Teeing up for a better future: Students learn life lessons through golf
During golf lessons at Seeliger Elementary School, Sam Wilson, 10, has learned the basics of aiming the ball.
“You have to choose your target and face that way and swing,” he explained.
He also has learned how that applies to his life.
“When you grow up, you choose your job. That’s your goal. That’s your target to aim for.”
For the past couple of months, golf instructors from First Tee have been teaching physical education students in Carson City the first steps of golf. However, along with the golf lessons, they have also been sharing lessons in life.
Established in Reno five years ago, First Tee of Northern Nevada is a nonprofit organization that combines golf instruction with character development.
Carson City started a chapter last year and is looking to increase membership this year.
“I’ve coached for years, and this is the only junior program I’ve ever been involved with that teaches life skills,” said Chris Dewar, director of golf and life skills for the First Tee of Northern Nevada and a member of the Ladies Professional Golf Association. “They learn not only the game of golf, but also integrity.”
The program is based on nine core values, which include honesty, integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship, perseverance, courtesy, judgment and confidence.
The values, said Executive Director Liza Maupin, are even more important than the game.
“No kid in the world will run home and say, ‘Mom, you’ve got to sign me up for life skills,'” she said. “Golf is the vehicle. And there are a lot of inherent skills in golf that lend themselves to life skills.”
Golfing’s rule of self-scoring and reporting one’s own fouls, she said, help teach children to make the right choices.
“Once you get to a certain age, your choices have much bigger consequences,” Maupin said. “It helps them avoid risky behaviors.”
Teaching in the schools is part of the outreach program to help bring awareness to the green-grass program, where children ages 7-17 are matched with volunteers to learn the game.
Nels Ahnlund of Minden will coach Carson City’s youth this summer at the Eagle Valley Golf Course.
“Once they get excited about golf, maybe they’ll join our green-grass program where I’ll be the coach and they’ll already know me,” he said.
All ability levels are welcome to participate, however even advanced golfers must start at the beginning to learn the corresponding life skills.
Although coaches will help challenge more adept golfers, participants will not advance until they’ve mastered the life skill of the day.
As part of the outreach program, instructors have also taught at Bordewich-Bray and plan to teach at Fritsch and Empire elementary schools.
On Wednesday, the lesson was “everyone can play.”
To demonstrate, students rotated through various stations where they golfed kneeling down, with just one arm and with their eyes closed to mimic different disabilities.
Randy Salazar, 10, said it was more difficult to golf with the handicaps, but he learned not to judge people who were different.
“Anybody can play, even with one hand,” he said. “They’re like the same as you.”
As Carson City looks to grow its membership this year, there is a great need for volunteers, Dewar said. Ahnlund will serve as the coach, so volunteers need not be experienced in golf.
“What we need are people who are able to form relationships with kids,” Dewar said.