Here are some ideas about getting your juniors involved in other sports besides golf.
Tennis - This is an excellent sport for youth and adults to be involved in. This sport can enhance your golf swing because of the rotational movements of the forehand and backhand. The forehand will help with the speed generating muscles of the torso, which matches the direction of the golf swing. The backhand stroke will be the opposite rotational movement to the golf swing and will strengthen the muscles of the torso needed to decelerate segments to gain the whip action of the golf swing. The main instruction for the youth in tennis is to swing hard on every stroke and hit as many backhands as forehands.
The one caution with tennis is the serve. The serving motion is dominated by the back muscles and there is an arching of the spine prior to hitting the serve to generate power. This is great for strengthening of the spine and essential for becoming a great tennis player, but it can lead to improper set up in the golf swing. A good tennis player may have the S-posture at set up because of the strength of the back extensors. Proper education in golf set-up posture will eliminate this.
Baseball or Cricket - Depending on what part of the world you are from, baseball or cricket can certainly help. Baseball and cricket are bat sports that require you to hit a moving ball as it accelerates towards you. In both sports, a rotational motion is utilized to hit the ball. This movement requires a large amount of hand-eye coordination and upper and lower body strength. These sports help the player learn to generate power from the ground up using legs and torso to get the bat swinging as fast as possible. These are essential moves for a golfer to master, and it is easier to teach someone who has played these sports than it is someone who has not.
One drawback to playing these sports is that the swinging motion of the bat is slightly different from that of the golf swing. The main difference is that the plane of the golf swing is on the ground, and the baseball/cricket swing is off the ground. If we were to look at a slow motion image of a baseball player and a golfer at the impact position however, we would not see many differences. We encourage the baseball and cricket player to swing from both sides of the plate/wicket to develop power in the core muscles evenly.
Snow Skiing - If you live in an area that has snow, don't let it get you down as you can still work on your golf in the winter months. Downhill skiing is a great activity to gain strength in the legs and back muscles. The gluteus maximus muscle, which has been called the "King" muscle for the golf swing is strengthened during skiing. Because your legs will be turning underneath a stable upper body in parallel skiing, rotational muscles are activated. Developing a separation between upper and lower body is a key in developing distance in the golf swing. If they are still skiing with the wedge skiing pattern, that is great as well, because that will stretch the hip internal rotators which is very important as well in the golf swing.
Kayaking - If you don't have snow, maybe a good paddle in a lake or the ocean may be a possibility. Kayaking is a sport that engages the upper body and the core to paddle on each side of the boat in an alternating/rotational pattern. Key muscles involved here are the latissimus dorsi and the rhomboids. Both sides of the legs will get a great hip internal rotation stretch and the hamstrings will get a nice static stretch as well. They make two-seated kayaks and with younger kids, it is recommended that they are accompanied by an adult.
Lacrosse or Field Hockey/Ice Hockey - This is another great activity that will result in a better golfer. In order to throw the ball during field hockey into the goal or to a teammate, you must learn to accelerate your arms, but then decelerate them to allow the ball to leave the stick. The timing of the deceleration is the key to throwing the ball in the right direction. The is accomplished by the core muscles and the latissimus dorsi muscle, both of which are essential for a good golf swing. In ice hockey, you performa a rotational movement with a stick while balancing on ice skates to hit a puck forward. That is a very difficult skill and requires a lot of coordination to perform. If you can hit a puck while on the ice and wearing ice skates, just think how much easier it will be to hit a golf ball while in golf shoes and standing on grass.
Track Events - As kids arrive at the age for junior high school, encourage them to participate in track and field activities. The rotational sports of javelin, discus and shot put are a good choice to help the kids feel what it takes to generate speed with rotation and transfer that speed to an object. Sprinting events will help kids recruit the Type II fast twitch fibers that are necessary for a good golf swing. General running activities and stretching that is usually performed by track coaches will improve the overall flexibility of your athlete.
Soccer - This is a popular sport with the youth, and outside the United States, it is the most popular sport in the world. Soccer players need to have excellent hand and eye coordination, lower body strength and endurance.The ability to kick a ball far has to do with rotational strength of the core muscles and the legs. You enhance your balance and proprioception ability as you play the sport of soccer.
Other Ideas - This list is by no means exhaustive. The idea is that you want to get your juniors involved in other sports besides golf. Playing frisbee or going to the batting cages is an easy way to get rotational activities without being totally committed to a team.
Brian Knight from www.juniorfit.com wrote, "...the junior who plays on the monkey bars, play kickball, baseball, skateboarding, or participates in outdoor activities that are not organized but challenging will be a much better athlete than the junior that just concentrates on one athletic venture." (TPI Web site article: "Should my fitness just focus on golf?") I emphatically agree.
For more information on golf fitness for juniors, please visit www.mytpi.com.
Jon Rhodes, MSPT, MBA, TPI Certified, Clinic Director for Ogden Clinic Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine, Ogden, Utah.