Keeping Kids Engaged with Proven Teaching Strategies

December 19, 2023 | Coach Spotlight

Our very own Bucky Dudley, who also happens to be a Carolinas PGA Section Youth Player Development Award winner, recently shared some teaching insights with the PGA. Here are his thoughts on the importance of keeping students engaged…

Coaches must ensure their junior golfers are not only taking away an understanding of each lesson but are also enjoying the learning process. I employ a few teaching strategies… The first is ending the activity at the height of enjoyment. While this might sound counterintuitive, kids have a limited attention span. There is a limited amount of time before they get “bored” and their minds wander, creating unengaged participants and an unsafe environment. By only playing for a few minutes before shifting focus, participants will leave the activity with a positive experience and remember how much fun it was to play. They will want more! This also allows for the same games to be played week after week and for participants to see improvement across the weeks. This means that coaches must have at least two games or activities ready for each class. Consider using the change of activity as a water break to help refresh your participants for the next activity.

The second strategy is Play-Practice-Play, especially for older participants or those with more experience. I was introduced to this concept in First Tee Coach Training, and it was an “aha” moment in my professional development. The idea is to create games and activities for participants to quickly start playing after arrival, and to sandwich them around purposeful practice of the intended skill. For example, if the skill is putting, participants may immediately start play of a game where they need to putt the ball into a hole around obstacles. Finding it difficult at first, stopping for instruction and practice, and returning to the game afterwards can allow for improvement and increased enjoyment of the game during the second half.

Finally, the best coaches are master game creators. Drills are boring, but they are a great tool to help learn new techniques or skills. What if you could create games that bundle the skills needed to improve into a game that kids enjoy. Drills become less boring, and your students learn more quickly while having fun. Become a master game creator and your students will reap the rewards.

We may be biased, but we think Bucky’s advice rings true for all educators, regardless of subject matter. Hop over to our programs page to learn more about First Tee curriculum and how we utilize Bucky’s concepts to teach interpersonal skills through the game of golf.