GFAA Best Practice: Introduce Golf Fitness to Your Youngest Students

Bridget Ackley, a 2020 GRAA Top 100 Growth of the Game Teaching Professional, is a PGA Teaching Professional at the Don Law Golf Academy in Boca Raton, Florida.

Bridget Ackley on the importance of introducing golf fitness to your youngest students:

Golf fitness at our academy is nothing new, as it has always been an important component of our elite juniors’ development. However, I start my youngest golf students at two years old and spend much of my time teaching junior golfers eight years old and younger. It is important for them to get introduced to the game of golf early, to develop a love of golf and a desire to frequent the golf course often. As a coach, I place a considerable focus on motor skill movement development among children and implement a 20–30-minute warmup prior to our group player development sessions. Whether its throwing, leaping, skipping or running, we strive to build those different movement patterns with our young students. We have two primary rules – Safety and Fun. Safety means avoiding injury from being hit with a neighboring club in motion, as well as from exerting our bodies before sufficiently warming up. As their bodies grow and their muscles develop, having an effective warmup regimen before hitting golf balls will benefit the kids as teens and adults. Keep in mind, these classes have a legitimate golf presence every time, and we use the motor skills exercises as a precursor to actually putting a golf club in their hands. Even with the three- and four-year-olds in our group sessions and the two-year-old’s who I teach one-on-one, the sessions are golf-related, using oversized equipment that makes the game fun and encourages these young children to want to play more.

Bridget Ackley on the business impact of introducing golf fitness to your youngest students:

I keep our sessions very fast-paced to ensure I am teaching within their attention span, and that starts with a fun and exciting warmup. We stretch every time and then get into the action. We run through an obstacle course, bunny hop over cones or sprint around them, side shuffle, back pedal and even have relay races with the other kids in the group. We use a fun toy called the Fox Tail, a tool that encourages proper extension, rotation and weight shift when tossing it back and forth with a partner. We discuss why it flew to the left or right and liken the results to that of hitting a golf ball with a club. Fun remains the basis of everything we do, however, and students sometimes don’t even realize they’re learning or improving their motor skills – they just know they’re having fun. Golf fitness looks different to different coaches and with different demographics. Introducing kids to the game as early as possible can help build a successful junior program, and implementing solid fitness and warmup habits will encourage them to do so before playing any sport as they grow up, and it will promote a healthy lifestyle. It’s also good for business, as you’re attracting more juniors, and can then work on getting their parents or siblings into your programs as well.

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