Spring is the most exciting time of year for golfers. That is obvious to anyone that plays the game. For teachers of the game, summer brings the opportunity to find the true joy of teaching. As I moved through my career and began teaching better and more serious golfers, I found myself gradually developing a very dour attitude towards lessons. I didn’t notice the change as it was happening, but now looking back, I should have been more introspective. While on the subject, being introspective is a very important trait for a golf instructor. At one point, I began to realize the joy I had been addicted to early in my teaching career wasn’t there. So, the opportunity presented itself – almost out of fate, it seems, as I reflect back on it now: Our assistant professional had decided to move on to another facility. She had taught the junior clinic the last few summers. Before she arrived at the course, the young girls in the pro shop would pitch in and teach the kids. The director of golf was adamant that the summer junior clinics would be taught one way or another every summer. Our weather in the summer was spectacular. Cool in the early morning, sun around 10, then at 10:45 am every day a slight breeze from the Pacific Ocean would contrast the summer sun. Seventy-eight degrees and sunny every day. So how could we not do a lot of teaching? One day while having a conversation in the shop with the boss, I somehow volunteered to teach the junior clinic. Immediately after I announced my intention, I had a sense of panic come over me. How was I going to do this? I had not taught kids for several years. All of these life-and-death golfers I had been instructing; how was I going to handle children? After those first few moments of panic, I started planning the clinics in my mind. The more I planned, the more excited I got. I have often read about the “grandparent” effect that can come over older adults. The pleasure one gets from seeing the innocent, pure joy kids display at a young age. That is my reasonable explanation. The kids were from age 7 to 10 or 11. We did three hours a day for four days. I bought candy and juice boxes, and thought of as many games as I could. We had relay races, putting contests, and the kids genuinely had a great time. As much fun as it was for them, it couldn’t match the joy I received from teaching them. Watching the kids discover the true essence of the game was exhilarating. I felt like I should have paid the parents instead of the other way around. I loved watching them jump up and down when they holed a putt or their team won whatever game we were playing. The girls giggled, the boys gave high fives. As a byproduct, hopefully some of them kept playing after that week. To say it was an awesome experience for me would be an understatement. That week I rediscovered the joy of teaching golf. Because of my current position, I haven’t had the opportunity to duplicate that junior clinic. I would love to have the time and facilities to do it again. Today there is better equipment for children. If you look, you can find special tools for kids learning, and all sorts of various games and unique ideas for teaching our youth the game of golf. Personally, I love the velcro outfits and the giant clubs. It is easy to get caught up in the financial gain of your teaching business. The seriousness of your students trying to improve at a very difficult game can affect you over time. We all want to help golfers. Most of us have to also make a living at it somehow. Finding opportunities to teach the fringes of the golfing public can give you a new perspective. It could even be teaching disabled adults. Golf at its core is supposed to be fun.
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