This week’s college coach Q and A is a special one for me. James Madison head coach Sarah Sargent and I were college teammates and roommates at Furman University. We both came into college as the underdogs among some of the top players in the country as teammates and we each paved our own paths of success both collegiately and professionally. She has also been a good friend for almost 16 years now as we played professionally for several years after college, then started our current careers that happen to coincide so we have managed to stay in touch after all these years. I am excited to see what she will be able to do with the program there at JMU. She is definitely one of a kind with a great passion for the game of golf and helping young players become the best they can be.
Check out her thoughts on the recruiting process.
What is your own coaching philosophy? Treat everyone as an individual but fairly. Be honest with players about what they need to work on. Help them become better people by the time their 4 years is done at JMU!
What do you love about being a college coach? Watching my players grow into the women they end up being. College golf is so much more than just the golf. Anyone that knows me may be surprised that I just said that but I wouldn’t be where I am today without my college golf experience. I love watching they players develop on the course, growing with their teammates as a family and helping them do these things.
What do you look for with a resume, swing video? I look for short and concise. A little introduction of who the player is and a swing video in real time so I can see the speed of your swing. I would also like a schedule of events that the player is going to play in.
What are some good questions you ask players on visits to help determine best fit? What are you looking for in a coach? What are you looking for in a team? What are your goals for your golf career?
What are some good questions they should ask you to help determine best fit? How do you do qualifying? What are your expectations for practice? How do you run a practice?
How do you structure your practice and qualifying? I love to have as much qualifying as I can. Usually I will have everyone play to start the year. It will be low 3 scores automatically go and coaches pick 2. After that we go based on how much time in between the tournaments. Practice is about ¾ of the time structured where I asked the players to do certain drills or play (all still individual to each person) and about ¼ is free for what they want to do.
What do you feel junior golfers can do to improve their games? Course management. That is usually the general theme. The first year that players come in we spend so much time teaching them how to use a yardage book, how to use their pin sheet to help them, and pick targets. This is not something that swing coaches talk about very often. I very rarely see junior golfers use their pin sheet or even have a yardage book. It just helps you not have to be perfect on the golf course! And we all know there is no perfect in golf.
How can they be more prepared for college golf? Practice time management before you get to school. Plan out a week of practice and whatever else needs to be done in a week. Stick to that schedule. I find that freshman tend to get a little overwhelmed the first couple of months. They go from just having golf and friends over the summer to golf, new school, new friends, new expectations, and new stresses. Time management helps with all of this.
What is the biggest mistake you see families make through the process? The parents talk more than the players talk. It is really important for a coach to get to know the player. That is who we are going to be spending the time with to develop and be a part of the team. Don’t be afaird to talk about your weaknesses. Every coach knows players have weaknesses and I would like to hear players acknowledge them so they know they have something to work on. Again there is no perfect and I never expect my players to be perfect.
When you watch a player at a tournament what are things you look for? Attitude, good ball striking, how they handle bad play, and parents reactions.
How much does length play a factor in recruiting a player to a D1 program? I really like long hitters. That being said I have learned as a coach over the past couple of years that long doesn’t always relate to lowers scores. I still like it and think it makes it easier to play high level D1 golf but not a complete nessesity. If a player is a shorter hitter they better be hitting a lot of fairways though.
What other advice would you give a junior golfer and/or parents who are going through the process? Be yourself. Don’t try to be something that you are not because in the end your happiness at a University depends a lot on the fit with the team and coach.