By Marissa Willman
Youth ages 7 to 17 can learn the importance of values such as honesty and respect this summer by participating in a local program that teaches nine core values on the golf course.
The First Tee Coachella Valley is part of a national youth development program that teaches kids life skills and values through the game of golf. The program serves approximately 1300 youths in the Coachella Valley.
“Our mission is to equip these kids with the tools that will make them successful people for life,” said Chris Keener, program director at The First Tee Coachella Valley. “Each of our 9 core values are words that are synonymous with the game.”
Core values include words such as honesty, respect, integrity and perseverance, Keener said.
“There’s always going to be at least one of those core values attached to each and every lesson plan,” Keener said.
A typical class at The First Tee begins with a brief introduction to the core value and golf activity of the day in a classroom environment. Then, students and instructors head to the golf course for a hands-on experience.
“We minimize the amount of [instructor] talking because we want the students to have an active role in the learning process,” Keener said. “It empowers the youth to have an active role in their experience.”
After the activity, students return to the classroom to reflect on what they learned on the field. Keener said The First Tee employs a reflection model called “Good, Better, How.”
“It gives the juniors an opportunity to talk about what they enjoyed and what was positive,” Keener said. “Then we ask what could have been better? What wasn’t quite what they were expecting it to be? Then they identify how to do something better next week.”
During the 11-week summer program, classes of 12 students also attend golf-related field trips.
The organization hosts its regular 8-week sessions in the fall, winter and spring, where students ages 4 to 17 can attend classes once a week. A yearly membership, which costs $120, includes all three 8-week sessions—a total of 24 two-hour classes—plus a week at The First Tee’s upcoming summer camp. The First Tee also provides equipment for members.
Signing up for a yearly membership before the summer camp season is the best deal, Keener said, because the summer program also includes 11 beginner classes on Saturdays for new members, in addition to the fall, winter and spring sessions and week of summer camp. Additional summer camp programs are $50 per week.
The First Tee members are also welcome to play on their own at the facility’s range in Palm Desert. The First Tee also provides classes at four other ranges during the fall, winter and spring sessions.
On June 23rd, The First Tee Coachella Valley invites the public to watch the Palm Springs Power baseball team play the San Francisco Seals, where 20% of ticket sales will benefit The First Tee.
Volunteer coaches are also needed to keep the student-teacher ratio at 4:1 and Keener said novice golfers are welcome to apply.
“Some of my best volunteers are non-golfers,” Keener said.
To learn more about how you can donate to The First Tee, email Chris Keener at firstname.lastname@example.org.To learn more about The First Tee and its programs, visit TheFirstTeeCoachellaValley.org.