More than a decade ago, Scott McDermott remembers being struck by the lack of opportunity available to a friend of his living with cerebral palsy.
“He just missed out on a lot of things.”
Determined to change that and ensure that people living with a disability would have the same chance as everyone else, McDermott decided – while still completing his PGA Associateship – that golf could be the avenue to achieve this.
Now the Teaching Professional at Frankston’s Centenary Park, McDermott is a certified All-Abilities coach and works hard every day to ensure that his National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) students receive the care, attention and respect that helps to foster an enduring relationship to the game.
“When you are coaching all-abilities golf, you need to be able to dedicate 110% of yourself to the individual,” McDermott explained. “Otherwise, it’s not going to work and that isn’t fair on anyone.
“I’m very grateful that I’ve been able to develop a program at Centenary Park where that is what I can do.”
Taking his offering to the next level, McDermott – who specialises in coaching individuals with intellectual disabilities and autism – has created a thriving All-Abilities program in Melbourne’s South East. He works closely with the NDIS to ensure that students have a clear sense of structure and consistency – and the benefits are plain to see.
“Our golf program fits into the Information, Linkages and Capacity category of the NDIS scheme,” McDermott explained. “This means we are using golf to help teach skills of communication, respect and etiquette – all while helping the individual become more socially active.
“Golf really is such a great vehicle for that.”
Although his program started small, McDermott now has between 12 – 14 regular NDIS students who he sees every week. Deeply rewarding for him to see them improve and enjoy coming to the course, he also believes that the structure of the program is a winner – for player and coach.
“Because of the way it is set up as part of their NDIS plan, I’ve got between 20-30 hours of coaching locked in up until the end of next year,” said McDermott. “That means we can develop a sense of structure and improve on a consistent basis.
“I really believe that for golf professionals who are passionate about actually developing a player, this is one of the best options they can have.”
Key to this process, is removing the burden of expectation. Instead, McDermott places a premium on getting to know his students, forming a connection and understanding what their goals are in the game.
He has worked with a range of players, from student overcoming a spinal cord injury whose primary goal is to walk eighteen holes, to a young man who uses the game as therapy – where the wide-open spaces and chance to hit the impact bag are the release.
Ultimately, McDermott knows one size does not fit everyone.
“A lot of the time, it’s not about you teaching them – it’s them teaching you and then going on to form a relationship,” said McDermott, whose reputation as an All-Abilities coach has seen him become the state coach for the Special Olympics team.
“You need to provide a comfortable, relaxing and approachable environment, and then the skill development comes secondary,” he says. “It really does.”
Set to throw open the doors at Centenary Park on Saturday, McDermott will be running his second All-Abilities Come and Try Day, to align with International Day of People with a Disability.
Entirely free, the day is the perfect way to introduce people with a disability to the game for the first time, or to reintroduce former players to the game they love, following accident or illness.
McDermott is particularly excited for Saturday, to be running the program in conjunction with two of his Special Olympic athletes – William and Chris.
“The coolest thing about Saturday is that they will be helping to structure they day,” McDermott said. “I truly believe that the person who really knows how they want to be coached is the person with the intellectual disability.
“Additionally, to have William and Chris there shows that we care and are passionate about delivering the best possible experience.
The day is set to give everyone the chance to find and enjoy what golf means to them. Never prescriptive, the All-Abilities Come and Try Day will be entirely adaptive, giving players the chance to learn through play, with games, drills and scenarios designed to suit a range of skill and interest levels.
“This is not about throwing people into the deep end,” explained McDermott, “instead it’s about giving a positive first experience and ensuring that people want to keep progressing.
“Ultimately success is people coming and having a good time, and people seeing merit in what we are doing here for the whole community.”
For more information on the Centenary Park All-Abilities Come and Try Day, click HERE