To those parents who provided their impressions of your own and your child(rens’) experiences with The First Tee of Howard County in 2018, a hearty Thank You! This was our inaugural survey of opinions, and our plan now would be to conduct a similar survey each off-season to help us set our goals for the following year.
Your comments were overwhelmingly very complimentary toward the program and positive as to its effects on your children. Thank you very much! Although there were some areas of concern which we will do our best to address in future sessions, we were extremely pleased with what we heard. Question #1 received responses that told us that 48 percent of you (the top category) had heard about this program from a friend or relative. This is tremendous feedback, and we hope those who are enjoying the experience will continue to help us “get the word out!”
- If ever any of you are inclined to help us do that, we are invited to various after-school functions and outdoor activities to advertise the program, and we certainly could use your help in manning a table, talking about your experience, and demonstrating the basics of our program with equipment and collateral and training that we can supply.
Almost half of you (41%) responded that 2018 was your child’s first year of participation in The First Tee, and we are very pleased to be reaching new participants! Also a positive: another 43% responded that their children have been participants for three years or longer. The highest participation rates appeared to be Fall, Spring and Summer, in that order. (Question #2)
While 49% of you hail from Columbia and Ellicott City, 16% come from other counties to participate in our programs here, for which we are grateful. We continue to work to establish a stronger footprint in the western and southern parts of the county, where the remaining 35% reside.
On the satisfaction scale, combining responses of Strongly Agree and Agree, 89% reported that their children enjoyed the program; and 97% that classes were priced appropriately. Ninety-one percent indicated that the program was beneficial for their children, and 90% that they were satisfied with the golf skills the children learned. 86% Agreed or Strongly Agreed that they were satisfied with the overall instruction, and the same percentage were satisfied with the timing and variety of classes offered.
Your opinions on the coaching staff were also encouraging, with:
- 97% stating that their child(rens’) coaches were friendly and approachable
- 95% felt that the coaches were prepared and organized
- 97% felt that the coaches were knowledgeable and conveyed the knowledge well, and
- 89% felt that the coaches made the program fun
We have communicated with our coaches and will re-emphasize during our yearly training before classes begin this spring, the few negative comments we received about particular situations that you told us have made a few participants reticent about returning. We thank you for your honesty and hope you will give us the opportunity to improve those few situations.
When we asked about The First Tee’s A/B Honor Roll Program, in which all chapters are asked to participate so that the National Headquarters can evaluate the individual impact of the program on our participants’ academic success, 62 percent of you said that you found this program a useful form of recognition. Only 10% said they did not find it useful while 28% said they were not aware of the program. That is an area for us to work on.
- We are asked to report this information (numbers only) to First Tee Headquarters annually at the end of November, covering the previous year’s first and second semester grades. First Tee uses it to measure the effect of First Tee progression on grades. Alumni have reported a very high coincidence of longevity and progress in The First Tee and better grades.
- We collect this information from you in two ways. One, each time you register a child you are asked to fill out a number of demographic questions, one of which (for ages 7 and up) is, “Did your child make the AB Honor Roll this past semester?” In addition, as second and fourth marking periods approach, we advertise via email, FB Blast and Newsletter, and open a place on our home page where parents can certify that their participants received all A’s and B’s.
- We collate this information, enter it into your children’s’ electronic records, and use it to generate our list of AB Honor Roll participants.
- When we asked about whether recognition certificates, produced once a year for the previous second and fourth quarter grades were preferred over another form of recognition, such as bag tags or some other token, 59% said they would prefer some token or bag tag to the certificates we print. We will be looking at that possibility in the coming year. (Question 9)
We asked whether the program met your expectations. 93% said yes, while 7% said no. When asked if you would recommend this program to other families, 93% said yes. While there were no “No” answers perse, 7% (4 respondents) offered comments.
- A very small number of respondents opined about a lower than expected level of golf skills being imparted. Each year when we send out the class welcome messages, we attach a copy of the criteria for completing the current registered level (which are set by The First Tee in St. Augustine, FL). In addition, we are evaluated on our delivery of a set few skills at each level, with the greatest emphasis in early levels (PLAYer and Par–as it should be with all golfers) on the area and the shots used closest to the hole (e.g., putting, chipping and pitching).
- These are the skills that produce lower scores, and unfortunately the ones most ignored by weekend golfers—a primary reason why the average 18-hole score for the 20+ million US adults who play Golf has not gone below 100 in 60 years, despite advances in equipment and golf course maintenance, according to the National Golf Foundation.
- A solid grounding in these three strokes translates to longer range strokes later on, but the fundamentals are all encompassed in those shots around the green. At the PLAYer level, we are asked to teach four swings (Putt, Chip, Pitch and Full Swing); and Three Golf Fundamentals (Target Awareness, Distance Response, and Get Ready to Swing, each with two or three “Factors of Influence”). So, for example, Target Awareness includes Factors of Influence of Target Selection, and Distance to the Target; Distance-response includes Size or Length of Motion and Club Selection; while Get ready to Swing includes Hold, Setup and Aim and Alignment. It takes time to ingrain these, and it should, after all, for, with the possible exception of competitive shooting or archery, the Golf Hole (4 ¼” in diameter) is the smallest target in sport, and must be reached using an instrument (golf club) without the ball being touched by the hands. (Question 10)
Your general narrative comments were enlightening and useful. One theme that came through was course time for the kids. Obviously, conducting our classes on revenue-producing, largely public golf courses limits our ability to get the kids on course during class times, which whether weekday or weekend, coincide with the high public or member usage periods for these courses. While some The First Tee Chapters have dedicated facilities, this is a rare situation. We continue to exploit time on course when we can, and we are working to create playtimes outside First Tee class hours for First Tee participants at Fairway Hills and elsewhere to the extent that we can when schools are not in session. Watch for new opportunities this spring and summer.
Several responses remarked about the burden of homework in The First Tee Yardage Book. These books contain most of what is required for participants to pass their written First Tee written exams on Life Skills, Healthy Habits and Golf Knowledge, supplemented by the knowledge transferred by our coaches during classes and exercises.
- There are few such additional materials in most Junior Golf programs, but then, they are not in the Youth Development business–We are. Therefore, the extra work required enhances participants’ maturity, sociability and ability to perform complex tasks – a mission unique to The First Tee.
- These materials are designed in coordination with various recognized experts in the fields of positive youth development, sport psychology, physical education, golf fitness and youth golf coaching.
- The curriculum (Yardage Books plus the other materials we use) has evolved based on 20 years of feedback from The First Tee chapter network and third-party research specifically designed to assess longitudinal effects of The First Tee’s Life Skills Experience certification levels on positive youth development through golf.
- Finally, with the recent wholesale changes in the Rules of Golf, we are expecting the Yardage books to be amended and rewritten to accommodate the new definitions and simpler rules, although there is no timeline for this reprinting as yet announced. As a result we will be training our coaches in the new terms and providing additional materials until they are incorporated in the Yardage Books.
On themes such as homework, boredom with the “same old drills,” “too much time in the classroom,” etc., we have heard you, but, participant completion of the Yardage Books at each level is a requirement for advancement in every First Tee chapter in the network. These books contain exercises for the kids to do on their own, or with parental assistance, and provide them different ways to think about the context surrounding their learning environment.
- We are happy to help you navigate these materials at any time.
- We are working to standardize our lesson plans across levels of The First Tee and hope to have PLAYer, Par and Birdie completed before classes begin in April.
- While bad weather and meeting some of the academic requirements in The First Tee will force us to spend time inside, the new Lesson Plans will emphasize to coaches the need to do more of what we do outside in our golf and related exercises.
- Additionally, working at the younger levels first, and expanding to the older participants, we are creating standardized lesson plans and exercises for our coaches so that all participants at the same level are exposed to essentially the same material, and have opportunities to enjoy competition (another comment that was voiced) within the bounds of class, as the opportunity presents.
- Also, these lesson plans will (except for the vagaries of bad weather) emphasize time OUTSIDE, with Life Skills being taught with and through the golf drills the kids experience. This should help their mastery and exposure to the material.
- Participants will still be responsible for assimilating the material and passing the skills tests required at each level. As always, our lessons will close with a Bridge to Life, which will help participants translate the skills and core concepts they learn here to life outside of golf, which is our primary mission.
Finally, there were a few comments that indicated discomfort in the broad age span for PLAYer/Par classes, especially when kids older than 11 are required to begin The First Tee at the PLAYer level. While we cannot change the starting level for newcomers, because it is mandated by The First Tee and all that comes later has its basis in the Nine Core Values that are taught at PLAYer level, we will be making a change this year.
- Beginning in April (as we were prior to 2016), we will return to the format of separate PLAYer and Par classes. Thus, participants 7 and older will begin at PLAYer, and all PLAYer students once certified at that level will move to a 9 and older Par class next, rather than having both levels together.
- For first entry students age 12 and older, we will continue to host our Rising Teens class, which will still work at moving those slightly more mature participants through the first two levels (PLAYer and Par) in a single 8-week session. Those who are not certified at the Par level upon completion of that session will then require another Par class as a follow-up to become certified at Par to move to Birdie level (11 and up).
So, once again, we thank you for completing the survey! We hope that the changes we are making will have a positive impact on the next survey.
As we promised, one respondent was chosen at random to receive the First Tee Goody Bag we offered, and we will be delivering that shortly. Please watch for our next survey at the end of this First Tee year, sometime hopefully in November-December 2019. And, once again, thank you for bringing your child(ren) to The First Tee of Howard County!