hit more fairways. make more putts. avoid the hazards. play by the rules.
Some Surprises at The First Tee

Posted on Saturday 23 April 2005

Bill Scott flattered me by asking me to join the board of The First Tee of Washington; I accepted without hesitation. The organization has been running programs in Washington since 1999, and has an outstanding staff; they are dedicated, thoughtful, responsive and constantly looking for ways to improve the program and to reach more kids.

A quick side story: on Easter weekend I went to visit JT in Ohio. Since he sleeps late (like most college students) I spent the early hours of Easter morning on the Web; I took a close look at The First Tee’s site and found it out of date in a couple of key places. But there was a volunteer signup form, which I filled out. My expectation for a quick response was pretty low. So you can imagine my utter delight when I got a personal email answer from Scott Allen, the Executive Director, within two hours. And at that point he had no idea that I was joining his board. Very impressive. (Yes, it was a bit of a dirty trick, but it told me a lot about Scott. And yes, I apologized as soon as we met in person.)

Anyway, back to the main point. I went down to Langston Golf Course on Wednesday afternoon to see how the program actually runs. I met the rest of the paid staff (troopers all, like Ryan Kanaskie, who commutes 50 miles each way from his head pro job at Willow Springs to Langston) and also met other volunteers and the day’s instructors. I helped get water out to Langston’s range (hard by the elevated Orange Line tracks over the Anacostia), set out range balls and get the bags of clubs out, too.

Surprise #1: I didn’t actually expect to be coaching, but the next thing I knew I was helping with grips and stances, getting more balls (more like directing Nathan, a high schooler who was getting his community service hours, to get them) and coaching a couple of these young kids. I’d forgotten how much fun it is to coach, since it’s been a while since I coached Little League. I knew that I missed it, but I was surprised by just how much. I don’t know if I’m any good at coaching golf but I doubt I did any permanent damage to swings or psyches. 🙂

Surprise #2: I didn’t expect to see many adults but parents of half the kids were there. Maybe it was because it was the first session, or perhaps they were just evaluating (we’ll see as the weeks go on). The parents weren’t just sitting there, either, they were engaged and interested, hoping their kid will grow up to love the game.

Surprise #3: How quickly kids can learn something as difficult as the golf swing. There’s an old adage in golf: if you want to get better you have to go back and take it up at a younger age. It’s proven when you watch a kid really work at a complex motion and get it.

Surprise #4: How much I’m looking forward to next Wednesday.

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