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Growing Up Golf (Part 1)


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#1 zakkozuchowski

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Posted 08 October 2012 - 02:53 PM

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Growing Up Golf (Part 1)


By Kadin Mahmet


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Like every parent who plays golf, I too want my children to love the game as much as I do. Besides the obvious benefits of playing golf, what I wanted more was something that my wife and I can share with our children for the rest of our lives.

I am about to lead you down the path of how our 21 month old son and 3 1/2 year old daughter were introduced to golf . When and how we caught their interest, from equipment to building skills. I will share with you what has and hasn’t worked. Let me make it clear this is not an article on mechanics or instruction, I am not a certified instructor. I do however have a collegiate coaching back ground and owned and operated a baseball & softball academy. Working with children participating in sports is not an unfamiliar territory for me. I have learned from life experiences on what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to holding the interest of young minds.

My wife and I were both collegiate athletes. She played softball and I played baseball. We didn’t take up the game of golf until our late 20’s. With the exception of playing in a league, we don’t play competitively either. We play rather frequently and keep an unofficial handicap via a free internet service. She is more of the recreational player who enjoys the experience more so than the pursuit of greatness. Don’t get me wrong she does play to a 15 handicap and does strive to shoot low. Now I on the other hand take my game very serious. I am forever trying to shave strokes off my handicap, which at the time of this article is an 8.4 index.

Our journey began on April 27, 2011 the day of our daughters second birthday. Amongst the numerous presents sit’s the first official step towards becoming a golfer. Her fist set of plastic golf clubs. You know the kind I’m talking about, the over sized heads with the plastic carry bag and putting cup. Much to our surprise upon opening this “life time” gift she pulled a club out of the bag and swung it like I have been working with her for months. The catch is, I never showed her how to swing a golf club or even explained to her what a golf club was for that matter. How the heck does a two year old pull that off? It’s not like I was grooming her from the time of birth leading up to the day that she would receive a set of plastic golf clubs. The truth is, that’s exactly what I did without even making an effort.

When our children are taking their first steps towards learning how to use a fork or a spoon we as parents don’t sit there and give them a complex definition or instructions on what a fork/spoon is or how to use it. If your child was anything like ours chances are they just picked one up and tried to put it in their mouth. Why? Because they have been watching the act of eating from the time they are introduced to solid foods. Well that’s exactly how my daughter knew what to do with her new clubs. As I mentioned earlier I take my game very serious and like many other players I have a clubs all around the house. There’s a putter in our office, a wedge in the family room several balls in both. I’m always putting or chipping. I have a practice matt and net outside and when my wife would take her outside to play in the swing, I was just a few feet away taking swings. So our little girl was observing the golf swing from day one and when she finally had a chance to emulate me just as she did with the spoon and fork. That first swing was as natural as eating.

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My wife and I believed that the age of two was a good starting point to introduce our daughter to golf. We had many conversations about it. We couldn’t have been more wrong. Let’s take a look back at that 2nd birthday party, our son was 4 months old at the time. From that day until spring our daughter was playing with her new clubs. She was making putting strokes, full swings, playing little games with the ball and cup. While she was playing there’s our son watching his big sister. During February of the following year we had very unseasonable weather. When the days were sunny we would take our kids outside to play like most parents do. Of course our daughter wanted to take her clubs outside and hit balls back and forth with me. Our son was 13 months old during this time. The second our daughter put down her club he walked over picked it up and took his first swing. Same as our daughter, we never told him what a club was or what you do with it. He learned the same way she did. By watching his big sister and I. So my wife and I look at each other and laughed, followed with a quick “Well I guess the theory we had about 2 being a good age to introduce golf is completely blown out of the water.”

Every time I hear or read about some pro athlete playing from the age of one it always sounded like they were some kind of prodigy. I know that our son and daughter are not prodigies or gifted athletes from birth. They are simply doing what all infants and toddlers do. They learn from watching and emulate what they see. My guess is if we would have placed a club in our son’s hand from the time he started walking (which was 8 months for him) he would’ve been hitting balls with it.

Let’s take a closer look at all this. You simply can not hand an infant who is capable of walking a plastic golf club and assume they will hit balls with it. There has to be certain factors to this equation. Lets start with our daughter. She had 24 months of exposure to a golf swing (remember it was her 2nd birthday when she received the clubs as a gift). How much exposure am I talking about? Well that’s a good question and one that probably needs to be understood. I can’t put an exact number on it, so lets speak hypothetically. I would putt, chip, pitch or swing a club on average 50 times a day at least 5 days a week and I am being very conservative on these numbers. Like most golf fans, I watch a lot of it on television, PGA, LPGA, and instructional shows. You name it I watch it. Lets say that golf is on our television on average 30 minutes a day 5 times a week. Now lets do the math and take a look at what we have.

50 Swings x 5 days = 250 Swings a week
250 Swings x 52 weeks a year = 13,000 Swings a year
13,000 Swings x 2 years = 26,000 Swings
30 minutes televised golf a day x 5 days = 2.5 hours a week
2.5 hours a week x 52 weeks = 130 hours of televised golf
130 hours televised golf x 2 years = 260 hours of televised golf

Therefore our daughter was exposed to 26,000 swings and 260 hours of golf leading up to her birthday. Our son was exposed to 13,000 swings and 130 hours of televised golf (based on 12 months) leading up to his first swing. Keep in mind I was very conservative on the number of swings I take in a day and the amount of golf I watch. Now before you say “Yeah, but your children are not sitting in front of the television watching golf”. The truth is yes, at times the television was tuned to golf while we were playing with various toys. Other times they would sit on my lap or next to me and actually watch it as if it was one of their cartoons. The point I am trying to make is that there is an exposure to golf even if it’s a passive one.

Even though there was no intention of teaching our children how take a golf swing it was engrained into their mind well before we even considered purchasing that first set of plastic golf clubs. Our children were well prepared to take that first swing probably more so than using an eating utensil for the first time.

In Growing Up Golf part 2 I will share my struggles of equipment fitting for very young children. I will include practice ideas and games to keep your child’s interest. Lastly, I will give you tips on what to expect on your trips to the practice green, short game area, and how to handle that first trip to the course.


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#2 Dscvrr St Louis

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Posted 08 October 2012 - 09:18 PM

Wow!! Very well done.  This mirrors my son quite a bit.  He is the oldest, and he started wanting to go with dad to the range at age 3.  At 4 he had his first short driver. At 6 a longer driver, at age 8, etc.  Until age 10..nope, not a driver, a kids starter set..driver, fw, few irons, wedge, putter and bag.  If he was going to the range, then he was hitting all the clubs.  I couldn't keep him out of the bunker with that wedge.  He is 15 now...tied my front nine 42 the other day...but he shot 45 on the back to my 36...yeah, he heard about not beating up on the old man quite yet!

Looking forward to the next installment!
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#3 JayLefty

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Posted 08 October 2012 - 10:22 PM

View PostDscvrr St Louis, on 08 October 2012 - 09:18 PM, said:

Wow!! Very well done.  This mirrors my son quite a bit.  He is the oldest, and he started wanting to go with dad to the range at age 3.  At 4 he had his first short driver. At 6 a longer driver, at age 8, etc.  Until age 10..nope, not a driver, a kids starter set..driver, fw, few irons, wedge, putter and bag.  If he was going to the range, then he was hitting all the clubs.  I couldn't keep him out of the bunker with that wedge.  He is 15 now...tied my front nine 42 the other day...but he shot 45 on the back to my 36...yeah, he heard about not beating up on the old man quite yet!

Looking forward to the next installment!

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#4 Palmetto Golfer

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Posted 10 October 2012 - 08:49 AM

I have to say this mirrors exactly what we are going through with my two boys.  The only difference is my wife and I are not golfers.  I played a little when I was young but it never stuck with me.

When my oldest son was 2, we stumbled across a set of plastic clubs like you described and gave it to him as something to do.  Golf was on the TV and he immediately tried to copy what he was seeing.  He went through 7 sets of plastic clubs as he would wear them out.  He is now 6 y/o and his passion for golf has continued to increase.  The best part is his loves to chip and putt.  We play chipping and putting games all the time.  He favorite game is to try and find the most difficult chip and see if he can get it close to the hole.  My youngest is 4 and he is starting to pick up the game as well.

I laugh all of the time because people always come up and say...."it is great you have him out here".  Truth is, he has ME out here.  It is such a wonderful journey and I feel blessed.

And btw....the old man has started to play again.  I can't let him whip me!!!!

Chris

Edited by Palmetto Golfer, 10 October 2012 - 08:51 AM.


#5 dpb5031

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Posted 10 October 2012 - 02:59 PM

Nice write-up Zak, you have touched on some excellent points.  I have two daughters, now 16 and 13.  The 13 year old is a good junior player who started playing tournaments at age 10.  My 16 year old never took to it.  It's interesting because they both had the same levels of exposure, and had the same levels of encouragement from me.  Like you, when they were young I was always swinging a club, practicing in my net, hauling them over to the club, or watching golf on TV.  My younger daughter used to love to watch golf with me, whereas my older one, for whatever reason, never would.  My youngest was always a sponge...very coachable, and still counts on me as her primary coach to this day.  My older one will not listen to a word I say, and it's been like that from day one!  My point is, they are all different.

You are in in for quite the journey.  There will be many ups and downs if your kids stick with it.  When they are young, it is easy to motivate them.  Just being with dad is good enough most of the time.  Sure, their attention spans are short, but if you are creative and keep it fun, it's not hard to keep them going.  Feel free to ask any questions and exploit my knowledge on this...I've certainly learned a lot.

I am finding it more challenging now with my 13 year old.  She had a great tournament season and played very well in some big tournaments, but through the year I have noticed her priorities change, and her enthusaism wane.  There are so many distractions at this age, not to mention hormone induced moodiness and emotional swings.  It's not so cool for a 13 year old girl to be at the golf course with dad when she could be "hanging out" with friends.  These are the challenges you will face.  In fact, I have been told that a fairly high percentage of junior female golfers quit the game between the ages of 13 to 16.  This is sad, because a junior player can make tremendous progress in those years if she is so inclined.

We are in the Northeast, so the season is soon coming to an end.  It's probably good that she gets a break.  Hopefully her motivation and enthusiasm will return with better weather in the spring.  I often say to my wife that it is our job to help our kids make decisions that they won't won't regret in the end.  I don't want my kids waking up when they are 22 and saying "what if?"


#6 Kadin 25

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Posted 10 October 2012 - 05:41 PM

View PostDscvrr St Louis, on 08 October 2012 - 09:18 PM, said:

Wow!! Very well done.  This mirrors my son quite a bit.  He is the oldest, and he started wanting to go with dad to the range at age 3.  At 4 he had his first short driver. At 6 a longer driver, at age 8, etc.  Until age 10..nope, not a driver, a kids starter set..driver, fw, few irons, wedge, putter and bag.  If he was going to the range, then he was hitting all the clubs.  I couldn't keep him out of the bunker with that wedge.  He is 15 now...tied my front nine 42 the other day...but he shot 45 on the back to my 36...yeah, he heard about not beating up on the old man quite yet!

Looking forward to the next installment!
Thanks...I am working on part 2 now.

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#7 Kadin 25

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Posted 10 October 2012 - 05:43 PM

View PostPalmetto Golfer, on 10 October 2012 - 08:49 AM, said:

I have to say this mirrors exactly what we are going through with my two boys.  The only difference is my wife and I are not golfers.  I played a little when I was young but it never stuck with me.

When my oldest son was 2, we stumbled across a set of plastic clubs like you described and gave it to him as something to do.  Golf was on the TV and he immediately tried to copy what he was seeing.  He went through 7 sets of plastic clubs as he would wear them out.  He is now 6 y/o and his passion for golf has continued to increase.  The best part is his loves to chip and putt.  We play chipping and putting games all the time.  He favorite game is to try and find the most difficult chip and see if he can get it close to the hole.  My youngest is 4 and he is starting to pick up the game as well.

I laugh all of the time because people always come up and say...."it is great you have him out here".  Truth is, he has ME out here.  It is such a wonderful journey and I feel blessed.

And btw....the old man has started to play again.  I can't let him whip me!!!!

Chris
Our daughter always asks me to go play as well. I never have to ask her. Funny how those plastic clubs wear out huh, we had a few sets already for the same reason. I feel the same way you do. Very lucky and blessed as well.

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#8 Kadin 25

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Posted 10 October 2012 - 05:46 PM

View Postdpb5031, on 10 October 2012 - 02:59 PM, said:

Nice write-up Zak, you have touched on some excellent points.  I have two daughters, now 16 and 13.  The 13 year old is a good junior player who started playing tournaments at age 10.  My 16 year old never took to it.  It's interesting because they both had the same levels of exposure, and had the same levels of encouragement from me.  Like you, when they were young I was always swinging a club, practicing in my net, hauling them over to the club, or watching golf on TV.  My younger daughter used to love to watch golf with me, whereas my older one, for whatever reason, never would.  My youngest was always a sponge...very coachable, and still counts on me as her primary coach to this day.  My older one will not listen to a word I say, and it's been like that from day one!  My point is, they are all different.

You are in in for quite the journey.  There will be many ups and downs if your kids stick with it.  When they are young, it is easy to motivate them.  Just being with dad is good enough most of the time.  Sure, their attention spans are short, but if you are creative and keep it fun, it's not hard to keep them going.  Feel free to ask any questions and exploit my knowledge on this...I've certainly learned a lot.

I am finding it more challenging now with my 13 year old.  She had a great tournament season and played very well in some big tournaments, but through the year I have noticed her priorities change, and her enthusaism wane.  There are so many distractions at this age, not to mention hormone induced moodiness and emotional swings.  It's not so cool for a 13 year old girl to be at the golf course with dad when she could be "hanging out" with friends.  These are the challenges you will face.  In fact, I have been told that a fairly high percentage of junior female golfers quit the game between the ages of 13 to 16.  This is sad, because a junior player can make tremendous progress in those years if she is so inclined.

We are in the Northeast, so the season is soon coming to an end.  It's probably good that she gets a break.  Hopefully her motivation and enthusiasm will return with better weather in the spring.  I often say to my wife that it is our job to help our kids make decisions that they won't won't regret in the end.  I don't want my kids waking up when they are 22 and saying "what if?"
LOL I am guessing you didn't see that I wrote the article :) My son and daughter are much like yours too. One is always easier to work with than the other. Funny how that always seems to be the case. Your 100% correct I never want my children to ever feel that they didn't have a chance or the support to do whatever they wanted. I hope they stick with it for a life time.

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#9 dpb5031

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Posted 10 October 2012 - 07:10 PM

View PostKadin 25, on 10 October 2012 - 05:46 PM, said:

View Postdpb5031, on 10 October 2012 - 02:59 PM, said:

Nice write-up Zak, you have touched on some excellent points.  I have two daughters, now 16 and 13.  The 13 year old is a good junior player who started playing tournaments at age 10.  My 16 year old never took to it.  It's interesting because they both had the same levels of exposure, and had the same levels of encouragement from me.  Like you, when they were young I was always swinging a club, practicing in my net, hauling them over to the club, or watching golf on TV.  My younger daughter used to love to watch golf with me, whereas my older one, for whatever reason, never would.  My youngest was always a sponge...very coachable, and still counts on me as her primary coach to this day.  My older one will not listen to a word I say, and it's been like that from day one!  My point is, they are all different.

You are in in for quite the journey.  There will be many ups and downs if your kids stick with it.  When they are young, it is easy to motivate them.  Just being with dad is good enough most of the time.  Sure, their attention spans are short, but if you are creative and keep it fun, it's not hard to keep them going.  Feel free to ask any questions and exploit my knowledge on this...I've certainly learned a lot.

I am finding it more challenging now with my 13 year old.  She had a great tournament season and played very well in some big tournaments, but through the year I have noticed her priorities change, and her enthusaism wane.  There are so many distractions at this age, not to mention hormone induced moodiness and emotional swings.  It's not so cool for a 13 year old girl to be at the golf course with dad when she could be "hanging out" with friends.  These are the challenges you will face.  In fact, I have been told that a fairly high percentage of junior female golfers quit the game between the ages of 13 to 16.  This is sad, because a junior player can make tremendous progress in those years if she is so inclined.

We are in the Northeast, so the season is soon coming to an end.  It's probably good that she gets a break.  Hopefully her motivation and enthusiasm will return with better weather in the spring.  I often say to my wife that it is our job to help our kids make decisions that they won't won't regret in the end.  I don't want my kids waking up when they are 22 and saying "what if?"
LOL I am guessing you didn't see that I wrote the article :) My son and daughter are much like yours too. One is always easier to work with than the other. Funny how that always seems to be the case. Your 100% correct I never want my children to ever feel that they didn't have a chance or the support to do whatever they wanted. I hope they stick with it for a life time.

LOL...sorry Kadin...my bad...props to you!  I read this over lunch, then revisited to write my response much later.  Trying to type GolfWRX responses on my smart phone often ends badly.  Excellent article though, whomever the author!  

I think my older daughter has some regrets about not playing golf.  She sees her younger sister receiving a lot of attention and traveling to some great venues for tournaments.  Also, as much work as it takes, golf is no where near as physically demanding as crew.  At this point though, I think it motivates her.  She sees a future of success in collegiate golf for her sister, and I believe it is driving her to succeed in crew.  We support them both equally, as tough as it can be.  This weekend we have to split up as my wife takes my older one to a regatta, and I take the younger one to a 2 day tournament.  Demanding and hectic...but very gratifying to see the kids thrive and excel.

We really believe in keeping them busy.  When dealing with teenagers, there is great truth to the saying, "an idle mind is the devil's workshop!"

#10 KILLEDBYASHANKEDWEDGE

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Posted 10 October 2012 - 07:15 PM

Great article, sounds like you are going to need that driving range!


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#11 Kadin 25

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Posted 10 October 2012 - 07:26 PM

View PostKILLEDBYASHANKEDWEDGE, on 10 October 2012 - 07:15 PM, said:

Great article, sounds like you are going to need that driving range!
Thanks! I'll send you a PM on the udated info about the range.

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#12 Kadin 25

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Posted 11 October 2012 - 07:22 AM

Dpb5031 thanks! I haven't reached the tournament weekend status yet. With our children a year and a half apart I'm sure its going to be busy. Oh I do I agree with you about idle minds too my friend. I'm a police officer and most if not all of our juvenile/minor calls are a result of boredom.

Edited by Kadin 25, 11 October 2012 - 07:23 AM.

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#13 eldog-in-the-hizouse

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Posted 11 October 2012 - 10:35 AM

I'm glad your kids are enjoying the game. I have a 9-year old son who doesn't want to do much more than chase frogs or drive the cart when I take him out. He was getting junior golf lessons from Woody Austin and some other really well known former PGA pros here in Wichita and the game still didn't grab a hold of him. Maybe my 6-year old will be different.
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#14 Kadin 25

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Posted 11 October 2012 - 11:02 AM

View Posteldog-in-the-hizouse, on 11 October 2012 - 10:35 AM, said:

I'm glad your kids are enjoying the game. I have a 9-year old son who doesn't want to do much more than chase frogs or drive the cart when I take him out. He was getting junior golf lessons from Woody Austin and some other really well known former PGA pros here in Wichita and the game still didn't grab a hold of him. Maybe my 6-year old will be different.
Chasing frogs sounds like fun...lol. This is one of the topics that will be in the second instalment. When I was giving lessons (baseball/softball) I wouldn't take a student under the age of 7. At least with my experience I can say most of the time they are just not ready to take on formal instruction. Now of course this varies from child to child. I did have a student that was 4 and was hitting a 50 mph pitch. So there are always exceptions to the rule. Keep taking him to the course and let him chase frogs if he wants. He will still associate going to the golf course as fun and may eventually want to start playing. This goes without saying of course...no matter what he decides to do, he will always remember spending time with Dad and how much fun it was going to the golf course to chase frogs. :)

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#15 dkothari

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Posted 12 October 2012 - 10:06 AM

Great article!! I can't wait to read how things progress from here - you have us on the edge of our seats...:)

I'm a father of a 6 year-old son and a 8-year old daughter.  Both are just starting to get into golf - so already my experience is a lot different than yours.  I couldn't agree more with let them do what they want - my 6-year old is totally into it.  He can spend 2-3 hours just practicing and love it - I think he's having an impact on my daughter who probably wouldn't be into it as much, if it wasn't for my son.  To the parent whose kid is "chasing frogs" - perhaps you might want to try and introduce him to another kid who is more serious about the game - it tends to be a bit infectious.  And like someone else said, if that still doesn't work, let him chase the frogs until he's ready.

The other thing I did is put up a practice net at my house - www.netreturn.com.  It's a bit pricey but it gives them something to play around with during their downtime and it's a much better use of time than watching TV of playing video games.  At this age, I'm just happy to get them off the couch and doing something.


#16 Kadin 25

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Posted 12 October 2012 - 10:57 AM

View Postdkothari, on 12 October 2012 - 10:06 AM, said:

Great article!! I can't wait to read how things progress from here - you have us on the edge of our seats... :)

I'm a father of a 6 year-old son and a 8-year old daughter.  Both are just starting to get into golf - so already my experience is a lot different than yours.  I couldn't agree more with let them do what they want - my 6-year old is totally into it.  He can spend 2-3 hours just practicing and love it - I think he's having an impact on my daughter who probably wouldn't be into it as much, if it wasn't for my son.  To the parent whose kid is "chasing frogs" - perhaps you might want to try and introduce him to another kid who is more serious about the game - it tends to be a bit infectious.  And like someone else said, if that still doesn't work, let him chase the frogs until he's ready.

The other thing I did is put up a practice net at my house - www.netreturn.com.  It's a bit pricey but it gives them something to play around with during their downtime and it's a much better use of time than watching TV of playing video games.  At this age, I'm just happy to get them off the couch and doing something.
Thanks!! I agree with you about one pushing the other also. My son who is younger wants to do everything his big sister is doing. It does make things a lot easier when one is exciting the other to do the same.

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