Sean Casey Interview – Part 4 – ‘The Future of Golf in Canada’

@36aday is pleased to introduce interviews with leaders in the game of golf in Canada. Nine questions are presented to probe important issues of the game, personal experiences, stories and insight. Just like 9 holes of golf, I hope you find this enjoyable and that it leaves you wanting more.

A Quick 9 With Sean Casey, Director of Instruction at The Glen Abbey Golf Academy and Head Coach for the Canadian Junior Golf Association National Teams.

4. @36aday – You have maintained a strong commitment to junior instruction. Much has been made about the future of golf. I’m interested in your opinion on the future of golf in Canada?

SC – Yeah, it’s definitely a positive outlook. I’m not going to give you a sob story here. Because the game is so good here. My greatest opportunity to do some good for that is to do really good things through Glen Abbey, and we’re doing a lot of good things and our numbers are there to support that. We have a lot of junior golfers and we’re not at a place where we’re trying to bring more in which is nice. We’re trying to figure out how to better service the ones we have. So it took a little while to get there because for a while it was ‘what do we have to do to attract these juniors?’ and we were definitely on a mission of improvement, and we still are, but it’s just changed a little bit because now we have some programs in place that are good and are helping the kids. Now we’re not going to drastically change the templates, but over the past few years there were massive changes in terms of how many private lessons do the kids get, how many group sessions, what age groups do we place them in because we changed all that. So we made a lot of change and now it’s like how can we make the two hour practices better and more influential. So it’s fun.

We became part of a pilot project three/four years ago. And it was called Junior Golf Developmental Centres, JGDC’s. I believe the concept was drawn out by Mike Kelly from the GAO (Golf Association of Ontario) and if it wasn’t him he was certainly the one that brought it to my attention. The idea would be that all across Canada someday there would be recognized junior golf centres where families and parents of junior golfers would know that they could bring their kids and there would be high quality coaching. Mike has a real passion to grow the game and I supported his vision and wanted Glen Abbey to a part of this future National Program.

@36day – Elite kids?

SC – All kids, beginner kids. Imagine if you’re a parent of a junior, it would be ‘where would I take my kid for coaching?’. Well in your town there might be a number of golf pros, some of these golf pros might just coach part time meaning they run their course and they give lessons. But is that coaching? No it isn’t. It doesn’t mean they’re going to help you draw up a yearly plan and when should your tournaments be and how many tournaments? They might be teachers. So in other words, in golf in Canada and around the world but definitely in Canada, we are leading the way in recognizing the difference between teachers and coaches. So, we used to be teachers here at Glen Abbey. We did not concern ourselves with the big picture, proactively developing yearly plans, etc…., how many tournaments they should play and so on. Looking back at when Sean and I first started here with the junior program it was just teaching. But, because of, really, Sean’s broad nature it became coaching. We were ahead of the curve in that nature meaning we were talking about psychology, eating, working out, probably a more holistic coaching view than other people in Canada at that time. But it’s catching up. We’re now not the only academy in Canada talking about more than technique so there’s lots of good coaches now and a lot of it is because of the PGA and Golf Canada and the GAO and everybody recognizing the need for a coaching model and supporting the kids more broadly which means a proper curriculum for them to go through throughout their junior career.
@36aday – Sean, was that developmental process, did that help to inform the work you’ve been doing with the Canadian Junior Golf Association National Team? Was there leadership from Golf Canada to integrate what you’ve already brought in?

SC – They knew that when we said yes and that we wanted to be part of their pilot project that and that we want to be a recognized JGDC, they knew that we were already ahead of the curve meaning that some of the academies in Canada were going to have to get up to speed with the list of requirements needed to be a JGDC. We had a lot of the pieces of the puzzle in place so they knew it would be easier for us to just check the boxes, go, ‘yeah, we’re already doing that and we’re good to go’. But now that we’re a recognized JGDC I will tell you, it wasn’t simple. We had to make some change around here. There was a lot of positive improvement in the things we were doing in an effort to be a JGDC. So it was really a good experience for us as an academy and that would be the most significant thing that has changed around here from a junior golf standpoint is the whole JGDC. Now we’re much more aware of the experience of the junior golfer going through their stages of development and making sure that we have programs that suite their needs. We used to often have parents say, ‘I don’t feel like the program my son is in is quite right for him. Do you have anything more?’ And we used to say, well, ‘sign him up for more lessons, more private time’. And that never hurt, that’s how we’ll service your child more. We used to have people looking for more but we didn’t have a program laid out, but now we do.

You would know because Christian (Grande), he’s your stepson (and is in the Glen Abbey Junior Program) – those kids, we have a plan for a fourteen to an eighteen year old and if they stay in it for those four years they’re going to hear and learn about the mental side, nutrition, working out, long game, short game, tournament preparation, how to do a practice round and so on an so forth. So, there’s a program there that addresses the needs of the teenage tournament-playing junior golfer. It’s fun, it’s exciting because as a coach you’re confident you have a structure in place.

@36aday – I think, too, you can look now and see that you’re part of a broader system and it links into a national system. I can appreciate your enthusiasm now. You’re proving a springboard and a system to support their long-term development.

SC – Yes. So that structure that I’m referring to is something one day that will be available within a town or two of your town. There may not be one in every town but we’re trying to have these JGDC’s geographically laid out across the country so that every family can get their child to one of these facilities to learn the game of golf and know that they’re learning the game of golf and they’re going to be exposed to knowledge and information that would be very similar to what they would get if they lived in the Glen Abbey community.

@36aday – It sounds fantastic and you’re right, I know from experience. I’m just kind of chuckling, when you start of middle aged golf development clinic than sign me up because that kind of comprehensive program where you’re not just dealing with issues of grip and swing path but putting people on a path to enjoy the game and succeed on and off the course.

SC – Yes. So it’s less reactionary which you might say is a little more teaching. Where it’s like, ‘ok, come on in and let’s see how you’re hitting the ball, what’s not good, what can we fix up’. Coaching is more proactive. Let’s have a long-term plan and what type of golfer do you want to be and let’s make sure we address all these things over the next eight years. That’s different than, ‘I’ve been slicing it lately, how do we fix it?’. It’s a different approach.

Tomorrow – Part 5 – Future Stars in Golf in Canada?