Confidence is one the most important elements in golf. This is true for golfers
of all ages, but it is especially true for younger golfers. Confidence can be divided
up into two general areas.
The first is confidence in yourself as a person. This separates
you from golf, or any other single endeavor. Do you like yourself? What is your
value to you? If you start to question yourself because you play golf poorly you
are not putting a very high value on you as a person.
The second type of confidence is performance confidence. This is
about how well you expect to perform. Some people have little confidence in their
ability to play well even if all the evidence strongly suggests that they will perform
well. These people usually have low self-esteem and therefore have little of the
first type of confidence mentioned above. Without good confidence in yourself as
a person, it is not likely that a golfer will have high performance confidence.
Others have great amounts of confidence in their ability to perform well, even though
they have not put in the necessary time and training to build up their level of
play. These people begin each tournament or round with the greatest expectation
and often feel very disappointed after a few holes of average or poor play. These
golfers have not learned how to develop true confidence and instead rely on wishful
The first step in building up true confidence is to give the youth the understanding
that golf is not life and that it is something that develops and improves over time.
They do not need to play well to enjoy the game. Talk to them about how uneven and
unpredictable the game actually is. Help them be ready for anything so that they
can enjoy the experience without tying it to their own value as a person. If you
think you are motivating someone by belittling them, think again. You are simply
modeling being a bully and if they buy into your thinking they will not develop
true confidence because they will strive to satisfy others and not set their own
goals and limits.
One way to help a young player is to have them break down their game into five or
six categories or components. Make sure that mental preparation is one of the categories.
(Didn't think of that one did you?) The other categories could include such things
as short putts, long putts, distance, accuracy, sand shots, and other elements that
are easily kept track of. Ask the young golfer to make a list and, in a practice
round, keep track of what actually went well and what areas were problems. It is
hard to mess up in everything.
After the round go over the results and look for the good and the bad. Talk up the
strengths and show him or her how to improve. Then go over the problem areas and
talk about what is needed to improve. Always have the belief that they are exactly
where they should be as to level of play. If you get upset, you teach them that
they are wrong or off base or not trying - and you make it hard for them to emotionally
be available to put energy into practice. By breaking golf down into these components
you help them enjoy the positive and tackle the negative.
Remember the old saying, "A bad day on the golf course is better than a good day
at the office". Help the young golfer understand why this is true.
And remember to build up the person, break down the problems, stress the positive
and model having fun doing it all.