Students Run LA (SRLA) provides a six-month long-distance running program to prepare middle and high school students to enter and complete the Los Angeles Marathon. Students run with their leaders three to four times a week and attend community races that bring all the SRLA groups together. Team leaders also prepare in their role as an SRLA leader by attending a Leaders Training Conference. Over the six month period, students participate in a 5K, 10K, 15K, two half marathons, and an 18-mile run, culminating with the Los Angeles Marathon. The program provides students with a safe, supervised program of exercise, mentoring and goal setting, a healthy and constructive alternative to involvement in gangs, use of illegal substances, and sitting in front of the television. The students learn that hard work and persistence leads to success.
I’m fortunate that I am able to crash their runs, especially their 15K at Universal Studios Backlot.
I love golf. Some say I am obsessed. I have The Masters marked on my calendar so I can follow and watch it on t.v., attend local tournaments, and watch the final day of major tournaments on t.v. The PGA Tour app is probably one of the most used apps on my iPad and my phone. For about a year and a half, I traveled 20+ miles south on the 405 Freeway at 5:00 am to meet up with friends so that we could be on the course by 6:00 am. I had to make the long drive because they all lived in the same area and I was the only one who lived away. We had to be on the course early because they were all married and had to be home by 10:00 am to do chores and other duties that parents with kids have to do. Point is: I LOVE golf.
So when I hurt my back in March 2013, I was devastated. I couldn’t play golf. Actually, I couldn’t get up. I was bed-ridden and had to roll out of bed. I waited a couple of weeks for it to heal and, when Western medicine was just working, I went Eastern and got an acupuncture. I didn’t believe in it but I was desperate. I just wanted to play golf. After a couple or so of treatments, my back healed completely and I became a believer. But my head did not.
Although I continued to watch tournaments, I have not really played. Since my injury, I only played twice on an executive course and once on a regulation. The only reason I played on a regulation course was because the Groupon was expiring. I watched people played golf. I went on my golf site visits and longed to play. But I felt insecure. Holding the club felt unfamiliar. I had to think through every shot and none of the shots felt right. It was as if I was just lucky to actually hit the ball and have the ball go up in the air. The shots never felt right.
And then there were these kids today. We’ll call them Joseph and John.
This afternoon, I visited the Tiger Woods Learning Center (TWLC) for work, as we funded TWLC for their Player Development Program. The mission of the TWLC is to provide unique experiences and innovative educational opportunities for youth. The golf program is utilized as a vehicle to complement the educational enrichment programs offered at TWLC.
TWLC’s facility includes a 35,000 square-foot educational center, a driving range, and a putting green course. The educational center was designed to have a college campus feel. In addition to the physical design, the curriculum is such that students have to register for classes at specific times of the year, like students enrolling at the beginning of each quarter. Each afternoon begins with Power Hour, which is when they do homework. For the remainder of the afternoon, they attend activity/ies that they are enrolled in. Activities offered range math and science to design and communications. Older kids also participate in college prep. And of course, there is golf. Students must participate in the other enrichment activities before they can play golf.
The activity I observed was Golfology. Most, if not all of the students in Golfology were in the Player Development Program that we funded. The students, like most of the students I encountered in TWLC, were like mini and better version of adults. Most of them were in polo or collared shirts and they greeted you! These mini adults looked at you in the eye, shook your hands, and greeted you!
Much like a college, the class began in an auditorium. The instructor checked in with the participants and discussed the focus for the day. Today, the focus was the pitch swing. After the short discussion, the class of about 15 students headed to the driving range. Through the generosity of local donors, each participant had his or her own set of clubs. At the driving range, the group once again gathered and the instructor showed them what the swing should look like. The students then paired up and went to a mat.
The instructor who was showing me around introduced me to a few of the students. He encouraged me to talk to the students and ask them questions. Speaking to adults and the ability to effectively community are skills they are teaching the students that they should be practicing. He then gave me an Attack wedge and a bucket of balls and told me to hit. I told him that I was scared because I only knew how to hit with my club, that I didn’t know how to hit with the club he gave me, and that… well, I came up with other excuses. He walked away and told me to ask the students for help.
So these kids…
There were two kids: one was Level II (intermediate) and the other was Level III (advanced; allowed to play in tournaments). They came up to my mat and encouraged me. They reminded me how to stand, swing position, and how to hit the ball . Level III/Joseph was more the mechanical instructor and Level II/John was the encouraging/sports psychologist one. I followed their instructions and swung the club. I may have closed my eyes but when Iooked, I saw that the ball went straight! I did it again and it went straight again! I tried a different stance– like a bunker shot stance– and the ball went where it was supposed to! I tried a few more times and the ball kept going in the direction I aimed! I can play! I still know how! Holding a club felt right again. Making the connection with the ball felt right again.
I left TWLC ecstatic. Thanks to Joseph and John, I have a renewed confidence in my golf game and I’m excited to play again. But more importantly, Joseph, John, and the other mini adults at TWLC are great reminders that there’s a lot we can learn from young people. Whether in golf or in other aspects of life, we just need to be open and really listen. At the very least, their energy and excitement are infectious. Now I feel like I, too, can do anything! Well, at least golf.