Coaching and English…The Unused Language 

Tom Velarde
Golf Professional
Black Mesa Golf Club
La Mesilla, AZ

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I have been coaching at the high school level for over 25 years with a two year break at the NAIA level. It’s a special experience to interact with these players, and through the years it has proven to be interesting. 

On a trip that involved us leaving at 2:30 AM the players are normally tired and sleep most of the way. Now some do stay awake and talk but it’s always pretty quiet. One trip, after being on the road for a couple of hours, I could smell something out of the ordinary. I asked the driver to turn on the lights in the bus and was shocked to see smoke! We immediately stopped and searched for the cause. Turns out that one of the players had taken off his shoes (the runner type) and put them by the floor heater. The heat had caused the sole of the shoe to start to smoke. Thankfully we aired out the bus and moved on.

This year my team is young and just starting to play golf. Now I understood that they needed to know about basic rules. They would need to know they needed a ball marker for the greens and a proper golf ball. They would need to know how to keep score. And, lastly, some basic etiquette to play. I even went as far as teaching them how to carry the golf bag and where to put the bag when they are ready to hit a shot. Players never cease to amaze me, I saw one of my girls hitting shots down the fairway without ever taking her bag off her back. At first I thought she did not care and was just swatting the ball but after consideration she was quite committed to the process. I went up and asked how she was doing? “Coach, I am doing great!!” I watched her hit a drive with her bag on her back. I asked why she did not take the bag off.  “Coach,” she said, “I remember what you said about aiming and how important it was and I was having a hard time. But, with the bag on my back I noticed I knew where I was aimed so I just started doing that. You always tell us that the only real important thing is how many strokes we take and to have fun. Well, it’s a lot more fun when the ball is where I can find it and going in the air.”  

I always check before we start a tournament to make sure my players have balls, tees and a ball marker. I watched one of my players lag a putt up to the hole and then skip around trying to finish. He finally did but almost broke a rule by standing to the side of the hole and popping the ball into the hole. I asked why he did not mark the ball. He looked down and said he had lost the marker. I handed him another one and made a mental note to give them two before round starts. 

Sometimes in life it’s better to just say, “Good Job! We will talk about it next practice,” walk away and keep in mind what you say and what they comprehend is never the same. 

I will see you all on the tee. I am the guy working on English as a first line of communication.   

Tom Velarde is the Manager at Black Mesa Golf Club in Espanola, New Mexico, just northwest of Santa Fe. For more information or to reach Tom, email