By Fort Campbell CourierOctober 22, 2010
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. -- The game of golf requires quiet, calm and focus - not traits generally associated with school age children. But that's exactly what the First Tee program is aiming to teach the children of Fort Campbell.
Every Tuesday for the past 10 weeks more than 40 elementary school students can be found out on the links at Cole Park Commons learning to drive, chip and putt their way to success.
"Mainly the program is to help the kids find some kind of direction in their life," explained Don McLaren, the First Tee assistant instructor. "No matter what kind of game it is, they won't know if they like it until they try it. Through the techniques of golf, we teach them the Target program and the nine core values of life skills. Basically to give them a goal in life so they have something to look forward to other just getting through school work."
The First Tee is a program designed to impact the lives of young people by providing learning facilities and educational programs that promote character development and life-enhancing values through the game of golf. Boys and girls from the ages of 8 to 18 are taught to play golf and how to apply those skills to everyday life.
As McLaren instructs the children to chip, he reminds them just like getting a good golf shot takes practice and concentration, getting good grades requires doing your homework and paying attention in class.
Les Freeman, the First Tee military affiliate program Fort Campbell manager, explains to the students that a successful drive requires follow through, the same as anything else they may want to achieve in life.
In 2009, Congress approved the First Tee program to be implemented on military bases, authorizing 200 hours be offered free of charge across 50 military installations over a two year period. In October 2009, First Tee began offering character education and life skills training to children of Soldiers on Fort Campbell. Because Freeman is retired military himself, he felt it was important to give the children at Fort Campbell something they could really get into.
"The stresses placed upon kids once their parents deploy - this is a life enhancing skill for them, so they have something to do positively while their parents are deployed," explained Freeman. "That's the beauty of the First Tee program. It allows them something to do and it builds character. And it hopefully relieves the stress of being separated from parents."
First Tee partnered with Department of Defense Education Activity schools during the academic year and SKIES Unlimited over the summer to teach more than 800 children the basic skills of golf and the core values of honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy and respect.
For the students, though, it was more about spending time with their school friends outside of class. "My mom wanted me to do this, so I want to do that too. It's cool," said Georgia Kauble Horton, 4th grader. "PE teachers handed out sheets and we got them and all of us filled it out."
Freeman said they had gone to all but two of the elementary schools, Wassom Middle school or Fort Campbell High School.
"We had a great time working with all the kids," Freeman said. "We just wanted to expose them and give them something to do while their parents are deployed."
"It's a way of giving something back to the military for what they've done for civilian life and civilians outside, so we're just giving back to the kids and the military Families, helping them out," added McLaren.
For more information on The First Tee, including chapter locations and volunteer opportunities, visit www.thefirsttee.org. To keep us with the latest program news, follow The First Tee on Facebook.