PGA Junior Golf Camps Blog
“Make Failure Your Fuel”: How to Help Your Athletes Learn from Adversity

April 18th, 2019

John O’Sullivan is a best selling author, professional speaker, and founder of the Changing the Game Project. Be sure to check out John's website for more information and insight into the world of youth sports.


In May 2018, retired US Women’s National Soccer team star Abby Wambach gave the commencement address to 600 women from Barnard College in New York City. Wambach, the all-time leading scorer for Team USA, an Olympic and World Cup champion, and an inspirational athlete known for playing with passion and giving her all every time she stepped on the field, gave an incredible talk to the graduates, sharing stories from her career, and lessons she learned. (You can read the amazing talk here, I think every young woman should read this, my 12-year-old daughter did!)

One of those lessons she learned over decades at the top of her sport:

Make Failure Your Fuel!

As Wambach stated to the attendees:

“Here’s something the best athletes understand, but seems like a harder concept for non-athletes to grasp. Non-athletes don’t know what to do with the gift of failure. So they hide it, pretend it never happened, reject it outright, and they end up wasting it.

Listen: Failure is not something to be ashamed of, it’s something to be powered by.

Failure is the highest octane fuel your life can run on. You gotta learn to make failure your fuel.

When I was on the youth national team, only dreaming of playing alongside Mia Hamm… I had the opportunity to visit the national team’s locker room. The thing that struck me most wasn’t my heroes’ grass stained cleats, or their names and numbers hanging above their lockers. It was a picture. It was a picture that someone had taped next to the door, so that it would be the last thing every player saw before she headed out to the training pitch. You might guess it was a picture of their last big win, or of them standing on a podium accepting gold medals. But it wasn’t. It was a picture of their long time rival, the Norwegian national team celebrating after having just beaten the USA in the 1995 World Cup.

In that locker room I learned that in order to become my very best — on the pitch and off — I’d need to spend my life letting the feelings and lessons of failure transform into my power. Failure is fuel. Fuel is power.

Women: listen to me. We must embrace failure as our fuel instead of accepting it as our destruction.”

Yes, Abby, yes! We must embrace failure, and not let it destroy us, but use it as fuel to get better. As fuel to get moving again. As fuel to not let anyone tell us our dreams are not worthy of pursuing. As fuel to put aside the disappointments that come along with pursuing something worthy and great.

Failure is oxygen. Like a fire uses oxygen as a to grow, we use failure as our fuel.  It is a natural part of pursuing excellence. It is supposed to happen.

We have written about adversity here before. In their research on elite and near elite performers, or what they call “Super Champs” and “Champs,” Dave Collins and his colleague Aine MacNamara have found that those who make it to the very top, who play internationally and have the greatest success, have a path filled with struggle. They are presented with both on field and real-life struggle, disappointment, and at times pain, yet they persevere. “The talent pathway,” they conclude, “should not be a comfortable place to be.”

It is a rocky road to the top.

Collins and MacNamara have also found that well-timed character and psychologically based interventions from coaches and supportive adults help these athletes develop coping skills, grit, and resilience. In other words, it is not our job to smooth the pathway of our athletes, to give them plush fields, carry their gear for them, and remove all obstacles from their supposed path to greatness. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It is our job to help them learn from struggle, and see that the path to the top is not supposed to be easy.

If we really want to help our athletes, students, musicians, and entrepreneurs achieve something great, we need them to understand the path is filled with potholes. And we need to be sure not to pave them, but to ensure each one of those potholes is an opportunity to learn.

For many children in sport, May and June mean tryout season. This is inevitably a season of disappointment for many children, some who do not make the team they want, and others who do not make a team at all. It is a time where they face uncertainties such as new teammates, a new coach, perhaps a new club and whole new friend group. Many families move towns, and young athletes are thrust into trying situations, with no friends or familiar faces to look upon.

They may face failure and adversity this month. They will definitely face it if they continue in sports. I love this image about talent development:

It is not a smooth path nor a straight line to the top. That is where we come in parents. It is up to us that failure becomes their fuel. How do we do that?

We can help our children learn from adversity, and embrace the struggle. To do so, try these ideas below:

1) Help your athletes focus on the process: nothing worth doing comes easily, especially in sports. You will have your good days and bad days, your injuries and your healthy periods, your good coaches and your bad ones. Help instill a growth mindset in your kids by, as noted Stanford Researcher Carol Dweck says in her great TED talk, introducing the word “yet” into their vocabulary. “I didn’t make the top team YET, I need to practice more.” “I have not earned a starting spot YET, time to get to practice early and stay late.”

2) Ask your athletes the right questions when they struggle: though times of adversity can often lead us to criticize, or focus on the negative, a great approach after a struggle is to ask these three questions

What went well?

What needs work?

What can you learn from today that will help you practice better this week and perform better in the future?

These are not only process-oriented questions, but they help athletes realize that it never all goes wrong. There is always some good, and always opportunities to learn. When your athlete faces adversity, focus on ‘what is good about this?”

3) Don’t blame the uncontrollables; instead focus on their response to events: Athletes do not control the actions of officials, or what the opponent does. They cannot account for a bad field or poor weather. Blaming and complaining about those things will never make an athlete better, and they only bring negative energy into the conversation and the team. Help them focus on what they control (effort, focus, training time, etc) and let the other stuff just roll off. As Ohio State Football coach Urban Meyer says, E + R = O. The EVENT plus our RESPONSE equals the OUTCOME. We control our response, so respond well!

4) Help them find things they are passionate about: One of the critical ingredients needed for athletes to overcome adversity is ownership of the experience. As parents, when it comes to sports it is very helpful to assist our kids in finding their passion, instead of determining it for them. When a young athlete loves what she is doing, and is doing it because she owns the experience, she is far more likely to keep pushing through injuries, adversity, etc. It is great when kids fall in love with the sports we love or played, but that does not always happen. You cannot force passion, and passion is what overcomes adversity.

5) Show them how to embrace the hand they were dealt, and play it well: We all have faced adversity, and when our children struggle, it is a great time to share our own struggles, and what we learned from them. Be vulnerable, and teach them how adversity helps you develop grit, resilience, and more love of a sport, or a job, or anything you do. As Wambach shared in her speech, going into the 2015 World Cup, as one of the greatest players and leaders the US National Team had ever known, she was asked to lead from the bench. “You’re allowed to be disappointed when it feels like life’s benched you,” said Wambach. “What you aren’t allowed to do is miss your opportunity to lead from the bench. During that last World Cup, my teammates told me that my presence, my support, my vocal and relentless belief in them from the bench, is what gave them the confidence they needed to win us that championship. If you’re not a leader on the bench, then don’t call yourself a leader on the field. You’re either a leader everywhere or nowhere.”

I wrote this today not only because I just heard Abby Wambach’s inspiring commencement address. I wrote it because I am a coach, and my teams just finished tryout season. I have been coaching for over two decades, and I still hate tryouts. This year, like every other, there were disappointed players. But there was one who was thrilled.

Recently, I had to have a very difficult conversation with this young player who was devastated not to make the top team in her age group. It is a conversation every coach dreads having.

She could have quit. She could have blamed everyone. But she did not. She got to work. She showed up focused and prepared every day. She joined extra practices. She embraced her role as a leader on her new team. She took every opportunity to play up, and gave her best effort every time. She learned from the good days, and from the bad days. And one year later, she was back on the top team in her age group.

Her failure was her fuel. And that fuel helped her earn her spot.

Because in the end, it was not really even a failure at all. Just a bump in the long rocky road to the top.

Help your athletes to make their failure their fuel. Help them navigate those potholes that sports, and life, throws in their way. Not by blaming, avoiding, or paving over those bumps, but by helping your athletes see that there is always a path forward.


Want to read more of John O'Sullivans work? Check out his website!


Camps are filling fast. Register your child for a Junior Golf Camp today!

How To Select the Best Clubs for The Young Golfer

April 17th, 2019

The crew at EPEC understands how difficult it can be to select the right set of clubs for your new golfer. Check out their guide on types of clubs to consider based on your child's skill level.  

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The hardest part about supporting your young golfer is sometimes deciding what clubs to put in their bag.

Young golfers can be grouped into 3 skill levels:

Beginner - Has little to no golf experience, but excited to learn. This group needs to find success quickly to avoid being discouraged. The best way to describe success for this group is that they are able to get the ball airborne easily. A Beginner's golf bag should have a Driver, Hybrid, 7 Iron, 9 Iron, and Putter.

Intermediate - Has some experience and plays recreationally. As a young golfer’s skill increases, clubs that deliver more specific distances are required. An intermediate player's golf bag should have a Driver, Hybrid, 5 Iron, 7 Iron, 8 Iron, 9 Iron, Pitching Wedge, and Putter.

Advanced - Plays frequently and sometimes competitively. This group needs to have clubs to perform the full spectrum of yardages. Their skill level has grown to the point where clubs should complement the types of shots they are trying to hit. An advanced player's golf bag should have a Driver, Fairway Wood, Hybrid, 6 Iron, 7 Iron, 8 Iron, 9 Iron, Pitching Wedge, Sand Wedge and Putter.

Interested in learning more about EPEC junior golf clubs? Head over to the store to find out more!

Competitive Edge Overnight Camps Offer Next Level Instruction!

April 17th, 2019


Is your junior golfer ready to take the next step in their game?

Offered at some of the finest courses in the country, Competitive Edge Overnight Camps are designed to improve the most motivated junior golfers. These camps are taught by PGA professionals who are widely regarded as some of the country’s most successful junior golf instructors, many of whom are former top golfers themselves.

Competitive Edge overnight camps concentrate on instruction designed to take your junior golfers' game to the next level. Special emphasis on mental conditioning, course management, and the short game are just some of the various areas of focus for our camps. Golfers will practice stroke play, match play, and other competitions to gain valuable course experience and improve their mental and physical game.

Tee Off at the site of the 2020 Ryder Cup!

Parents are invited to experience one of the most desirable golf locations in the world with their junior golfer. Set foot on the same greens that will host golf's best at the 2020 Ryder Cup. While juniors receive professional level instruction, parents will have the day off to enjoy special golf rates at any of the courses during their stay. Explore the resort property and stay in deluxe accommodations at the Inn On Woodlake.  

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Experience Hilton Head

Recognized as One of Golf Digest’s “Best Places to Play,” competitive junior golfers will not only receive professional instruction but also the best technology that golf has to offer. Instructors utilize various tools including TrackMan Pro, SAM PuttLab, K-Vest and V1 Pro Software to build an individual plan of improvement for each student, and focus on areas that each individual needs to improve their golf game.


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Interested in learning about more of the Competitive Edge Overnight Camps that are offered this Summer? Check out the Overnight Camps section to view other locations and learn more!

Putting: Control the Setup

April 2nd, 2019

Director of Instructor at TPC Las Vegas Matt Henderson shares his putting technique and how to control the pre-shot routine. Check out more of Matt's blog on his website and be sure to register for his PGA Junior Golf Camps!

Putting Contains no large athletic feat, nor does it require the modalities needed for the full the swing.  That means that our average Club Champion can hypothetically putt just as well as a TOUR Champion. Quite often if left from any manipulative movements the stroke itself will look very much like the established setup position.  For great putting…. take control over setup. Here are the steps that I look for in my instruction:

1. Shaft In-Line with Forearms

The importance of this cannot be overstated and that is why it is number one.  A lot of amateurs grip the putter too much in fingers, essentially taking their full swing grip to the putting stroke.  In full swing, we are assembling angles that enable us to create speed and get the ball in the air.... neither is needed to putt it well.  Ditch the full swing grip and get it in more in the palms and in line with your forearms like the above picture. This is my only hang up on grip, feel free to cross hand, claw it or any other configuration that you can muster.

2. Ball to Toe

The arc that we wish the putter head to move on will be affected by how far away or close to the golf ball we stand.  Too close and we can shape it in an out to in pattern, too far way and the path could be too far in to out. Without being properly fit for a putter my best suggestion would be to fall into TOUR average, which is 2 – 2 ¾ Putter head lengths away from the ball.  With the average putter heads measuring 4” that puts our ball to toe measurement somewhere between eight to ten inches away from the center of the ball. Start at two putter head lengths and work slightly away from it if it feels to close.

3. Ball position/Stance Width

  • Ball position is tricky, because it is interwoven with stance width and can not only influence the angle of attack of the putter head, but can influence aim as well.  The truth is that ball position can depend on what aim bias the individual has. Aim bias is really a reflection of our vision and each of us is unique. This can be modified with Putter head shapes, the addition or subtraction of sight lines, and of course ball position.

To establish ball position, start with the ball one revolution ahead of center and then ask a friend to tell you where the face is pointed in relation to the aim-line.  If the face is aimed left move the ball further back, if it is aimed right move the ball further up in the stance.

  • Stance width and ball position need to be mentioned in the same breath.  If the stance widens our head and sternum move further behind the ball…which changes the effective ball position.  Which if you read above…changes the effective aim. Pick a stance width when the ball position is established. Stance with should be a constant.

4. Forearms In

No awkward elbow positions…The elbows simply need to be neutral to posture.  If they are not we are simply negating all the work of trying to get shaft in line with forearms earlier.  To find your neutral position stand completely upright and let your arms hang naturally, look down and that what your elbows should look like on the putter.

5. Body Check

The last check is to make sure that our lines are not jumbled.  The lines that I am mainly concerned with are the line we intend to start the ball on (True Aim Line) and the shoulder line.  Most of the time if the two are not parallel players tend to have path and aim issues. Set the club face to the Aim line and establish shoulders to club face

Play From The Fairway

March 13th, 2019

PGA Junior Golf Camps is pleased to welcome Todd Heugly as a new camp director this year. Todd is a member of the Utah PGA Section, founder of The Wasatch Golf Academy, and the Head PGA Professional at Crane Field Golf Course.

After a great day on the lesson tee, I decided to go play a few holes, after all I had an hour of daylight left. With the early summer sun setting to my back I tee'd up my ball and hit a great drive right down the middle of the fairway. An onlooker said, "Great shot! Golf has to be easier from the fairway." I thanked him put my clubs over my shoulder and started walking down the fairway towards my ball. As I was walking I thought to myself, "Golf is easier from the fairway, I should adopt that approach to my daily life as well."  I remember that moment like it was yesterday. After 40 years my life had complete clarity and a purpose. Not only improve my students golf games, but let them know how this can carry over into their day to day activities. That moment created my life's motto and I have lived my life by it ever since.


My students have embraced my motto "Play golf and live life from the fairway." They began putting an emphasis on precision and accuracy over distance. Distance is only an asset if it is accurate and can be controlled. They started shooting lower scores and enjoying the game more. That joy and confidence carried over into their day to day lives and they began living from the fairway.

They began eliminating what we called the rough.

  • Self doubt
  • Toxic people
  • Procrastination
  • Unnecessary arguments
  • Too much social media  
  • Not exercising
  • Unhealthy food
  • Arrogance
  • and more


There are so many parallels between the game of golf and life that we can learn about life on the course and golf off the course. I want you to "Play golf and live life from the fairway."

To learn more about Todd Heugly, check out The Wasatch Golf Academy and don’t forget to register for his PGA Junior Golf Camp dates!

“You Coach a Child, Not a Sport!”

March 8th, 2019

John O’Sullivan is a best selling author, professional speaker, and founder of the Changing the Game Project. John’s insight and solutions to the issues that youth sports are currently facing makes him a leader in the industry. Read on to learn more about John and listen to his podcast with Dr. Martin Toms.

Every week, we have some amazing conversations with some of the leading voices in sport throughout the world, This week was no different. We had the opportunity to interview Dr. Martin Toms, a Sport Sociologist and Ethnographer from the university of Birmingham in the UK. Dr. Toms has heavily influenced our work through his philosophy "You Coach a Child, not a Sport."


Among our talking points we spoke about the relative age effect, the futility of early talent identification, and how much culture impacts sport performance:

Dr. Toms: "I have spent much of my career and many of my Twitter posts (as well as previous blog posts) arguing that sports (including National Governing Bodies and coaches) seem to spend a huge amount of time and effort (not to mention money) focusing on sports performance and ability/talent by using Physiological and Psychological constructs to improve the performance of those already playing sport. Whilst I have no problem with the use of Sports Science here, such a one dimensional approach often forgets the ‘person’ and their upbringing and cultural history – which clearly can and does have an effect on their sporting choices. They are people not just bodies after all.”

Dr. Toms: “People making decisions about young people and talent are in reality making arbitrary and subjective decisions on where these people are ‘now’. So whilst they may be elite at 14, there is little chance of them being elite as an adult. So why is there such pressure to identify and push people rather than allow them to play sport and develop themselves.”

Tech Vs Golf

February 27th, 2019

Justin Saragueta is the Director of Golf and PGA Junior Golf Camps at The Saticoy Club in Somis, California.

In today’s tech oriented society, it’s harder than ever to shift our kid’s attention away from screens. For many of today’s youth, the fun of outdoor activities is often overshadowed by sophisticated cell phones, computers and iPads.  Are we finding the right activities for our children to lure them away from the high tech world?

How can we incorporate the old adage of mind, body and soul into one activity?  What can we use to entice our children with technology and the outdoors? My, of course!

The benefits of the game of golf are endless. The mind is challenged constantly during a round of golf. How strong is the wind actually blowing? Do you lay up or just go for it? Is it a hard 6 iron or a soft 5? Did I add my score correctly or did I actually shoot a 38 not 39?

Then there are the times the soul is challenged and the true character of one’s self is revealed. Did I hit my ball on purpose? Will I call that penalty on myself? Will your child start treating his or her competitors with grace and respect in defeat as well as victory?

What about the body? How can we get our kids to move and work harder than their tech gadgets?  On the golf course all our juniors walk. Some with electrical carts that help carry their bags but they are moving up and down gently rolling hills nonetheless. At times the kids will be out there for hours on end.

And then there is the social aspect of today’s tech world. Emojis seem to speak more than we do. We text, we don’t talk. By socializing our children in an environment which teaches respect, character and manners; we can encourage positive traits that will last a lifetime!   

In my opinion, golf offers the best of both worlds. I have been blessed to be the Director of Golf at the Saticoy Club here in sunny Somis California. Knowing the importance of reaching children, we have incorporated the tech world within our instruction, camps and clinics. I allow my kids to get on and play with Trackman- a radar based system that tracks all aspects of ball flight, swing plan and swing path. We let our kids video themselves allowing the capability to draw smiley faces, lines and stars on each other while they are up on screen hitting shots. We download apps and send email recaps which allow our young students to map out and track their progress through their playing and instructional paths.  The point being- it’s not always about the game but about getting kids to first and foremost just want to come to the course because it’s fun! Think outside the box. Stimulate our youth mentally, physically and emotionally. You will watch your child grow in ways that will make you proud while your child is simply just having a great time!

Sign up for PGA Junior Golf Camps at The Saticoy Club.

Justin Saragueta, PGA | Director of Golf | The Saticoy Club

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