Jeff Farris
In 1996 at the age of 20, Tiger Woods started playing professional golf and began a new chapter in his then 18 year run in the public eye. At the age of two, Tiger appeared on The Mike Douglas Show along with comedian Bob Hope in a demonstration of putting skills. At age 5, he appeared on the television show That's Incredible. Tiger shot his first hole-in-one at age 6. At age 8, he won his first junior world championship. From the first time Tiger Woods saw his dad play golf, Tiger had a passion for the game. His entire youth focused on mastering the game both physically and mentally. For parents who want big things for their child, Tiger's success provides some great lessons.

1. Expose your child to many opportunities.

Tiger's dad, Earl Woods, played baseball for Kansas State University and at one point probably had dreams that his son would follow in his footsteps. When Earl starting playing golf at the age of 42, he developed a strong love of the game and spent many hours practicing. Earl shared this love of golf with his son and gave Tiger the opportunity to develop his own passion.

Not all kids will share their parent's enthusiasm for a particular activity. But, if parents don't share these activities with their children, kids may not know these opportunities exist. Exposing kids to a wide variety of activities and sports is the best way to help kids identify their own passions.

2. Foster your child's love of the game.

As a child, Tiger could not get enough of golf. He loved practicing and pushed himself to improve his game and his scores. His parents spent many hours taking Tiger to practice and providing him the resources to improve.

When a child shows expertise in a sport, it is easy to believe that the parents must have played a strong role in pushing their child to excel. When parents are the driving force behind a child's success, children quit at the first chance they get. When kids are the driving force behind their own success, then their success continues long past the time they can get beyond their parents' influence.

3. Don't hold children to adult standards too early.

Even as a child, Tiger was extremely competitive and constantly pushed himself to break par on a course even though he lacked the physical development required to do so. His dad came up with a "Tiger Par" which was always a few strokes higher than actual par. "Tiger Par" gave Tiger a chance to gain confidence and measure himself by his own standards of improvement rather than by standards designed for adults.

Kids need to gain confidence in their ability to play sports. Children's perceived sense of skill often determines how hard they work to improve. Like adults, kids invest time where they gain the greatest sense of accomplishment and recognition.

4. Don't push them too fast.

At 12 years old, Tiger was invited to play the blue tees (the ones farthest from the hole) at a tournament in order to compete for the overall tournament championship. Tiger refused saying that there would plenty of time to compete later. Tiger stayed in his own age bracket. Tiger always pushed himself to compete but was content to let his game develop before making the jump to the next level of play.

It is tempting for parents and coaches to encourage kids to move up to the next age or skill level so they can develop more quickly. Yet by moving too quickly, kids often fail to gain the confidence that comes from being one of the better players in a group. Though playing select or travel sports may have certain bragging rights, playing with confidence will have a better impact on a child's success over the long term.

5. Let coaches do their job.

At the age of four, Tiger's parents sought out help from a local golf pro who helped Tiger develop his game. Since then, Tiger has always relied on coaches to improve his game. Tiger's parents kept working with Tiger to develop his character and mental toughness but stepped aside to let the pro develop Tiger's golf skills.

Watching, playing and teaching athletic activities all require very different skills. Just because some can play well doesn't mean they can teach well. Parents need to seek out instructors and coaches for their child who are good at teaching young players and then let these instructors do their job.

6. Don't shirk your own responsibilities.

In his first Master's Tournament as a professional, Tiger's first nine holes were close to a disaster. The reporters were already starting to write off his chances for a victory. But, Tiger demonstrated a mental toughness that not only let him fix his game but also gave him the ability to rally. He became the youngest player ever to win the Master's, breaking the course record in the process.

Tiger's success does not come just from his skills, but also from his ability to stay focused and not become distracted by previous efforts or outside events. Though coaches certainly helped Tiger with the skills he needs, Tiger credits his parents with giving him the character and self-discipline needed to apply those skills. Letting kids get by with things because of their athletic accomplishments fails to give them the non-physical conditioning they will need in difficult situations.

7. Don't focus on mistakes.

While learning his game, Tiger missed thousands of shots. But he doesn't dwell on those shots. When Tiger was 6, he competed in his first international tournament. Tiger's first shot off the tee went straight down the middle. When his dad asked him later on what he was thinking, Tiger replied "Where I wanted the ball to go." He went on to finish eighth in the tournament, beaten only by 10 year olds.

In any sporting game, even at the professional levels, athletes make mistakes. They miss balls, drop catches, fall and fail to make passes. The more players concentrate on avoiding mistakes, the less likely they are to concentrate on having successes. Helping kids visualize success by not dwelling on mistakes is an important lesson parents can teach their children.

8. Keep the relationship healthy.

After the win at the Master's tournament, Tiger, like he almost always does, headed straight for his mom and dad and gave them big hugs. They had all sacrificed for this moment and it had paid off. Behind this victory was almost twenty years of working together to facilitate Tiger's dream of becoming a great golfer.

The road to any life success is a long one. One good game or one bad game matters very little in the overall scheme of things. Parents need to keep things in perspective and not let their own embarrassment or emotions get the better of them too many times. Parents who let their relationship with their child become affected by a sports performance will either see their kids quit playing early or see them hug someone else first after their big moment.

Tiger's Parents Made it Happen

It is a common myth that Tiger Woods' parents, especially his dad, pushed golf on Tiger. The reality is that Tiger Woods was born to play golf the same way Mozart was born to write music. Tiger Woods' parents didn't push golf on Tiger but they did help him navigate the challenges along the way. Tiger may have been born with the skills, but his parents helped match him with the opportunities, the instructors and the life-lessons he needed to apply those skills in a successful way.

Not every child is a born golfer or even a born athlete. Most kids playing sports today will find their life passion somewhere other than sports. For parents who want the best for their child, the approach that Tiger Woods' parents used is a good road map to help those dreams become reality.
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