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Beating the Odds

Initial Ability and Final Ability

Sorry to have neglected the blog for so long. Various book projects are taking up time and energy. But today the message is so important that I had to get it out there. Think of it as: How to grow the next Phil Mickelson.

Jeff Beer is the golf coach at the Montclair Kimberley Academy in Montclair, N.J. His team recently won the state championship. He credits the fact that there is a strong junior varsity team in place at the school. Here is his story:

“The thing that was so satisfying about the season was that of the four top players, three of them really developed their game in the high school years by playing on the JV team at MKA. When I started to coach at MKA, I felt that it was important to have a JV because I hated to turn away interested golfers and because I thought it was important for us to develop talent at MKA.

“The three players who made this dramatic development did so with the help of outside instruction.  Golf is a very technical sport and there is no substitute for a PGA certified instructor.  But I believe that they were motivated to work on their games because through the JV program there was a place for them to play at MKA.

“One of the three was completely unformed as a golfer as a ninth-grader.  When I played with him I was literally afraid that he might hit me with the ball even if I was standing off to the side.  When he game back as a sophomore, after working tirelessly on his game during the summer, I could not believe he was the same person.

“Another one of the players was also completely clueless as a freshman.  He barely knew how to address the ball on a putt.  This same player shot a 1-under par 35 in windy conditions, at a very challenging course in a dual match.

“In the case of these players, I truly believe that the fact that we had a place for them to play on a JV team made all the difference in the world, and they accomplished something over the course of four years that no MKA team has accomplished since 2002.

Coach Beer is raising a profound issue here. If you want to have a great program, you must attract as many people as possible, then give them opportunity and direction. You never know which of them will become a great player. Initial ability and final ability are not closely related.

In too many programs, the junior varsity is a throwaway program, and by far most of the attention goes to the varsity. Instead, stop thinking about JUNIOR varsity and start thinking about the FUTURE varsity.

Thank you, Coach Beer. You did a tremendous job of motiving young people.


One comment for “Initial Ability and Final Ability”

  1. intriguing article
    your optimism about kids ever- improving is refreshing

    Posted by kevin reilly | May 31, 2010, 2:51 pm

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