I want this game to grow.
I want more people to understand the power and importance that the game of golf can have within their lives.
There are youth golfers everywhere, with parents and coaches who certainly want the best for them.
I've had the pleasure of working with hundreds of youth athletes, and have no doubt learned a thing or two along the way.
This article will describe what I believe to be "best" in terms of fitness for junior golfers.
We'll first talk about the 3 Priorities of Youth Golf Fitness.
Then, I'll show you how I structure a training day for my youth athletes.
I'll share some of my favorite golf fitness exercises for juniors.
If you are a parent, grandparent or coach of a youth golfer... lock it in!
Priority Number 1 is and always should be ACTUALLY PLAYING GOLF.
But wait a minute... this is an article about fitness?
Weight room training and fitness, while very important, should never come before the game of golf itself.
And, quite honestly, this applies to all ages but especially youth golfers!
Whether you are Rory, a 24-year-old hack like me, or my 12-year-old athletes, playing the game of golf, practicing, and being at the course should always be the first priority when we are looking to improve!
Priority Number 2... Create an Engaging and Energizing Environment
Now, getting into the weight room training, it's CRUCIAL that you find a coach that creates an environment that's friendly, engaging and energizing for youth athletes.
This means gamifying drills and exercises.
It means giving athletes some freedom to explore their athleticism.
It means creating a training environment that promotes simultaneous physical growth and a positive emotional response from the athlete.
Kids are so often told how to act, solve problems, or compete. They almost always are given the rubric that tells them step-by-step how to complete the task.
Your training environment should change this narrative.
As a coach, give them the ability and confidence to solve their own problems. Give them the freedom, and the safe place, to fail, learn and grow.
Here's a few clips of how I work to give my athletes problems to solve and environments to explore in training...
Priority Number 3... Strength Training Youth Athletes
Notice where strength training falls on this priority list... Number 3.
I care way less about this than the first two priorities, and you should too.
An athlete probably shouldn't touch a barbell until they are at least 14? Maybe 13?
Even then, they by no means NEED to.
We can achieve strength gains in MANY ways.
Ways that are safe, effective, and engaging to the athlete.
And, very importantly, DO NOT try to recreate the golf swing in training for youth athletes... EVER.
They need general motor pattern training.
They need to squat, split squat, RDL, carry things, crawl, push, and pull.
None of which will resemble the golf swing.
Structuring the Training Day
First, an engaging warm-up (~10 - 15 minutes)
Not lunges in a line.
Not static stretching for 10 minutes.
No "sprint mechanics" and drills.
No matter how important you think these things are, they're not to the athletes, and the way THEY FEEL matters way more than how YOU (the coach) FEEL.
Instead... play a game. Give them a tool and see what they can create with it.
For example, the other day we played this PVC Drop game which you can see in the post below.
Or, the day before, we played SpikeBall.
Or, this week we came up with BucketBall...
Junior golfers don't need these super complex and structured warm-ups. Doing so will simply pull away engagement and limit the effectiveness of the session.
Second, Let Athletes Be Athletes (~10-15 minutes)
Some kind of jumping, throwing, running.
Maybe a game of tag.
Maybe a broad jump competition, or races.
Approach this phase of the session with the mindset of... I want to let these athletes show me their athleticism!
Third, Strength (~15-20 minutes).
Strength is a critical component of the training day.
We want to develop greater levels of output in these junior athletes, and the first step to doing so is exploring safe and effective exercises.
Below you'll find a short list of strength based exercises I enjoy utilizing with our youth athletes.
Pick 2 golf fitness exercises from each category.
3 rounds each exercise.
Keep it to less than ~10 reps (or 30 seconds) per set.
Good to go.
Lastly, End with a Competition
In the end, bring it back to the athlete. Give them an environment to compete within, explore and solve!
Maybe a competition to see who can hang from a pull-up bar the longest.
Or a quick set of SpikeBall... a personal favorite of my athletes, if you couldn't tell.
The key here is to end the session by leaving the athletes with a positive emotional response.
Remember... fun, engaging and energizing is priority number 2.
Wrap it up.
In the end, they're junior golfers, not professional or collegiate athletes, so their golf fitness and training NEEDS TO BE enjoyable (which I think should apply to all athletes quite honestly, but it's even more important for junior athletes).
The coach's job is NOT to crush them, make them super fatigued, sore, and walking away with very negative emotions.
The goal isn't to maximize performance either.
It's to create the foundation for a life of training, exploring, and playing golf.
Let the athletes be athletes.
Let them control the session 80% of the time.
Give a little structure when needed but allow them to explore golf fitness in a way that will keep them coming back for years and years... and also help them grow along the way.
Let's go low!
Carter Schmitz, CSCS, TPI
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