in Sport ·
04-09-2020 01:00:00 · 0 Comments
It’s been a long time since I attended a National under 18 tournament; in fact the last one I attended was middle of August 2019.
And it was definitely the first one I’ve attended in Portugal, so to be walking fairways watching the junior best players compete over a little known but excellent links course, was a joy for a coach like me.
I was there to recruit for our new golf college called Edge. It felt as if I was attending a junior event from 20 years ago, when Junior Golf was as much about enjoying the game as respecting the other players. In the UK, especially in England, when you reach the dizzying heights of playing in a national championship, almost every player has sacrificed education for the pursuit of playing Professional Golf. They are in effect full-time amateur players or semi-professional golfers.
At these tournaments every shot appears to be career defining with the parents feeling and hitting every shot from the side-lines. What I found this past weekend was junior amateur golf being played for golf’s sake, with very little agenda on the side. Unlike in the UK, the Portuguese parents have a plan with the player on where their education is going once they turn 18.
What became apparent very quickly is that there are four major teams in Junior Golf in Portugal. These teams are split equally amongst the South, the Central and two in the North. Each team has its uniform and has its coach. The teams are clearly well funded judging by the quality of the clothes, and the pride with which the players wore their uniform was plain to see.
Each coach representing a region, wanting the best for their players whilst abiding within the rules of the game. There is one coach who comes with a great reputation for developing players and a horrible reputation for what he does to players when they fall foul of his coaching philosophy or his performance targets. The type of reputation which would be more akin to a football coach from the 60s, where phrases such as, “It’s my way or the highway!” had their place in time.
I know that if this coach learns one of his students is having a lesson with another coach, he will blacklist the player and excommunicate him from the team, with immediate effect. Not exactly the player centred approach which has been indoctrinated into modern day coaching, where the player chooses who coaches them based on the coaches skill, reputation and the personal relationship between the two, the coach and the player.
I kept a low profile, well as low as I possibly can. Let’s just say I was quiet and watched the players swinging and the coaches coaching. I was there actually to watch one of my past students, a Portuguese player that regularly takes a lesson with me during the summer when they’re in the Algarve.
This player is a straight ‘A’ student, who treats his golf with the same preparation and care as his studies. He asked me just to have a look at him on the range to see if there was anything going on which could be improved. The biggest ‘no no’ in coaching is to get involved with any technical changes during a tournament – the last thing he needed was technical coaching, apart from anything else, he is obviously being well looked after by his local coach. So my role really was to talk about shot selection and strategy for the course that he was playing.
Then I started noticing that one of the teams was singling out the player I was watching, making fun of his stretching and warm up routine, and trying to disrupt his practise session even with me stood in his bay. My player was so in the zone that I’m not sure he even noticed. And sure enough, these players were the charges of the same coach I’ve mentioned earlier. These players had already been berated for their performance on the golf course that morning and unfortunately my player was leading the tournament.
The instigator of quite possibly the worst etiquette I’ve ever seen on a driving range shot 87 the next day and withdrew from the tournament. While the leader shot a second day 70 and went on to obliterate the field by 17 shots.
Whilst I was surprised to see such behaviour, I was very pleased to see that karma works just as timelessly as ever. It was like watching golf’s equivalent of “Karate Kid”.
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