A high school golf program is about much more than just practicing and playing golf. I believe high school golf coaches have a golden opportunity to have a tremendous impact on student-athletes in their formative years. My desire is to see high school golf elevated to new levels of influence and impact in the experiences of the student-athletes, both on the golf course and beyond.
More golf doesn’t equal better golf. Motivated, excited, and passionate student-LEADERS become better golfers. Ours is a holistic program that benefits golf games, but puts a premium on teamwork, leadership, and relationships.
The Harriton Ram High School Golf Program
One of my philosophies is, instead of trying to make an old model better, make old models obsolete by creating a new model.
I believe in changing the world around me by creating a new path, not duplicating an old path. So when I came on as head coach of the Harriton Ram Golf Program in 2013, I rethought everything I knew and experienced about high school golf.
High school represents the student athletes’ formative years. I have a four year window in their lives, and for many of my student athletes, I am the only coach they will have in high school. So, I believe it behooves me to put together a high impact program for them.
Additionally, most of my student-athletes are not going to play golf in college, so it’s my desire to give them a collegiate-level team experience.
One of the ways I developed the culture of our program was by reaching out to a handful of the top college golf coaches in the country to hear how they develop and lead their program and it’s student-athletes. I really do care about my students as people.
My main objective is to show my student-athletes what life is about beyond high school and college. I emphasize three things in my program:
I cultivate an atmosphere of teamwork, camaraderie, leadership and anticipation through the following ways.
I would recommend to any coach to survey their region through a Google search and learn about what is available and who is available to join you in what you’re trying to do. For example, regarding team building, within a few hours of our school is the USGA Museum and Research and Test Center in Far Hills, New Jersey.
Team Field Trips
We take a bi or tri-annual team field trip for a tour to experience the game of golf in a unique way. This is a low cost experience, free bus transportation by the district, and $5 per person for the tours. All 16 varsity and JV players participate in field trips like this.
Through a Google search, I surveyed our local area to see if there are any golf fitness specialists, and I reached out to one – Brian Becker from Full Cycle Fitness. Going on three years now, Brian has donated anywhere from 4-6 sessions on Friday afternoons immediately after school during the golf season. He takes the student-athletes through a moderate to heavy regimen of flexibility and mobility exercises.
There is no cost to this as Brian donates his time, but it is a mutually beneficial relationship where he gets exposure and sometimes a student-athlete will personally work with him on a paid basis. All 16 varsity and JV players participate in this.
Inviting Regional Coaches
I biannually survey our local areas college golf coaches and invite one to come in and talk to the student-athletes about what it’s like to play on the college level, and what they can expect in that environment.
I’ve brought in coaches such as Villanova University Head Coach, Jim Wilkes, and LaSalle University Head Coach, Brad Kane. This comes at no cost. Coaches typically don’t mind coming in for an hour, it can also give them an opportunity to see what high school golfers are in the pipeline, so it’s a mutually beneficial relationship. All 16 varsity and JV players participate in this.
Through past/current relationships as well as surveying our local area, we travel to a golf instructor for some tune up for the season. Most recently, we engaged in a short game clinic with Merion Golf Clubs Director of Instruction, Mark Sheftic. There was a minimal cost to this per student – $15. All 16 varsity and JV players participate in this.
Counseling and Empowerment
Finally, I’ve taken advantage of our high schools guidance counselor, Dr. Joe Havlick, who happens to have a PhD in Sports Psychology, and he has given the student-athletes a mental golf workshop. Dr. Havlick did not charge us anything.
I also am currently in the works of hosting Dr. Joel Fish or one of his colleagues. Dr. Fish is a local Sports Psychologist to some of Philadelphia’s professional sports teams and athletes, he also works with colleges and professional sports organizations around the country and the world. I found him by simply doing a Google search. All 16 varsity and JV players participate in these workshops.
Through a Google search, we annually survey our region and find out who are some leaders that would be willing to speak to our student-athletes about leadership in a team atmosphere. We’ve found that most people are more than happy to take a few hours of their day to make an investment in high school kids, all you have to do is ask.
We have been hosted by local leaders like Merion Golf Club PGA Head Golf Professional Scott Nye and Jefferson Hospital CEO Dr. Stephen Klasko. These seminars have come to us at no cost. All 16 varsity and JV players participate in these.
I also periodically designate two co-captains whom I take under my wing and allow them to lead, make many decisions like player gift ideas, match pairings and other decisions. They also represent the program outside of team functions.
We have a season-opening field goal contest to hit 110-yard wedges through the uprights on the school’s football field. The prize is typically a $15 gift card to a popular restaurant the kids like, like Q’doba. All 16 varsity and JV players participate in this.
We have a few in-season, post-match team dinners organized by the captains. We have an annual end-of-season, three-day, Ryder Cup format tournament that all 16 Varsity and Junior Varsity players participate in. And we have an annual, end-of-season awards banquet for all players and parents.
All of the work we do culminates in strong relationships on both Varsity and JV squads, but also between the two squads. Also, not just strong relationships among the student-athletes but strong relationships between the student-athletes and the coaches, and the parents and the coaches.
Having Strong Communication
To execute a program like ours, communication is essential. In addition to standard email practice, we created a Facebook page for the student-athletes, parents, and alumni. It has evolved into a highly effective tool to engage student-athletes while allowing parents and alumni to participate in what’s happening in the program.
As you can see, we fill our calendar with a lot of things other than practices and matches.
We believe through this approach, we have achieved success. In the five years before my tenure, our Varsity program compiled a record of 32-27-2 in a very competitive Central League amid powerhouses Radnor and Conestoga.
In my five years thus far as Head Coach, we have compiled a record of 50-13-1. We have made great individual accomplishments like many qualifying for the PIAA District 1 Championships; Several Top-3’s, Top-5’s and Top-10’s in the Central League Championship, and a player winning back-to-back Central League Championships.
We’ve had a golfer sign a play for Temple University, and more student-athletes in the pipeline to play in college. We have achieved 2nd place in our league twice, and qualified for the PIAA District 1 Team Championship. That’s something that hadn’t been done before since joining the Central League. And we are making strides towards winning our first Central League Team Championship.
I hope high school golf coaches that read this take the opportunity they have to squeeze every ounce of impact they have on their student-athletes and elevate their program to the next level.
Coach Brian is a former 10-year PGA Golf Professional. He held assistant golf professional positions at clubs around the east coast including the DuPont Country Club in Wilmington, DE; PGA Center for Golf Learning and Performance in Port Saint Lucie, FL; Sea Island Golf Club on Saint Simons Island, GA. He finally held a Head Professional position at the Philadelphia Cricket Club in Flourtown, PA.
Brian was fortunate to be awarded as the 2009 assistant professional of the year in the Georgia PGA East Chapter for leadership, the 2010 Horton Smith award for leadership and education in the Georgia PGA, and the 2011 Horton Smith award in the Philadelphia PGA.
He is now a Pastor at a church in Philadelphia, PA. He and his wife, Stephanie, have two daughters Mackenzie Mae (3) and Sadie Clair (1).
For any questions about Brian’s golf program at Harriton High School, don’t hesitate to contact him at the following email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out their programs website for a lot more information as well: www.harritonramgolf.blogspot.com