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What is the Most Effective Way to Motivate Your Child?

What is the Most Effective Way to Motivate Your Child? Article image
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Ryan Dailey, PGA
Operation 36 Golf Co-Founder

As parents, we want our kids to be MOTIVATED. Why? We want them to set goals and then be motivated to create daily habits and systems to work towards achieving them. If we could instill this principle of goal-setting and consistently working towards it, we know we will have helped them develop skills that will help them experience success in the present and the future.  

What is motivation? To stimulate (someone's) interest in or enthusiasm for doing something.

Many parents get their children involved in sports and activities to help develop this skill of setting and working towards a goal. Some sports and activities do a wonderful job of providing the student with a clear end goal and smaller goals in between to keep them motivated. Here are some stand-out examples you might recognize:

Boy Scouts of America 

The clear end goal is to earn your Eagle Scout, the highest rank in the Boy Scouts. Along the way, they have 6 ranks for you to reach that help you stay motivated on what usually is a 5+ year journey. A youth starts as a Scout rank and then works their way up to Eagle:

Boy scouts of America badges

Martial Arts 

The world of martial arts has done a wonderful job over the years of clearly showing those that get involved that the Black Belt is the highest rank and clear end goal. Along the way, a participant earns different color belts as they improve their skills:

Martial arts belt colors

Recreational League Sports 

As a family, we’ve participated in some sports and activities that do not have a clear end goal or any type of curriculum. It has been very challenging as a parent and as a coach in this situation. Many times the players get disinterested and discouraged as they aren’t seeing any progress.  

I have coached my children's town sports team in "recreational" ball for the past 5+ years.  Every year when I coach soccer, baseball or basketball we have players that drop out before the season ends.  When I call the parents to ask why they left, a common answer is they didn't feel like they were good at it or improving in their skill.  More often than not, these kids were making progress but without a clear end goal or measuring stick for their skills (curriculum) they couldn’t see it and GAVE UP.

What Grade Does Golf Get for Motivating New Players? (F)

The sport of GOLF receives an (F) failing grade when it comes to providing new players with a CLEAR END GOAL and a detailed plan (curriculum) to follow to reach that end goal. Millions upon millions of players have been introduced to the game of golf over the years with a very muddy understanding of the purpose or end goal.  

Part of the problem is we, the coaches, had no clue what the end goal was.  Our hands were tied as our thought process was to keep beginners as far away from the golf course as possible and keep them on the range until they were good enough to get on the course.  For the mass majority of folks introduced to the game over the years, we (coaches) have told them the goal is to get the ball airborne and hit it straight.  That's it!  Millions upon millions of high fives have been given when a ball gets airborne or goes straight, but the student leaves the lesson wondering what the greater purpose of doing this is...

Another part of the problem is players bouncing around from goal to goal based on what they see and hear others say. We end up with an environment at the course of a group of people all working on vastly different goals.  That is fine, but fine isn't good enough and history has proven this with our retention numbers in the industry and our lack of success in converting folks that want to play golf into golfers.  When we don't create a group of people working together on a common goal, we lose that powerful sense of community that other sports have capitalized so successfully on.  

IN THE BEGINNING, WE WERE PART OF THE PROBLEM when we first started coaching in 2011. We had no curriculum or end goal and tried to motivate players by any means possible. For our youth golf programs, we used to bring out footballs, baseballs, soccer balls, ropes for tug-o-war and play music.  That was a great short term solution, for that day or that week!

We would create these very fun games to play on the driving range and putting green. Many times these games would have little to no value in actually improving golf skills they would use on the golf course.  However, kids would leave the facility laughing, smiling and we'd get plenty of video/pictures of them having so much FUN.  It would take us 60 minutes to just set-up some of our games and then 30 minutes to tear it down at the end. We thought we were growing the game and creating golfers.  In the short term, it was very successful.  In the long term, it was part of our downward spiral.  To read our full story and learn what mistakes we made early on, CLICK HERE FOR OUR STORY.

We Are Now Part Of The Solution 

Fast forward to today and each player in Operation 36 learns that golf is played on the golf course and our goal is shooting 36 or better for 9 holes. It’s black/white, clear and simple. That is the end goal of the program, Operation 36. The curriculum that is used in the program is centered around developing the skills necessary to shoot 36 or better for 9 holes from our 10 different division yardages.  

The Operation 36 On-Course Model with Standard Divisions and Full Tee Box Divisions

Everyone starts at Division 1 - 25 yards away with the goal of shooting 36 or better for 9 holes. Once they beat 36 from Division 1 - 25 yards away they move back to Division 2 - 50 yards away. They continue in this sequence through our 10 Divisions until they can beat 36 from a 9 hole course that measures 3400+ yards.  

We also provide them with milestones to reach along the way so they can celebrate progress. We celebrate a milestone when they shoot 50, 45, 39 and then ultimately beating 36.    

Graphic of the Op 36 Division Milestones in the web app

The solution to keeping someone motivated is that they can see progress towards a goal.  

Progress is crystal clear for everyone to see in Operation 36. When a player shoots a 54 in their first attempt and then shoots a 47 they have improved by 7 strokes! That is motivating to players!

Each time out on the course, the goal is to try to do 1 stroke better. By achieving these small goals they will be working towards the bigger end goal of shooting 36 or better. We have learned that these small goals are so very important for players so they don’t feel overwhelmed with how much they need to improve. The goal is simple, 1 stroke better each time out.    

“The most effective form of motivation is progress. When we get a signal that we are moving forward, we become more motivated to continue down the path.  Each small win feeds your desire.”

James Clear - Atomic Habits

Does It Work? 

We have had some fantastic stories over the years of players working hard, staying motivated and reaching the goal of shooting 36 or better. It may have taken them multiple attempts at a yardage over multiple years, but it was worth it. They learned a valuable lesson in focusing on a goal and not giving up. The game of golf may be the most challenging activity a player has ever attempted. By seeing progress and reaching an end goal of shooting 36 or better, players graduate the Operation 36 program with a level of self-confidence that translates into other areas of their life.

If you are looking for a program to enroll your child in that can teach them how to set a goal, guide them on learning the skills to improve and ultimately how to work hard to reach their goals, an Operation 36 golf program might be right for you.

To get started, go to Operation36.golf and find a location near you. You can fill out a request for information form right on the website that will go directly to your local coach.  They will then reach out to you to provide additional information. If you don’t have a program near you, you can also request a new facility. 

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