Life on the National Team: Big dreams, total commitment
25 Jul 2019
by Brendan Ryan of Golf Placement Services

Denmark picked up their biggest amateur win at the World Amateur Team in 2018
Denmark picked up their biggest amateur win at the World Amateur Team in 2018

If you're involved in junior golf, over the past decade you may have heard a little (or maybe a lot) about different countries and their "National Teams". The question is: what is a National Team and how is it different from the way things are done in the USA?

To answer the question, we have interviewed Thomas Larson, Thomas Poulson and David Dickmeis and Martin Kould, members of the Danish National Team programs who each coach different segments. Thomas Larsson is the coach of the Men's professional and amateur teams. Thomas Poulsen is the coach of the Women's and girls’ amateur Teams and David Dickmeiss is the coach of the Women's Professional Teams. Martin Kold is the coach of the boys Teams.

The Danish National Team receives funding from the government and as an Olympic sport receives funding similar to other comparable sports to spending on training for athletes for training and tournaments, as well as to pay coaches and support staff which include a physio and a mental coach.

As a member of the National team, each player receives approximately 1 hour of individual training per week. They also have access to coaches and support staff, access to funding for tournaments, opportunities to attend intensive training camps (2-3 weeks per year), as well as opportunities to represent their countries in major international events like the Eisenhower Cup and European Team championship.

The goal of the Danish National Golf Team is to produce golfers capable of winning the first "major championship" for the country. With only about 8,000 junior players in the country (about 1/20 as many in the USA), this is a lofty goal. However, the program has had significant success including having 7 players in the top 253 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking and winning the boy’s European team championship in 2007, 2009 and 2017.

Players are invited to join one of the programs offered by the teams: Junior Boys Team, Junior Girls Team, Men's Team, Women's Team and Professional Team. The criteria for joining includes technique skills and rank, as well as qualitative skills like mindset, determination and ability to work well with others.

Players who are not on the National Team still have many opportunities to pursue golf. In Copenhagen, the capital city, operates the Danish Junior Golf Academy. Founded by Peter Thomsen, the academy has provided comprehensive programs which have helped create a strong pool for National Team Players. Likewise, the countries offer a couple "sports schools" where students are able to combine elite training and academics. One such school is called Ikast. The coaching staff includes Danish National Women’s Coach Thomas Poulsen.

Once players are selected, the foundation of the development program is based on strong technical skills; each of the members of the Danish National team has an extensive background and training in helping players understand, develop and refine the skills necessary to become world class strikers of the golf ball. “Coaching is about improving skill and reducing score through tactical, technical, physical, mental and transference training techniques. As a coaching staff, we always look at a player individual and try to find the easier way to reduce their score by 1/2-1 stroke and believe you must control your golf ball with power to have a chance to have an impact at the professional level,” suggests Men’s Professional Coach Thomas Larsson.

“One of strengths in our program is that we can see the player often, meaning that we can get to know the player quite well. That relationship is built over a period of several years and is a strong base to develop upon. When the players attend college in the USA the coach-player relationship is tested in a new environment, where the players ability to train and develop away from home is tested for the next level of their career,” says Thomas Poulsen.

As players develop, many are choosing to attend American colleges and universities as part of their long-term development. Currently Danish players attend schools like Florida, Texas, Houston, Oklahoma State, and San Francisco, where they are steady contributors to the golf programs. According to Eva Fabricius-Bjerre, a freshman at Troy University in Alabama, she decided to come to the United States because “it is a great opportunity to play golf at the same time as getting an education. But I also went over here to explore a new culture and get an experience for life.”

Beyond the technical development, at the center of the program’s philosophy is a deep-rooted mutual respect and trust. Each player and coach devotes themselves to the quality of their craft, working hard on building skills, as well as making time for rest, proper nutrition and development of personal assets like strong team building. In this way, the program is dedicated to producing a complete person -- someone with the skills to have success at golf and beyond.

“At the professional level, success depends on more than just the ability to swing or hit it well. Sending players to America allows them to mature as a people, compete at a highest level and also gain experience in structuring their time. These qualities will become invaluable to them, as they make the transition to professional golf,” according to Women’s Professional Coach David Dickmeiss.

The critical takeaway from the program is the long-term perspective on development --coaches, students and parents understand that success is not linear. Players will have times of success, they will also have times of growth when they are refining and developing skills which will benefit their long-term development but might not immediately transfer to results. Instead of panic about immediate results, everyone is patient and keeps the big picture in mind: seeing a Dane one day hold a major championship trophy!

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