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Teaching Youth Life Skills Through the Game of Golf at the First Tee of Fort Worth

By Elizabeth R. Elstien

The nonprofit First Tee of Fort Worth began in 2004 to teach golf to urban and disadvantaged youth. "Over the years, the program has progressed to teach critical life skills- core values in a golf context to ALL children," reports Executive Director Kevin Long. Today's much-expanded mission: "To impact the lives of young people by providing learning facilities, access to The First Tee's Life Skills Experience and programs that build character, instill life-enhancing values and promote wellness through the game of golf."

The program is successful, growing into over 200 chapters to date. Independent reports of The First Tee show that "73% of young people at participating chapters reported high confidence in their ability to do well academically and 52% credited the program for their ability to appreciate diversity." This is a program that works.

The game of golf provides values and goals that can be transferred into a life context. Long tells us, "The Life Skills Experience [at The First Tee] has structured a curriculum that is individualized, research-based and fosters character development, leadership and service."

This one-of-a-kind curriculum provides basic skills and core values to its participants, while taking a swing at golf. Long states that youth get "exposure and fundamental skills around interpersonal communication, resiliency, self-management, goal setting and conflict resolution." Junior golfers learn nine core values: honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy and judgment that make them future leaders.

The recent addition of a health and wellness component to the program instills self-care into these young golfers to keep them out of the sand pit. Physical, emotional and social lifestyle choices are taught to participants based on a The First Tee partnership with ANNIKA Foundation and Florida Hospital for Children. This healthy and active lifestyle focus (as developed on an elementary-school level) features play, mind, safety, family, friends, school and community.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held in December 2011 for the opening of The First Tee's Ben Hogan Learning Center, developed to give equal access to golf for those of all socio-economic levels. The design lets kids spend time outside on the practice green, driving range or golf course or come inside to study or relax with fellow junior golfers.

"Participants in The First Tee," explains Long, "increase their confidence and skills in both academic and social arenas through involvement in both golf and life skills seamlessly integrated in a fun and safe manner. There is no doubt that we make golf exciting and dynamic so that young people can enjoy 'the game that lasts a lifetime'."

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About The Author

Elizabeth R. Elstien has worked in real estate for over 15 years as a real estate...

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