several players tell me that they have to play well because their parents are struggling to pay entry fees and lessons. The added pressure does not benefit the athlete. Be certain that the costs are never a factor in the young person’s performance. —Bhrett McCabe Find your Homestead… Set amidst the breathtaking Allegheny Mountains, The Omni Homestead Resort is home to some of Virginia’s most scenic golf courses. Golfers of all levels enjoy playing here. Plus, with delectable dining and luxury accommodations, you’ll find it’s your kind of club. 800-838-1766 • wOMHS-1113-Virginia-Golfer-FindYourHomestead-V2-7.25x4.875-F.indd w w. v s g a . o r g 12_VSGA_MayJun15.indd 13 1 ©2015 Omni Hotels & Resorts 3/13/15 PM M AY / J U N E 2 0 1 5 | V I R G I N I A G O L F E R 2:52 13 5/8/15 11:23 AM