Are you a high school golf coach seeking golf coaching advice on how to better your team? In the five years before his tenure, the Harriton Ram Golf Program compiled a 32-27-2 record in a very competitive league. In his five years so far as Head Coach, Brian Dobak has helped his team to a 50-13-1 record. What’s the secret sauce to Brian’s golf coaching advice? Culture. Teamwork. Leadership. Relationships. Communication. As a former PGA Professional for 10 years, Brian is very knowledgeable about coaching golf and was willing to share his advice below with high school golf coaches. “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.”
The Harriton Ram Golf Program – By Brian Dobak
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 college-like team experience. One of the ways I’ve done this is 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.
Less than 8% of high school golfers will play any form of varsity golf in college
– Scholarshipstats.com, 2017
NCCGA club golf is where the 92% of high school golfers will play golf in college
I really do care about my students as people. Early on my desire was to show them what life is about beyond high school and college. I emphasize three things in my program: 1.) Teamwork, 2.) Leadership, 3.) Relationships. I cultivate an atmosphere of teamwork, camaraderie, leadership and anticipation through the following ways.
Building a world class high school golf program takes time and energy. I would recommend to any coach to survey their region 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. We take a bi or tri-annual team field trip for a tour to experience the game of golf in a unique way.
I surveyed our local area to see if there are any golf fitness specialists, and I reached out to 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 fitness regimen, as well as having them engage in some team building fitness activities.
I bi-annually 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 Villanova University Head Coach, Jim Wilkes, and LaSalle University Head Coach, Brad Kane.
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.
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. I am currently in the works of hosting Dr. Joel Fish, a local Sports Psychologist to some of Philadelphia professional sports teams athletes.
The best advice for high school golf coaches is to seek help from outsiders who can help you. I 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. I’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.
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, and they represent the program outside of team functions.
We have a season-opening field goal contest in which we try to hit 110 yard wedges through the uprights on the schools football field. We have in-season team dinners. 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, not just relationships among the student-athletes but relationships between the student-athletes and the coaches, and between the coaches and the parents.
To execute a program like ours, communication is essential. We created a Facebook page for the student-athletes and their parents, as well as alumni. It has evolved into a highly effective tool to engage the student-athletes on their level 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. I do this because I believe high school golf is about more than just golf. More golf doesn’t equal better golf. Motivated, excited, and passionate student-LEADERS equals better golf. It is a holistic program that benefits their golf games but puts a premium on teamwork, leadership, and relationships.
I believe through the approach above, 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 player sign a National Letter of Intent and play golf for Temple University, and more student-athletes in the pipeline to play on the college level. We have achieved great team accomplishments like coming in 2nd in our league twice, qualifying for the PIAA District 1 Team Championship, 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 use my golf coaching advice and take the opportunity to squeeze every ounce of impact they have on their student-athletes and elevate their program to the next level. Thank you for taking the time to learn about being a better high school golf coach! You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.