Monday, May 9, 2011

A Like-Minded Meeting

Last week I had lunch with sport psychologist legend Patricia Donnelly. She’s an incredible woman and a pioneer in her field. In 1998 she published an extensive study linking child development with golf instruction techniques--- incredible stuff, and what’s more, her findings exactly match my own philosophy. She writes: “Children of approximately 3 to 6 years of age enjoy moving their bodies in ways that are fun.” My early birdies are indeed close to my heart but Patricia and I share a passion for sustained learning. The point of starting children young is that they develop a love for the sport early on, and they can grow with and into it. Patricia goes on to say: “Similarly, a golf teacher could encourage children to find or make their own clubs using sticks or broomsticks…it would also add what Piaget referred to as animism, attributing lifelike qualities to inanimate objects, for example, pretending the club is a snake.”
Reading Patricia’s work I was not only encouraged (and validated!) but also extraordinarily motivated--- to keep reaching children in the way that I do. I’ve always known myself that our program works, that it’s effective, but seeing it printed in black and white and hearing her scientist take on it filled me with a supreme sense of purpose. We’re on the right track.
Patricia spoke a lot about how the industry simply wasn’t ready for this type of information fifteen years ago. There weren’t the PGA and LPGA initiatives there are now, initiatives to get junior golfers excited about and committed to the game. Patricia spoke about how she thinks sports instructors are going to start opening their eyes more and more to the reality that sports education is about just that, education. You can be the best golfer on the planet but if you don’t have the education resources to draw on, if you don’t know where your students are at developmentally, you can’t really succeed at teaching.
We spoke a lot about my program. I told her about our affirmations—“I can” before the golf swing. About the games we play and the tools we use. She loved it all.
Our meeting was wonderful for showing me we’re on the right track in our program, a program I have and continue to believe in with my whole heart, but it gave me something else, too. It gave me a mentor. I often advise young professionals to seek out someone who has done what they want to do and done it well. It’s important to have a point of reference, someone to look up. Even as a pioneer, on an unchartered path, there is always someone who has walked it before. That’s what I found so incredible about my meeting with Patricia: everything I do, everything I believe in, she believed in as well.
It’s a remarkable thing to find people who are on your path—ahead, behind or right next to you, side by side. They are reminders that we’re going the right way. No one’s personal or professional journey is exactly like anyone else’s. We all take our own detours, branch off in our own time. But finding like-minded people, people who when you speak and act stand up and say YES, are wonderful things indeed. They remind us of how important community is, and how we all play a roll in the lives of those around us.
This is why I want to get out there and train more instructors, teachers, parents. I want to create a dialogue about physical movement and development--- a dialogue that will remain. Because sometimes on the path you walk you have to stop and plant a tree so that someday, years from now, another traveler can pluck a fruit and be sustained. Patricia’s 1998 study was a seed. KTUGA is now ready to blossom.
PLAY golf,

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