Story by Alex Ludeman and Kate Weir
Each year we have the privilege of visiting local elementary schools as part of Golf Burnaby’s Reach Out Program. Personally, this is the perfect way to start the golf season, as we get to see so many bright smiling faces each day, and meet students who are so excited to learn and play golf. It sets the tone for the rest of the year in regards to how this game should be approached and played -- with joy and the intent to have fun. Let me walk you through our typical day at an elementary school.
We walk through the doors of the school half an hour before the first class, and instantly we catch a whiff of nostalgia. There is something about every elementary school that seems to smell the same, as though it should be bottled and sold as a relaxation device. Our first task is to find the office and check in. As we make our way through the school we can’t help but peer into the odd classroom and see the tiny desks, and the artwork displayed so proudly on the walls. When we arrive at the office, we are greeted so warmly by the office staff, and the excitement builds for the day as we are lead to the gym to set up. On most occasions, a few students will pop their heads into the gym to see what’s going on before class. On almost every encounter, we get the following questions:
“Is this golf?!” followed by, “Awesome! Are you going to be teaching Division (fill in the number here)?”
We can’t help but look at each other and smile. This is going to be a good day.
As the classes roll in, every face lights up as they realize that their gym has been re-organized in a way that they have never seen before. The teachers try as hard as they can to keep their kids in an orderly line, but once one kid starts running to the projector, the rest of them follow very quickly.
“Hello, everybody! How is everyone doing today?” we ask the students.
“Good!” they all say in unison.
From there, we start off with a quick introduction about the sport and encourage kids to share their golfing experiences with us as we go. The look in their eyes as they talk about their day at the driving range, or the time they played the pitch and putt with their grandparents, makes our days even better. The golfers are selling the game to the non-golfers.
After some safety talk, it’s time to hit the ball. Half of the kids start off hitting the foam golf balls against the wall on one side of the gym, as the others play putting games on the other side. During the hitting session, even the experienced players start off slow. Too excited to swing the club properly, it looks more like a race to just hit the ball than to hit it well. After the first few attempts, the kids start to mellow out and apply what they have learned, and that’s when they get really get excited.
“Whoooaaa! Did you see that?!” or “It came right back to me!” and “I did it! I hit the wall so hard!” echoes through the gym as they get better with every swing.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the gym, the kids are learning how to putt and play games with each other. The comments of: “Oh nice putt!” or “So close!” are clearly audible through the gym. The spirit of golf is on display immediately, competing against an opponent, but rooting for them to do their best at the same time.
As we end the class, the groans rumble through the gym.
“It can’t be over yet, can it?”
As we finish off the class, we outline how they can do this every day if they wish, and can even play games on putting greens the size of their gym if they want. As we finish with our closing statements, the class gives us a round of applause, and one kid (orchestrated by their teacher before class, we presume) stands up and says:
“Thank you for coming to our school, and for teaching us golf. We had a lot of fun today.”
“Our pleasure! You guys did great today, we hope to see you at the golf course soon,” we respond.
The rest of the class stands and they line up at the door. As they walk out, we can’t help but feel sad that they have to go. Even though it was only an hour, it felt like we knew each kid so well.
As we watch the last student walk out one door, the first student from the next class comes in another, and the excitement builds just as it did before.
“How’s everyone doing today?"