A Non-Traditional Approach to a Traditional Game

As the lead consultant on the Long-Term Player Development Guide, Dr. Stephen Norris strikes a balance between “outside the box” thinking and good old fashioned strategic planning.

His influence is woven throughout the new Long-Term Player Development initiative led by the RCGA in partnership with the Canadian PGA.

As the Director of Sport Physiology and Strategic Planning at the Canadian Sport Centre in Calgary, Norris is responsible for Canada’s winter sports teams which he has helped to develop into world leaders.

Norris specializes in educating coaches, administrators, athletes, and parents in sports systems, and in strategic development for broad participation, and planning for elite athletic performance.

With help from 11 CPGA Members on the LTPD task force, Norris helped develop a comprehensive and systematic approach to growing golf in Canada that will not only increase the number of recreational golfers, but also identify, coach and support elite amateurs and professionals.

While most sports use winning to measure success, Norris advocated removing age group success as an important factor in monitoring development. It is far more important to base training and competition planning on developmental age rather than chronological age. Children, especially adolescents, can be at vastly different stages of development.

Norris also argues that the majority of junior winners will not win as adults. “There are only a finite number of people who can become elite players,” says the Adjunct Assistant Professor of Applied Physiology at the University of Calgary.

He says those who ultimately win possess more than the physical attributes. “There is such a mental perspective to the game of golf. How well are we doing in terms of building that mental toughness in our golfers? If we hand everything to them on a plate, I would argue that we actually rob them of valuable experience.”

This is one reason Norris questions why juniors should learn the game on a pristine golf course or immaculate driving range. Why not put children in a situation where the conditions are a challenge, the greens are bumpy and the fairways are rough?

“Why do you think Brazilian soccer players coming off the back streets of Sao Paolo or the beaches of Copacabana can do some amazing things with the ball when they come on to a beautifully prepared pitch?,” he asks.

Story by Paul Barker, a Toronto freelance writer. He wrote the LTPD Guide.