CPD Workshops for summer 2014

“Let children and adults play” – A games approach to coaching golf.

Tuesday 24th June – London Docklands – University of East London.
Thursday 10th July, Heworth Golf Club, Gateshead.
Monday 20th October – Rufford Park Golf and Country Club, Newark, Notts.

Does our coaching approach put people at risk of losing their natural enthusiasm and curiosity for the game of golf? Are traditional “demonstrate – explain – practice” approaches to coaching really the best way to stimulate people’s enthusiasm and curiosity and help them also develop their skills and retain their interest in golf? Discuss these questions and see an alternative approach in action at one of our three workshops for summer 2014.

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CPD Workshop – “Let children and adults play”

CPD Workshop – “Let children and adults play”.

A games approach to coaching golf.

Does our coaching approach put people at risk of losing their natural enthusiasm and curiosity for the game of golf? Are traditional “demonstrate – explain – practice” approaches to coaching really the best way to stimulate people’s enthusiasm and curiosity and help them also develop their skills and retain their interest in golf? Discuss these questions and see an alternative approach in action at Kilcock Golf Club, Co Meath on Thursday 1st May 2014.

Click here for full details of the workshop.

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JOLF in Ireland

Sign up for JOLF’s first international workshop.

Thursday 26th Spetember 2013, Kilcock Golf Club, Kilcock, Co. Meath, Ireland.

A practical session where you will be introduced to the concepts of JOLF – Delivering and fun, engaging and appropriate experience to each child every time.

Click here for more details

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Watch some JOLF coaching from Bulgaria

Watch some great JOLF coaching from Bulgaria:

The video shows a JOLF session taking place on the putting green at Pravets Golf Club, Bulgaria.

Click here to watch the video (2 minutes)

Children are aged 5 to 9. Look carefully at a five year old boy (Sasha) playing a putting game with the help of the coach (Dido). The aim of the game is to get the ball in the hole in as few shots as possible. The ball should not go out of the corridor made by the yellow cones. In his first few attempts (not on the video) Sasha hit the ball, right, left and long, always going out of the corridor. He approached the coach (Dido) for help. This is where the video begins. Dido had a number of choices about how he could help. These included:

  1. Changing the rules of the  game to make it easier;
  2.  Changing the start point to make the game easier;
  3.  Changing the boy’s grip and posture so that it is more orthodox;
  4.  Changing the equipment to make the game easier (e.g. using balls that are less bouncy than golf balls on a steel putter head);
  5. Giving the child help and support in playing the game as it is.

Dido chose the fifth option. He asks Sasha about how big or small his swing needs to be and where he thinks he should point the golf club. He also reminds him about how well he played the previous putting game where he needed to control pace on a “bendy putt”.

You will see that Sasha does not hole out with the first attempt we see on video. He takes seven shots and then picks up his ball. He goes back and plays the game again and does it in four shots. After holing out Dido asks Sasha what helped him play the game really well. Sasha said “I hit it in the hole” – a little young maybe for the kind of reflection that Dido was looking for.  Dido decides to have a drinks break where he is able to praise Sasha’s persistence, hard work and effort and the success that it lead to in front of the other children.

The task Sasha was asked to do was one that he could not complete unaided, but could complete with help.  The coach was available to provide exactly the kind of help that Sasha needed at exactly the time he wanted it. Great coaching.

 Jonathan Shipstone
JOLF Coach, Academy Director, Pravets Golf Club
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Competition and junior golf

Competition is a part of life:

I have been giving a lot of thought recently to the subject of competition. People have strong views about whether young children should experience competitive sport. Those who favour competition always seem to justify their ideas with the “Competition is a part of life” argument. It is true that in adult life there is competition for educational opportunities, jobs, social position and sporting excellence but this does not mean that children need to become competitive in this way at a young age. We need to consider that:

  1. Other behaviours and activities such as bullying, incompetence, intolerance, idleness and selfishness are part of the adult life too but we would not want to prepare children for adult life by giving them such negative experiences
  2. Also there are many desirable behaviours, which can be developed in children, such as cooperative and collaborative learning, joint problem solving, goal setting and care and support for others. These do not align readily with competitiveness in a group.
  3. Many of the games that are delivered in schools and clubs have been linked to point counting with first, second and last places for the losers. Medals and certificates are given to the “winners”. What message is this sending to children and what do they think about their own individual performances? Is this a reason why so many older children, particularly girls, opt out of sport? Also the focus on scores and points detracts from the purpose of sport and games.

Dr Kwame Brown (Click for article: Are Youth Sports Becoming Irrelevant) says that before all the testing and measuring of sport achievement by adults, games belonged to children. Games were an escape from adult control – a place where children could make friends, have fun, make decisions and be collectively creative in how they played. With tongue in cheek he says:

“Kids are under the crazy illusion that “sports” are games that they can play with their friends. If you ask kids why they participate in sports, these three reasons are consistently given;

  1. To have fun
  2. To be with friends
  3. To learn skills in order to have more fun

 Winning is almost never in the top ten.

 Dr. Brown’s strap line is “Let’s play – let kids play – let’s play with them”

Is competition appropriate for young children?

To some extent I agree that competition is a part of life; but accepting that children will be part of a competitive world in the future does not mean that we need to impose adult values of competition on them now. I also wonder whether children are really that bothered about who wins unless adults make an issue of it. My experience with JOLF has shown that young children can be introduced to competition in a way which is appropriate to their age and development.

Can children design competitions?

I have had a few interesting experiences during JOLF and my school sessions over the last few weeks. Games and activities were set up so that they could be used for competitive play and scoring. They included chipping nearest the pin, most successful shots in row, putting crazy golf holes, a Golf Parc hole, longest and straightest shot, under and over, throw and catch. Children looked through the games and then I organised them into pairs. My only instruction was to ask them to play against each other – “Come up with your own way of competing and keeping score.” I then stood back and watched.

The first thing that struck me was how they instantly began talking and discussing what to do. This I liked. What was most surprising was how much they talked. In the past I have asked them to talk about the shot they were trying to hit and then talk about what happened to that shot. Some children do this readily, some less so. But asking them to compete against each other produced some great conversations.

When playing a Golf Parc hole some of the children played it normally by counting how many shots it took them to finish in the hole whereas some used the green as a target and awarded points for missing the trees, bushes and bunkers. This led to discussions about how many they scored. Could they remember what they had scored? Were they being honest? What should the do if they go in a bunker/near a tree? Although on this activity they started off by competing against each other they soon started to try and better their previous score. Interestingly some of the children did not compete at all. They seemed happy to just “play”

I was pleased with how the children had interpreted the word “competition”. Session after session the competitions and challenges they created were all different and many were nothing like those an adult would have devised for them. This is strong evidence that the competitions we ask children to do are led by adult values and ideas of what competition should be. Observing the children create their own competitions gave me an insight into their thinking. The games were more of a social and cooperative activity than I had hoped for.

For example, many JOLF sessions include movement games and activities. A firm favourite is throw and catch, where we use rebound nets. Children work alone or as a pair. This was the one game where the children worked together to make a team score. How many could they throw and catch to each other in a row, it continually got very competitive with cheers, shouts, diving for the ball – but the competition was children trying to beat their previous personal bests, not beat the scores of other children.

The conclusions I came to are that competition is a part of life but young children do not need to experience it` as adults do. That can come later when they have a desire to compare their skills with other golfers. Meanwhile, children can be introduced to competition by designing their own. Under these circumstances competition is totally appropriate for young children.

Neil Plimmer,
JOLF Coach, Horsham Golf and Fitness


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A JOLF approach for individual adult players

I listened to a radio discussion a couple of months ago about the learning practices of university students and whether blocked or distributed revision sessions resulted in better learning. Studies of student learning practices found that it is much better to do one hour’s study ( distributed) each week for ten weeks than a solid 10 hours (blocked) the day before the exam.

This distributed approach to learning is well known to JOLF coaches, who use it because we found it is best for their players’ learning. JOLF sessions are organised so that children are learning and practising several aspects of golf each week – instead of just one narrow focus for a whole session – for example “The Driver”.

While I was listening, I wondered why I was organising our ten hour adult “introduction to golf package” in one hour blocks of putting, chipping, pitching, swing etc.,  and realised that it was only because that was the way the package was set up before I was appointed to my position at Pravets Golf Club. So, on reflection, I decided to change our approach. We now set up four or five activity stations, even for individual clients. In one session we might do some putting, some chipping, go in the greenside and fairway bunker, try some shots out of the rough as well as spending some time hitting balls to different distances on the range. We sometimes spend just three minutes on one activity, twenty minutes on another and then 15 minutes on the third before returning to do the first. Just as in JOLF, technical input is introduced and practised within the context of an activity, as and when the player needs it or demands it.

This learner-driven distributed practice is working well. Both coaches and players report higher levels of engagement, motivation, and enjoyment. In addition golfers show a greater understanding of the multifaceted nature of golf and the appropriate use of its strategies and techniques. An especially pleasing consequence of the approach has been that when players are practising on their own they are choosing to use the distributed practice format established in the coaching sessions. I believe that long term they will show more independence in their learning and greater overall improvement by the end of the ten hour package than was seen before.

Please get in touch if you would like to know more and/or have a talk.

Jonathan Shipstone
JOLF Coach, Academy Director @Pravets Golf Club
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Managing school sessions – Five top tips from Bulgaria

The Bulgarian Ministry of Sport funds a junior golf programme for children aged 7-13 years. The purpose of the programme is to introduce golf to children and develop an interest which will lead to long term participation. At Pravets Golf Club we see 70 children each week in four 75-minute sessions. As Head Coach I am responsible for helping two trainee coaches acquire the knowledge and skills to develop enjoyable and high quality learning experiences for the children – and ultimately be able to do this without my support and guidance.

Managing children is an aspect of coaching that is vital to children’s success and continued involvement in golf. I decided to make this the first area of change and introduced five “classroom management techniques” that were new to the trainee coaches. The new procedures are now working well for us and show that small changes can make big differences.

1. Demonstrating appropriate social behaviour to the children: The coaches are available to meet and greet children as they get off their minibus or as they walk into the facility. I asked the coaches to be friendly, but not excessively loud or excited. They gather the children and speak to them in a normal voice, not shouting, but demanding respectful listening from the children.

2. Setting boundaries: Children need to be shown what is acceptable behaviour and I gave the coaches a simple rule that was implemented from the first session. They say to the children, “We are going to walk to the range/putting green/golf course. You do not need to walk in a line, but you must not walk ahead of me.” The coach then walks calmly keeping the group close together. If anyone lags behind, the coach stops to let them catch up.

3. Giving meaningful rewards and feedback: I asked the coaches to cut out high fives, low fives and any other kind of ritual celebration after a player hits a good shot. Instead coaches acknowledge good shots with a quiet and often private “Well done” and usually coaches ask a powerful question – “Do you know why I am saying well done?” Or “What did you do that I really liked”. This triggers reflection and the child will be aware of the progress being made or the coach will provide useful and important feedback.

4. Always insisting on acceptable behaviour: I explained to the coaches that it is very counterproductive to let children ignore instructions or rules. For instance

-          Hitting 2 balls instead of the one required

-          Hitting “just one more”,  when the coach has asked the group to stop playing

-          Whispering while the coach is talking

-          Pushing anyone

Coaches quietly and gently address each and every instance of unwanted behaviour, even if it seems small and insignificant. Unaddressed unwanted behaviour will escalate.

5. Eliminating queues: Important as all the other changes are, this is the one which has resulted in the most significant improvement in children’s golfing experience – I showed how children could be organised to play and practise in groups of two as an absolute maximum.  In past sessions children lined up in to take turns or play in relay. For example, we only have four Velcro targets, so a group of 24 children hitting fuzzy balls to them were put in four groups of six. This is unacceptable. Now children play a variety of different games in groups of two. If there are 24 children there are now 12 games stations. They take turns and when they are not actually hitting a ball they are the next to hit. Children do not have to wait in long boring queues. How many adults would continue to come to group sessions where they had to queue up and watch three or four people hit before they had their turn?!

Our findings: Over a very short period our two trainee coaches have become much more confident and skilled in applying these five simple but important changes to their coaching procedures. They have seen children’s behaviours, concentration, performance general learning and enjoyment increase. As children have become totally engaged in the golf sessions, the two coaches have been more relaxed and instead of having to spend time and effort controlling misbehaving children they can observe what children are learning and they themselves are learning the best ways to provide effective coaching.

Please get in touch if you would like to know more and/or have a talk.

Jonathan Shipstone
JOLF Coach, Academy Director @Pravets Golf Club


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Coaching Children Golf Workshop – Wirral, 11 July, 1pm to 4pm

Book now to secure your place on our Introduction to JOLF workshop. Clare Mount School, Wirral. Thursday 11 July 1pm to 4pm – only £25. Hosted with support from UnLtd.  Come and observe a practical session and see how the JOLF’s games appoach can deliver a fun, engaging and approproate experience for each child every session. Click here for details

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Coaching Children Golf Workshop – Docklands, 20 June, 9.30am to 12.30pm

Book now to secure your place on our Coaching through Games Workshop. University of East London, 20th June 2013 – only £25. Hosted with support from The Association for Physical Education, London Region.  Come and see how we use a games approach to help children learn golf and love playing. Click here for details

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JOLF drives membership at Royal Eastbourne

Laurence with some of his playersRoyal Eastbourne Golf Club is experiencing a valuable dual benefit from supporting its youngsters through JOLF. Not only are juniors at the club benefiting from improving their skills in a fun environment, but there has also been an impressive rise in adult membership since the JOLF programme was launched. Four full adult members (family of chldren on the programme) have joined since the programme began. An added benefit is that the club particularly wanted to increase the ladies’ and children’s sections of the club and this is what has happened. Family members have a crucial role to play in the JOLF coaching programme, and they are invited to be involved in all aspects and stages of their child’s development. As parents take part in the sessions and follow their children’s progress in golf, they take an interest in the game. Coaches and clubs report that parents then begin to play, take lessons and purchase equipment.