East Hartford schools teach sportsmanship and character through golf

By Jennifer Coe - ReminderNews
East Hartford - posted Tue., Apr. 2, 2013
First Tee Connecticut program. Contributed
Second-graders Tiffany, Chanel, Meghana, Kaitlin, Ricardo, Alyn, Deaysha and Manny pose with their golf balls. These are eight of the students in East Hartford who are presently participating in the First Tee Connecticut golf program. Courtesy photo.

East Hartford public schools and First Tee of Connecticut have partnered to bring the elementary school students of East Hartford the opportunity to play golf, while simultaneously helping them to develop good emotional and relationship habits.

This pilot program, which is a joint effort of East Hartford public schools and the Department of Health and Physical Education, is employing the golf programs of First Tee of Connecticut to provide a character education-driven program that uses golf as a means of opportunity for youth development. The program - which is presently implemented at Norris, Pitkin and Silver Lane schools - is serving students in kindergarten through second grade, and is being warmly received by the schools, as well as the students involved.

“This is a partnership with two organizations,” said Joseph Leroy, supervisor of Health and Physical Education in East Hartford. “It gives the students the opportunity to participate in an activity, but also underscores the importance of sportsmanship and etiquette,” he said.

During this program, the First Tee professionals collaborate with the physical education instructors at three of the elementary schools to run a two-day curriculum and accompanying lessons that emphasize character development as well as golf skills. Leroy feels the right place for students to start learning good sportsmanship is the elementary levels because, he said, “it’s all about the foundation, about setting the foundation at early elementary level.”

Students spend time learning the game of golf, but also about honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect and confidence, amongst other things.

“I think it’s great,” said Dru Schlosser, a physical education teacher at Gov. William Pitkin Elementary School. “They are taking it in,” he said.

“The partnership of First Tee and EHPS provides our students with a dynamic opportunity to not only learn the game of golf, but also to benefit from the values and the life lessons of the game,” said East Hartford Superintendent of Schools Nathan Quesnel.

Schlosser said he is noticing the kids are engaging with the concepts of the program. “It’s nice to see them putting things into practice like saying, ‘Nice job’ or, ‘Try again’ to one another,” said Schlosser.

Also, Schlosser said that program has been eagerly embraced by Pitkin’s autistic student population. “They responded very well,” said Schlosser, who explained that this group of students usually didn’t show an interest in physical education before, but that many of them are showing a “big smile” upon picking up a golf club.

“It’s really about the social-emotional development,” said Leroy, adding that “golf’s a game they absolutely love.”

The partnerships are looking to expand the program in the spring of 2014 to the other elementary schools in East Hartford.

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