5 things learned from Junior Golf Alliance

Not an interview this time, but a blog post review of junior golf coaching CPD offered by Junior Golf Alliance.

Junior Golf Alliance (JGA; www.juniorgolfalliance.co.uk) is, as far as I know, the only association of junior golf coaches.

For a yearly membership price of £50 (€56; $67) members get access to one introductory e-learning course (Coaching Golf to Children), join a closed Facebook group, receive discounts for all their e-learning courses (that non-members can buy at full price) and discounted support (consulting) packages.

I took me a while, but I recently completed all 6 e-learning courses that JGA has in offer at the moment:

  • Coaching Golf to Children
  • Business: Recruit, Retain, Grow
  • Children and Parents
  • Golf Skills and Techniques
  • Keeping Children Safe and Managing Behaviour
  • Running Golf Coaching Sessions

Each course takes a few hours to finish and has some surprisingly challenging (in a good way) written end-of-course tasks that are checked and commented on by one of the tutors. In contrast to basically every other golf certification I’ve taken thus far, it’s not enough to just skim the materials and copy&paste to pass – you need to be able to apply the knowledge from the course, most of the time in a novel case-study scenario. Writing those up required some serious thought, which was awesome. Active learning in its best form. It also showed that JGA are serious about their certification and not willing to dish them out too easily.

I took copious notes from all the courses, and will be experimenting with a lot of the ideas, concepts and tools from the courses in my junior activities. I’ve also successfully implemented a lot of it this past season.

Outside of specific tips and advice, the courses made me think and question a lot of assumptions I’ve held.

Here are 5 areas, concepts and ideas that I took away from JGA. This doesn’t even touch the wealth of specific games and activities that I may or may not have stolen from the courses :)

1. Why are you doing X and Y?

Since my first introduction to the JGA philosophy (a few years ago at a JOLF seminar with Neil Plimmer), this has struck me the most – Neil and other co-founders have really put some thought into what, and WHY they do certain things in their junior programmes. Even what may seem like a small, insignificant bit may have dire consequences in the way the programme runs or is perceived by parents.

  • Where are you meeting all children? Why?
  • How do you start each session? Why?
  • What do you do when a child is misbehaving? Why?
  • How do you talk to children? Why?
  • What activities do you run? Why? (“because they’re fun” may not be the best answer to this question!)

JGA tutors are able to clearly answer each and every one of those questions, as well as back it up with evidence. “We’ve always done it this way” is not enough. Can you answer such questions? Can I?

If a coach is keen on running a high quality junior academy (and JGA co-founders are – in fact, their current coaching business, Brighton Junior Golf, is just coaching juniors and families over 5 venues and in schools), they need to consider and question any decision, big or small.

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I’ve decided to share some semi-related pictures of junior games and environments in between the 5 points. Most of the games may have been, umm, inspired by JGA ;)

2. Safety FIRST

Some of the most important questions that a coach has to be able to answer are related to children’s safety. A crucial part of ANY junior coaching, too often overlooked by coaches and clubs.

A whole full JGA course is concerned just with coaches’ role in children’s safety, well-being and behaviour management.

  • Do you have plans in place for various events that may happen during a junior session?
  • How do you make sure that safety rules are never breached? What if they are?
  • Are you aware of all the risks involved in running junior activities?
  • Is safety TRULY your number one priority?
  • Is the design of your sessions helping or reducing safety? E.g. would a putting game on a slope or on a plain green be safer?

I wish that the content of this course was mandatory for every junior golf coach.

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Ensuring children’s safety by inviting Fireman Sam to play along

3. Children are not mini-adults

Golf coaches tend to know very little on how children learn and develop.

Teaching golf to children and young people is completely different to coaching adults. Children learn in different ways and that calls for a different approach to coaching.

Being an expert golf coach to children is a specialist skill. Simply adapting the way an adult learns for a younger audience won’t work. Engaging, enthusing and encouraging juniors to play is radically different.

source: Junior Golf Alliance website

This knowledge (and skills) are far more important than any golf technical knowledge a coach may possess when running a junior academy.

Is your session content AND delivery appropriate for children? How do you know?

I’ve found the courses to be a useful starting point in considering these issues.

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GolfParc at an indoor Children’s Fair – appropriate, representative introduction to golf?

4. It’s okay to make money in junior golf

Too often we hear that coaches can’t possibly earn a good living in golf, especially in junior golf. For someone with a bit of a background in business, it never made sense to me. Why can’t we? If the demand is there, if the offering is high quality, well thought-out and tailored to the market, clients will be happy to pay for the value we provide!

Thankfully more and more voices are being raised that this may be a false premise (e.g. check out this case study of one of Will Robbins’ (RGX) clients on the excellent Golf in the Life of podcast)

One of the JGA e-learning courses, Business: Recruit, Retain, Grow, focuses on the business side of junior coaching, and I thought it was excellent.

A case study was provided of a UK-based junior coach that followed some of the JGA recommendations and was able to earn a gross profit of over £40,000 in a year just from junior activities, working under 18 hours per week on average.

Is it easy? No. Is it possible? Definitely.

There is nothing wrong with making a good living while providing excellent value to parents and children.

Speaking of parents, as they are the true “clients” of a junior academy …

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Is one-off school coaching the most effective marketing strategy for a junior academy?

5. Get parents involved and communicate with them on a regular basis

Similarly to US Kids Golf Certified Coach, a substantial space in JGA courses is devoted to parents and their role in junior coaching. They are the ones making the buying decision, and although all coaching should be child-centred and their needs should be a priority, it’s crucial to remember about parents. Some of the difficult questions that the courses touch:

  • Are you putting yourself in position to talk face to face to parents on a regular basis?
  • Are you communicating with parents every week? How? Email, Facebook, text?
  • Are parents welcome at your sessions? Why, why not?
  • Can parents get involved in the actual sessions?
  • Do parents know why you’re doing things the way you’re doing them?
  • Do parents know how to get involved in their children’s golf outside sessions?

Parents want their kids to be safe, improve skills and make friends. Are those values expressed in your marketing efforts? Are they guiding the structure and content of your programme?

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That’s me running junior activities at a corporate day. Posing to photos rather than speaking to parents :-/

This is just the tip of an iceberg…

If you are a keen junior coach, want to learn, willing to put the work in and are not afraid of difficult questions – I can’t recommend the JGA courses highly enough.

Hope that shed some light on what the courses offer. If you have any questions – don’t hesitate to get in touch (hi [at] participationcoaching.com).

If you want to learn more about JGA and their coaching philosophy – I’ve interviewed one of the co-founders, Neil Plimmer, for the Participation Coaching Podcast (subscribe). You can find the episode here: Appropriate junior and beginner golf experiences with Neil Plimmer. An interview with another JGA co-founder coming soon!


Full disclaimer: I’m not paid, nor do I get any direct benefit from writing this. However, I’m a member of the JGA and know one of the co-founders personally. If you decide to join the JGA and cite “participationcoaching.com” in the “how did you hear about JGA” section, I may be getting some reward as part of JGA’s “Member Referral Rewards” scheme.

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