A new athlete development model is being adapted for golf that will change how we introduce youngsters to the game — and develop golfers for life.
The American Development Model is a concerted effort between the U.S. Olympic Committee and its National Governing Bodies of sport to apply long-term athlete development principles.
“It’s all about increasing participation,” says Ted Logan, who has been a Player Development Consultant for the PGA of America since 2014. Logan also serves as the project manager leading the American Development Model movement for golf and was among five outside speakers at this year’s NGF Golf Business Symposium.
Logan informed Symposium attendees about ADM, which has key support and backing of the PGA of America, PGA Tour, LPGA, the Masters Tournament and the USGA.
“People might hear the Olympic Committee and think this is about gold medals. That’s completely false,” Logan said. “It’s about participation and bringing more people into sport because the USOC knows if you cast a wide enough net, you have more participants and eventually they’ll become Olympians.
“The motto is – As many as possible, for as long as possible, with the best experience possible.”
One of the reasons that the USOC has an interest in golf stems from a societal perspective, Logan explained, noting statistics on childhood obesity that put the U.S. among the more unhealthy developed countries in the world.
“It’s getting so bad that the surgeon general has come out and said sport can be the savior for billions and billions of healthcare dollars down the road,” he said.
Among the tenets of ADM is that an early focus on just one or two sports often leads to injuries, burnout and a ceiling on athletic potential. Logan showed a video in which Jack Nicklaus talked about playing football, basketball and baseball as a youngster and also introducing his children to a variety of sports. Annika Sorenstam spoke about how she used to ski growing up in addition to playing golf.
“We want to develop fundamental movement skills that transfer between sports – running, jumping, hopping, throwing – and translate to developing better athletes,” Logan said. “In golf, we have fundamentals like grip, stance and swing, but what are the other ancillary activities we can be doing?”
The USOC and its national governing bodies have five key athlete development principles that allow American youth to utilize sport as a path toward an active and healthy lifestyle:
- Universal access to create opportunity for all athletes
- Developmentally appropriate activities that emphasize motor and foundational skills
- Multi-sport participation
- Fun, engaging and progressively challenging atmosphere
- Quality coaching at all age levels
Youth sports participation rates over the past five years show declines in soccer (-22%), baseball (-10%) and basketball (-8%). Hockey participation, meanwhile, was up 23% after implementing ADM and incorporating other minor changes such as removing body contact for kids 15 and under and eliminating interstate championships for kids under the age of 12.
The American Development Model also seeks to give a clearer pathway to getting kids into golf and then provide more age-appropriate guidelines as they progress.
“In hockey in Canada, if you go coast to coast, everybody knows where to go, how to do it, where they should be,” says Logan. “It’s no different from school. If you’re a certain age, you have an idea of where those benchmarks should be. We’d like to provide that for golf.”