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Golf to teach character-building lessons to kids
Program to develop healthy habits, values in Gainesville students
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Natalie McGarvey prepares to chip her tennis ball at a target Wednesday morning at the Gainesville High gymnasium as Gainesville physical education teachers get training in The First Tee National School Program.

Not many elementary P.E. classes include golf lessons, but Gainesville elementary schools want to use golf to teach their students healthy habits and values.

Physical education teachers from Gainesville’s five elementary schools gathered at the high school gym Wednesday for a golf lesson from The First Tee National School Program.

“We’re partnering with Georgia Power, who is funding this, and The First Tee, which is a national program introducing kids to golf and has a character component to it,” said Bryson Worley, Gainesville High men’s golf coach. “Each one of our elementary schools is represented here by a teacher or more than one teacher, and they’re learning how to teach it to their students.”

The program includes modified golf clubs with fun names for little kids. A wedge is called a “launcher” and a putter is called a “roller,” to help the kids understand the function of the different clubs.

Worley said each school will receive a kit with the modified clubs, balls, Velcro aiming targets and more.

“It introduces it with this ‘snag golf equipment,” Worley said. “It’s bigger clubs, so it’s easier and not as hard as a regular club, and the ball and target are Velcro, so that’s a little easier for the kids. It’s good.”

Diane Lamb from The First Tee led the professional development Wednesday. She taught the teachers how to incorporate values into the lesson, such as honesty, respect, confidence, judgment and more.

At one point Lamb asked the teachers how the exercise uses good judgment and safety, and they provided examples such as listening carefully, striking the ball carefully and taking turns to play.

The game can be modified by P.E. teachers, Lamb said, depending on the age of the students.

“Sometimes you’ll have a kindergarten class followed by a fifth-grade class,” she said. “But you can change the target out, giving the fifth-graders a more difficult target. I’d also change the club, so from a putter to a wedge. And I can change the distance to the target.”

The program is also designed to help students achieve their physical education standards, including hand-eye coordination. Lamb incorporated safety, energy and vision into the lesson.

“I can talk to the students about force,” she said. “How much force do I need to get the ball this much closer, and then we are talking about teaching that new concept.”

Georgia Power is funding the program through an extension of the Southern Company’s long-standing relationship with the PGA Tour.

Cathy Parker, Georgia Power key account manager for Gainesville City Schools, said this program is one of many things the company does with the school system. It also gives electricity safety lessons, teacher appreciation lunches and cook-outs for students with perfect attendance.

Angela Haun with Georgia Power’s regional office said the company’s educational program is connected to science, technology, engineering and math standards and includes “in classroom field trips” with energy efficiency tips.

“Our program is called Learning Power, so it’s actually physically in the classrooms,” she said. “Basically, all of this is just our dedication to being in the school systems, involved in education.”

Lamb said the program is ideal for elementary schools because, “it’s very, very easy to use.” Gainesville girls’ golf coach Clay McDonald called the program “honestly really good” for teaching an introduction to golf.

Worley said he was impressed by the way the program could help students.

“It’s important for things like hand-eye coordination, because of a lot of them don’t go out and play and do those things,” he said.

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