National School Program plays key role for golf’s future

It’s sometimes difficult to appreciate long-term initiatives when your short-term outlook isn’t promising.

With golf participation declining and many courses starving for play, teaching the game to school children who may – or may not – grow up to become golf consumers hardly seems pressing.

But gaining students’ undivided attention while they’re in a safe, familiar learning environment is an opportunity that simply can’t be missed. The First Tee National School Program isn’t more important than short-term participation solutions, but it’s a vital element in fixing golf’s overall ills.

This academic year, NSP will introduce golf to elementary school students at more than 4,200 schools in nearly 600 schools districts across the U.S. The custom-designed golf curriculum will be offered as part of regular physical education classes (K-5). Not only does the program teach motor skills associated with the game, but it addresses personal and social values as well. And this year, with input from the Annika Foundation led by former world No. 1 Annika Sorenstam, NSP also will tackle health and wellness topics.

Educators, not just golf industry professionals, have acknowledged the effectiveness of the school program that was launched in 2004. Steve Paine, former superintendent of schools for West Virginia, spearheaded the rollout of NSP throughout the entire state.

Said Paine: “The attributes delivered to children by professional educators through the game of golf will have a profoundly positive and everlasting impact in the areas of social skills, academic achievement and personal development.”

Among the findings of a 2008 study that polled PE teachers who used the curriculum:

• 75 percent rated it as “excellent”; 23 percent described it as “good.”

• Of those teachers, 99 percent said the specialized equipment used (durable, oversized plastic clubs) was “developmentally appropriate and effective” for elementary students.

• More than 50 percent reported improved student behavior because of the curriculum.

NSP’s introduction into schools is directly linked to the support of sponsors and partners who make a one-time contribution of $3,200 per school to implement the program.

Sounds like an investment worth making.

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