by Patricia Donnelly, PhD
I’ve just sent off my congratulations to Anna Diletta at the Golf Club Cadaffan in Italy for becoming our most recent Little Golf TRAIN™ certified conductor. We are thrilled for Anna to be our first Certified Conductor in Italy. We are also excited to have Tim Miecher at the Golfclub Heidental to be our first Certified Conductor in Switzerland and Ruby Kurtelius to be our first Certified Conductor in Singapore. It reminded me what an amazing opportunity it was for me and Certified Conductor Connie Capanegra (Program Director of The First Tee of The Palm Beaches/Treasure Coast/Broward counties in Florida) to meet so many international members of the golf community in St Andrews this summer.
Photo below: (From left) Diana Rivenburgh, Dr. Paul Schempp, Connie Capanegra, Dr. Patricia Donnelly and Roger Schiffman, Old Course, St. Andrews.
Stephane Barras (pictured above) who is from Crans Montana, Switzerland and works in both France and Dubai, was enamored of the Little Golf TRAIN™ program. He immediately recognized the advantages that having a program for this age group and of this caliber could have to enhance the marketing of a golf club or course.
Youka Izumoto (pictured above) from South Korea, who I had the pleasure of playing golf with on our last day’s competition at The Castle Course of St. Andrews (thanks to her our foursome won a very nice prize), presented a paper along with her colleagues discussing weight change during a golf swing. As she listened to our Little Golf TRAIN™ presentation I’m certain she recognized how the fundamental move of Eager Elephant introduces proper weight shift to children as young as 2 years old.
Connie and I began our presentation with a Powerpoint (photo above) that summarized the theoretical underpinnings of Little Golf TRAIN™. I walked the audience through some basic tenets of teaching children ages 2-5. I explained how our program includes cognitive, physical, social and artistic elements. Then I went on to summarize the components of the certification program that is required before becoming a Little Golf TRAIN™ certified conductor (instructor). These include:
- The importance of specific age-appropriate safety measures in working with this age group.
- Methods to deal with challenging behavior of children ages 2-5.
- Basic nutritional guidelines of this age group, including ways to implement positive attitudes concerning food (photo below).
- A brief summary of leaders in the field of educational psychology of early learners.
- How to provide young children (ages 2-5) with a holistic learning environment to be introduced to the fundamentals of golf and accompanying life skills.
- How to have children acquire intrapersonal and interpersonal psycho-social skills required for sports and life.
- How to continually encourage young learners in a consistent, safe and nurturing environment.
In planning this presentation co-founder, Nicole Weller, and I decided it was important to not only explain how Little Golf TRAIN™ works but to show it as well.
This is where Connie came in. Having vast experience with juniors and recently with our Little Golf TRAIN™ curriculum, Connie was able to give real-life examples of how the program worked. She showed and explained to the audience:
- How to present some of the introductory golf movements to the children.
- How to keep it moving with the little ones, conforming to their short attention spans.
- How to use different golf standards with our littlest golfers (yes, it’s OK if they hold their clubs upside down).
- How to add the essential element of fun — i.e. what is fun for a 2-5 year old, not what is fun for an adult.
- How to deal with children in the same group with different amounts of experience.
- The always important — how to deal with the parent who doesn’t quite understand this program and is wondering why their little one isn’t being taught like a real golfer (adult).
The conference ended with a panel discussion, including Bob Christina and Paul Schempp, with much input from the audience who seemed as if they didn’t want the conference to end, but rather wanted to keep discussing how to assimilate all the knowledge from the conference.
What emerged as the basic theme of the conference, which included many academic people and many practitioners, was that it was imperative that we work together. All too often theorists do their research and present it to an inquisitive audience of practitioners, but it stops there. This, in fact, was why Connie and I did the presentation together. I provided the research and theory and she provided the application and practice. Nicole Weller and I recognized this when we decided to work together on Little Golf TRAIN™. I provided the theory and she provided the application. We packaged a program that contained not only theoretical background and research, but practical examples and a lot of how-to so that golf professionals would have an easy turn-key product (photo above).
It was the suggestion of the panel at the culminating event at the World Scientific Congress of Golf that researchers communicate directly with teaching professionals about what they are finding; likewise teaching professionals should reach out to researchers to discover what they are doing. This is what Nicole and I have done. It’s a great idea!