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Teaching Golf To Young Kids And Its Benefits To Mental Health
Sports can give young children their first taste of social interaction, discipline, and dedication. We know the stereotype of parents that push their children too hard to get a college scholarship. In reality, most adults want their kids to participate in sports to receive the social education that sports can provide, including the physical connection to improved mental health.
Golf may have the antiquated reputation of being suited only for retired businessmen in Florida, but the game is growing as a sport that positively impacts the physical health of senior adults and improves the mental health of participants of all ages.
For young children, sports can give kids their first taste of social interaction, discipline, and dedication. Although we know the stereotype of parents that push their child too hard to get the college scholarship, in reality, most adults want their kids to participate in sports to receive the social education that sports can provide including the social connection to improved mental health.
In a study on participation in school sport for adolescence, the doctors found the “involvement in school sport during adolescence was a statistically significant predictor of lower depression symptoms, lower perceived stress, and higher self-rated mental health in young adulthood.” (1)
With golf, children can experience an array of behavioral situations that force them to deal with their reactions and overcome their fear and possible anger by taking their time to discover the best way to attack the upcoming hole and post a low score.
Before every shot on the course, a golfer must factor in certain elements such as the wind, the lie of the golf ball, and the club they need, before they take the shot. With each incoming factor, the golfer must take that information and alter their approach to the upcoming swing.
Take, for example, the simple act of putting. For non-golfers, their experience may consist of a few trips to the local putt-putt facility where the carpet is laid on top of concrete and the player hopes to avoid missing the clown’s mouth, but real golf is far more complicated.
When a golfer looks a putt over, they have to factor in the slope of the green, whether they are hitting uphill or downhill and finally if the wind could blow the ball just a hair offline. Taking into account all three of those possible factors, the golfer then must judge the strength they need for the putt.
For a child that hasn’t played the game as much as a seasoned adult, those first few hundred putts are a wild adventure. But as they grow more experienced with the finer elements of putting, they begin to look at the putt more analytically and take into account all of the elements that could push the golf ball away from its intended target line.
In a study on mental imagery and beginning golfers completed in 2005, the authors found that “beginners’ approach shot performance improved most in the group combining physical practice and mental imagery when compared with the group just physically practicing the approach shot.” (2)
Golf also provides a gigantic playground of negative feedback that forces the child to rely on their resilience to continue the round. One of the best things that sports can provide a child is an obstacle. Whether that be a physical impediment, like a water hazard or bunker on a golf course, or an emotional obstacle, such as missing a short putt, the child must regroup, analytically approach the shot and execute their game plan.
In the Mental Health & Prevention article, “Effect of playing golf on children’s mental health,” the author, Carolin Schulze, writes, “the construct of resilience can be understood as a factor for healthy development: those who manifest high resilience experience more positive emotions and can improve both their self-esteem and psychological adaptation reaction.” (3)
One of the big things that Schulze discovered in her study is that the lack of time pressure on the individual, allows the child to focus on the shot at hand and not succumb to anxiety or the lingering effects of a past error on the course.
A child trained in golf can expect to score highly on the resilience scale, a formula psychologists use to determine the effect of negative feedback on the individual.
It may seem fairly obvious, but one of the most beneficial ways that golf can help children is by getting them outside and into the sun. From a physiological standpoint, safe sunlight exposure can boost natural Vitamin D levels in golfers. Vitamin D deficiencies can cause fatigue, depression, loss of bone density and the weakening of the immune system. (4)
Studies that have focused on sun exposure have shown that individuals who stay indoors or work at night have trouble with several health markers such as metabolism, the strength of their immune system, and their overall weight.
Another reason to get children outside and into activities, like golf, is that it breaks their dependency on electronic devices such as video games and cellphones. Overuse of electronic devices for children can contribute to disrupted attention spans and diminished learning abilities, two factors that are extremely important when playing golf.
When children are given the time to study and learn the game of golf, they benefit in a variety of ways such as a reduction of anxiety and depression, a boost in their resistance ability to overcome negative situations and they vastly improve their analytical thinking.
(1) Jewett, R., Sabiston, C. M., Brunet, J., O’Loughlin, E. K., Scarapicchia, T., O’Loughlin, J. (2014). School Sport Participation During Adolescence and Mental Health in Early Adulthood. Journal of Adolescent Health, 55, 640-644.
(2) Brouziyne, M., & Molinaro, C. (2005). Mental Imagery Combined with Physical Practice of Approach Shots for Golf Beginners. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 101, 203–211.
(3) Schulze, C. (2019) Effect of playing golf on children’s mental health. Mental Health & Prevention, 13, 31-34.
(4) Nair R., & Maseeh A. (2012). Vitamin D: The “sunshine” vitamin. Journal of Pharmacology & Pharmacotherapeutics, 3, 118–126.