Far from becoming disgruntled at the closure of his golf course during the second national lockdown in November and the poor weather in December, Steve Hall, Head PGA Professional at The Suffolk Golf Club, used his time productively to bring some coaching cheer to local schoolchildren in Bury St Edmunds.
Working with national children’s golf charity the Golf Foundation, and mental toughness experts Yeast Ltd, Hall lent his junior coaching expertise at County Upper School in a ground-breaking new PE programme that teaches confidence, concentration and emotional control through a fun introduction to golf.
Using safe equipment specially adapted for schools, the programme – called Unleash your Drive – provided four weeks of golf activities to a group of Year 9 pupils, interspersed with techniques on keeping calm under pressure, reflecting on good and bad shots and learning how to focus on the task at hand.
The students were then challenged to think about how they might use these techniques away from the playing field, in a class or home setting, in order to help deal with some of the stresses and challenges that teenagers face in everyday life, particularly under the latest lockdown restrictions.
After a few weeks of the programme, several of the students were able to give examples of how the techniques had helped them deal with feeling angry or stressed at school, or keeping calm when dealing with Maths problems. Measures of their confidence, concentration and overall mental toughness all showed a 20% increase, in line with previous findings of the scheme which was designed and delivered by PGA Professionals with junior golfers in golf clubs.
Commenting on the project, Hall said: “It’s been fantastic to have the opportunity to work alongside the Golf Foundation and Yeast Ltd at County Upper School during the second lockdown; not only introducing children to golf, but seeing them develop skills for life through the Unleash your Drive programme.
“Week-on-week, the students are enjoying our great game and developing their early technique, but just as importantly, the improvements in their concentration and confidence are a delight to observe. The skills learned are transferable to other areas of their lives. It’s wonderful to hear the children reflect on how specific routines have helped them manage tough situations thrown at them through their week. I think the programme truly gives the pupils the ability to not only unleash their drive but to unleash their full potential.”
Head of PE at County Upper School, Chris Snelling, said: “The Unleash your Drive programme has been a hugely rewarding experience for some of our Year 9 students. They have thoroughly enjoyed the experience to firstly do something different within their PE lessons, but have also found the link to life skills incredibly beneficial to them as individuals. Overall the programme has been fantastic and I wish we could roll it out to more of our students.”
CEO of the Golf Foundation, Brendon Pyle, said: “This is the first time we have tested the Unleash your Drive concept in a secondary school. Steve has been teaching the wider life skills through his junior programme at The Suffolk Golf Club so it’s been of real value to apply his experience to helping youngsters in a school environment. He makes the sessions fun and engaging for the pupils, and has an ability to work with them at their level, which has helped them understand how to use the breathing and focus skills away from the golf lesson.”
As a reward for all their hard work and progress, Hall invited the students to visit The Suffolk Golf Club at the end of the programme, where they got to play a few holes and experience the game in the club setting. All of the students enjoyed the freedom of being on the golf course and now want to play more.
During November, Hall also coached Year 5 students during curriculum time at Horringer Court Middle School in Bury St Edmunds. The school pupils and teachers so enjoyed the experience that they have committed to continuing golf on the curriculum in the summer term.
All visits to the schools took place during curriculum time at the invitation of the schools and following the correct Covid-19 guidelines.
A new online workshop on Unleash your Drive, delivered by the Golf Foundation, has been created for PGA Members in January. While this workshop is now fully booked, PGA Members wishing to express their interest in attending future planned workshops can contact Brendon Pyle at the Golf Foundation via email at email@example.com.