Dr. Steve Norris, a world expert on long-term athlete development from the Canadian Sports Centre in Calgary states: “83-85% of the age group champions – youngsters who are the winners in high level sport competitions in their teens – do not become the champions of their sports when adult professional competitions are contested.”
Psychologist Dorothy Rowe reinforces this: “The parent who encourages a child to achieve without demanding constant perfection is getting that balance right, while the parent who either pushes for perfection or praises indiscriminately is less likely to help their child to cope with a situation in which they lack control.”
As a parent, you don’t set out to raise a professional golfer. You set out to raise a human being who will grow up to live a fulfilling life. It’s important that you don’t lose sight of that, or begin to define your child by their talent alone.
The only expectation you should have about your child’s golf is that it will benefit their development as a person. Anything else, such as a potential career, will be a bonus.
When Jennifer Capriati’s parents watched her turn pro three weeks short of her 14th birthday, did they consider whether her emotional development matched her skill? Did they imagine that at 17 she would have to take a break from her career, during which she would be arrested for possession of marijuana?
It’s important that gifted children are not pushed too far or too fast.
Often children with talent are asked to sacrifice ‘fun’ activities to focus on ‘serious’ training. This is acceptable if the child learns something through the process, and if the sacrifices are about the process and not the outcome.
In a research project carried out with eight professional golfers, it was found that “success was not dependent on having a total focus on sport performance to the exclusion of other life domains. Routes to high achievement include a focus on performance, a focus on relationships, a focus on discovery and combinations of all three. In these different ways, many women golfers demonstrate high levels of performance while maintaining some degree of balance in their lives.”
For more tips on how to support your talented child, read The Exception Rather than the Rule page.