By: Dave Hill WGCA contributing writer The ladder of success is not created equally for everyone, at least not when it comes to sport. As previously discussed, we have our windows of opportunity as a child to exposure of a multitude of physical activities, employing the three cores of fundamental movement: 1) Stability/balance 2) Locomotion 3) Object manipulation We also have windows of opportunity to become a coach, as we shall see. Typically when we have a child before the age of 9 whom has been active in a variety of non-structured games and sports, the development of a future competitive athlete is possible. The word “competition” is a big one and must be fully understood, but especially so by the parents. Ah, the parents! Yes, sometimes a coach’s biggest nightmare. Lesson # 1- You’re the coach. A parent has a role to respect, which can be clearly defined from the outset: support, both morally and financially. It ends there. There must be a clearly defined set of guidelines about communication and roles set forth by the coach prior to the beginning of the season. So, is there a season in golf as pertains to competition? Yes, and it, too, is clearly defined by a term call “periodization training.” A period can vary in duration, with the longest duration being one year. For the purpose of this article, the younger golfer’s period for golf must be shorter, due to the fact sport specialization doesn’t apply. Again, this is where a full understanding of the ladder of success comes into play. Starting at the age of 8 or 9, is often a great age to introduce a child to a new sport in a more formal and structured arena. The game and its basic rules/etiquette can be explained, along with all the fun aspects about the sport. A little technique with fun games and competitions is the rule of thumb. Remember, this is the introduction to the game phase prior to the introduction to the competition phase, starting at 11 for both boys and girls. As we enter the introduction to the competition phase, this is where the world of coaching takes hold. Occasionally there is that one child or two who stands out within every golf camp setting amongst younger kids. He/she shows talent and passion. As an instructor, do you now take on the role as coach? Because, this is the most crucial time in a child’s development as a future competitive golfer. This is a serious decision, because the young golfer (more his/her parents) will move on to someone else to fill the role if you’re not up to the task. We are in a world of specialization today, and golf is not immune. Such a decision can have life-altering effects. Coaching is not teaching; coaching is a life commitment. This is not meant to insult the teacher. It’s simply to help understand the difference between the two. As mentioned earlier, the element of “periodization training” takes a stronghold. A young golfer in the early phases of competition is less apt to need an annual plan, but a plan, yes. However, as they grow into becoming a strong/elite competitor, an annual plan (periodization training plan) is required. This comes from the coach, and demands oversight on every aspect of a player’s training (mental, technical, tactical and physical). This is a 12-month job. This is preparation outside of the paradigm of giving a lesson. This is all encompassing. This is the opportunity. This is coaching.