Junior golf, like many youth sports, can become all-encompassing and overwhelming as a junior athlete progresses to each level of the sport. It is important to maintain perspective and recognize the importance of developing certain fundamental movement skills (i.e. running, hopping, skipping, jumping, throwing, catching, striking, etc.) at particular points throughout the athlete’s physical development. Jordan Spieth is a great example of an athlete in our sport who grew up playing multiple sports. This experience helped him develop the body awareness, and neuromuscular connections necessary to excel at the sport he ultimately wanted to focus on and helped him become one of the best players in the world at a very young age. Participating in multiple sports as a junior athlete gives them the ability to develop these skills in various atmospheres, facing an array of physical challenges, all helping the athlete become more well-rounded and prepared for the sport at which they may like to dedicate themselves to when the time is right.
Highly regarded Sports Psychologist on the PGA Tour, Rick Jensen, uses the term “sampling” to describe the involvement of a junior athlete in various sports as they grow up. Introducing kids to all sports or activities they show interest in at a young age is important to determining their strengths and weaknesses as they develop and get older. Not until the junior enters high school do they really need to start narrowing down their focus. This still doesn’t mean they need to “pick one sport” just yet, as they should simply tighten the screws a little more and begin to delve deeper into the intricacies of what it is going to take to get to the next level in whatever sport they choose. Typically, by the athlete’s sophomore year, we encourage anyone who has been building this foundation of movement and skill and are interested in playing college golf to “flick the switch” and begin to focus their attention specifically on taking their game to the next level.
The importance of building that solid foundation early on through participation in multiple activities (not solely athletics) cannot be overstated. One of the first questions I ask in our physical evaluation process is what sports did you play growing up? Often I get the answer “Oh! I played them all” and I find very obvious differences in the foundation of these athletes compared to those who may have only participated in one sport. In addition to the potential risk of “burnout” a youth athlete may face by the time they are in high school, the fundamentals developed from playing multiple sports in the early years stick with our nervous system for the rest of our lives, and therefore you cannot allow yourself to get caught up in the quick sand that is early specialization in sports.