Nicklaus Weighs In on The First Tee, Sports Specialization

He may be the greatest to ever play the game, but as Jack Nicklaus grew up, golf wasn’t his only game. Hear his thoughts from his recent visit to Pawleys Plantation about how The First Tee helps develop, and on young athletes specializing in one sport. On the latter topic, he pulls no punches.


On Impact of The First Tee Programs:

Well, this is the game’s future. The First Tee has been involved with a lot of kids, not all of them will play golf, but they’ll learn something about life and lessons in life from The First Tee, which they’re learning those lessons through golf. And that’s the important thing. Now they become citizens, now they can lead a better life.

I don’t necessarily think they have to play. I think that golf is a great sport. You can learn how to get along with people. It teaches you how to be honest. It teaches you sportsmanship. It teaches you integrity. It teaches you how to get young kids to get along with older people. It teaches you how to get along in society. There are many things that golf teaches you that are really important, and whether you actually end up playing a lot of golf, that’s not that important.

On Specialization in Youth Sports:

I think it’s ridiculous that kids would specialize in sports. How many injuries do you see today? You see injury after injury after injury, and I think it’s because kids at a point develop a certain set of muscles and have not rounded out their body. We played football in football season, we played basketball in basketball season, we played baseball in baseball season. In the summer, we played golf or played tennis. I ran track. I played everything, and I water skied, I snow skied. But I did all those things, and I was not a gym rat, I never went to the gym, because I felt like I didn’t need to. My body was pretty physically ready to go it.

I played in a rec basketball league until I was 40 years old. Came home after playing a golf tournament Sunday night, and Monday night I’d be playing basketball. I’d start going to the basket and the guy says (to another competitor, jokingly), “You take (Jack) out, we see you afterwards.” One of those things.

I think the kids today, they start to specialize. “How are you going to get to the next level?” Well that’s ridiculous. I think kids need to play everything to build their body and develop it into being able to play other sports. If they do that, I think they’ll also end up finding what they want to do.