Mike Thomas is the coach for Justin Thomas, but he is also the father of the No. 1 golfer in the world. Long before Justin's 13 PGA TOUR victories, Mike played the role of a father to navigating the junior golf fairways.
As a PGA Master Professional, he continues to train the next generation of golfers. These experiences give him a unique inside and outside perspective of how a parent can help their junior golfer succeed.
What is your most important piece of advice to a parent of a junior golfer?
While your financial support is very important, your emotional support is equally important. Kids already know when they don't perform to their standard, they don't need to be reminded of it. Keep golf fun and focus on the positive things that occur during their journey, not the negative things.
How can a parent support their junior golfer at tournaments?
Too often parents spend their time focusing on what went wrong. They can work out the causes of those shots with their instructors. When Justin was playing junior golf, as soon as he brought up something negative, I immediately directed his attention to what he did well. Positive reinforcement is more powerful than negative comments.
Too often parents spend their time focusing on what went wrong.
What should a parent’s role be in coaching their junior golfer?
I would say very few parents are credible teachers. While they may know some golf, and be decent players themselves, there is an art to communicating with your student. Not all teachers have that art, and very few parents do. Additionally, few children are receptive to parent’s instructions versus their instructor. While you may mean well, let a qualified teacher work with your children.
What is something that parents should NOT do when working with their junior golfer?
Every poor parent-child relationship I see is based on negative feedback. Any feedback that is not positive, or encouraging, is non-productive and must be avoided.
How can a parent motivate a junior golfer to practice?
I am not sure you can motivate someone to do something they don't want to do. I never had to ask Justin to practice, he was driven on his own to do that. If you have to tell them to practice, they will look at it more as work, or an assignment, which is less enjoyable than wanting to do it themselves. That being said, most of my practice for juniors is based on games or scores to accomplish during their practice. Most of these kids are competitive, and if I give them an assortment of drills that they have to obtain a score in, they will likely do them, in order to better a score they previously accomplished. This also makes practice more "fun". Kids like to have fun, in whatever they do, and these games fill that need.
Any other thoughts for junior golf parents?
I can't say it enough...encourage them and keep the game fun! We are telling them what to do around the house, school, etc, the golf course should be a place they enjoy going to!