At a USGTF Master Golf Teaching Professional certification course last year, one candidate posed an interesting question to his fellow classmates, along the lines of this: “Don’t you want to teach the best players in the world?”He asked this because he was teaching and coaching some professional players, including those on the LPGA Tour, and found his calling in teaching these high-level players.

The question posed is a valid one, because it brings to light the subject of ambition in the golf teaching profession. It’s a subject that is often overlooked, but one that is important to those of us in the teaching and coaching profession.

Motivational speakers and sports psychologists often refer to goal-setting as a critical tool to accomplishment. An article in Success magazine in 2015 stated, “The most important benefit of setting goals isn’t achieving your goal; it’s what you do and the person you become in order to achieve your goal that’s the real benefit.” Setting a goal and striving towards it gives us an action plan to follow, and also a way to plot a path to get us there. Industry professionals –regardless of which industry – who do not set goals are willing to let the whims of outside influences take them in all sorts of random directions.

Some of those random directions may lead to success, but for those who find success in this manner it is, by definition, nothing but a fluke. In other words, the person succeeded in spite of himself or herself. So setting realistic but ambitious goals, along with executing a well-thought-out plan, is a much more sure way of finding success. Even then, nothing is guaranteed. The history of business is filled with stories of failures that, on paper, should have been successes. There are some things that are just out of our control, and they may have been unforeseeable by even the most learned and experienced of experts.

But as the statement from Success magazine says, goal setting is one part of the equation; ambition is the other, and perhaps a more important part. A goal is a tangible destination while ambition is the desire to reach that destination. Merriam-Webster defines ambition as “an ardent desire for rank, fame, or power; desire to achieve a particular end.”

What are your teaching ambitions?

It may be to become a famous guru, although certainly most who are did not start out with that desire. Virtually anyone who is successful will tell you that they got into the profession due to their love of the game and of helping others with their games.

Butch Harmon is one such teacher. Although he is widely recognized for his acumen in helping major championship winners, that’s not what drives him. “I get as much satisfaction or more from someone who’s never broken 90 who shoots 87 for the first time, “he has been quoted as saying. Harmon finds that his passion results from wanting to help all players, regardless of level.

Some teachers find their true enjoyment in helping beginners learn the game. The late Julius Richard-son, the USGTF’s Teacher of the 20th Century, played golf at an extremely high level, winning multiple military and other championships. He also taught touring professionals, most notably Eric Booker, who compared him to Ken Venturi and David Leadbetter. Yet, Richardson’s true teaching ambitions revolved around beginners, introducing them to the game and helping them get enjoyment out of learning and improving. His book, Better Golf – A Skill Building Approach, was based upon the learning principles he was exposed to while a member of the U.S. Army. The book outlines how beginners, and those who need a refresher in the fundamentals, can build sol-id golf skills that will last for a lifetime. Richardson could have chosen to write a book geared towards advanced golfers, but he didn’t. His passion and ambition in helping beginning golfers were the reason she wrote the book he did.

All teaching ambitions are worthy, from wanting to teach touring professionals to helping beginners, as long as they benefit the game in general and reflect the teacher’s true desires and goals. To paraphrase John F. Kennedy’s inauguration speech from 1961,“Ask not what the golf teaching profession can do for you; ask what you can do for the golf teaching profession.”

Ambition: “An ardent desire for rank, fame, or power; desire to achieve a particular end.” as defined by…Merriam-Webster
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