Q&A with Al Berg
What does winning 2018 NHSCA Boys Golf Coach of the
Year mean to you?
It was certainly a thrill and a surprise and I’m so honored by
that. Last week I got All-Met Coach of the Year in the Washington,
D.C., area, so that was a double-nice. My head’s kind of spinning
around a little bit but I’ve been really fortunate having such great
kids who are really motivated and dedicated. It makes coaching
a joy, it really does.
How does it feel to be the fi rst coach from Virginia to win
NHSCA Coach of the Year?
That makes it even more special. It’s been a thrill. I’ve enjoyed
every minute of it. That kind of feeling kind of keeps me young
When did you start playing golf?
I’ve loved sports all my life but I never really grew that much
and I wasn’t particularly fast. The only thing I DID have was
coordination, so I kind of gravitated toward golf because it fi t me
perfectly. I’ve been playing golf since I was about 14, 15 years old.
My dad was playing and he introduced me to the game and I just
really took to it. I’ve been an avid golfer forever.
How did you get your start in coaching?
When I was teaching at the middle school that fed into the
high school, the teachers would go out together and I ended up
playing one day with the high school golf coach. He was a really
good coach but he was also the baseball coach. I played really well
that day — I birdied the last two holes to beat him laughs. A few
weeks later he called me up and said he had to give up one sport
and he was wondering if I was interested in the golf coaching job.
I really had no idea what was involved in it but I said, ‘Yes.’ Ever
since then I can’t get away from it. I’ve been retired from teaching
for almost nine years now and every year I say, ‘Okay, as soon as
these guys graduate that’ll be it.’ But I keep getting some new kids
and their enthusiasm is so good. So it’s been a job that’s just been
a great joy and great sense of satisfaction.
How do you separate your playing from your coaching?
Early on, I decided myself that I could play or I could coach but
I couldn’t do both at the same time. So during the basically two
months that I’m offi cially coaching the high school team, I play
very little golf on my own. It’s mostly just devoted to them. I don’t
think I really lose a beat when I come back to my game. I think it
actually helps me.
Golf is such a diffi cult game. What is the most diffi cult part
of coaching it to kids at high school level?
A normal high school kid and the game of golf don’t seem to
jibe together really well, because golf requires a lot of patience
and, most of all, dealing with an incredible amount of frustration.
I love basketball and I love baseball, I play tennis, too. Compared
to most of the other sports, it’s probably the one where your
effort doesn’t always translate into automatically positive results.
You can try really, really hard and kind of hit a wall. It could be
the smallest thing that can cause your game to go in the wrong
direction. I think the hardest thing is for the kids, to have to deal
with the frustration. That’s one of the things that I’ve tried to
focus on with the kids is making sure that they understand that
this is not a game of a straight line going up in terms of how you
progress. It’s more like the stock market. It goes up and down.
But if you stand back and look at it over a long period of time,
you’ll see that the general move has been up. The other thing I’ve
learned over the years is that you can take most good athletes
and, if they put some time into golf they can get down into the
low-80s pretty easily but to get to the 70s and especially to the
NATIONAL HIGH SCHOOL COACHES ASSOCIATION 35 COACHES QUARTERLY SPRING 2019