The Golf Foundation held a day of seminars and workshops at The Belfry recently, all geared to growing the number of young volunteers taking part in Golf Roots and encouraging them to help develop the project.
Golf Roots is the largest ever UK programme to introduce urban youngsters to golf and the sport’s positive benefits. A total of 16 cities and urban areas in England and Wales are taking part in a bid to create more golfers from inner city backgrounds.
“The great strength of Golf Roots is that these urban projects are being set up to be sustainable, creating pathways for youngsters to move on from school and community golf to playing regularly at golf clubs and driving ranges,” said Brendon Pyle, national development manager for the Golf Foundation.
“Due to the scope and ambition of the project it became apparent that young volunteers, aged between 14 and 21, could play a vital part in its success. Much has been written in recent times about youth culture in inner cities and a lot of this is fairly negative.
“However, young people with a positive attitude and the respect of their peers can make a major difference in their schools and communities. We have been looking for some talented young people to help deliver all aspects of the Golf Roots project and I’m glad to say we are finding them.”
The Golf Foundation has embraced the idea of tapping into the talent of young volunteers in recent times.
In 2007, the charity trained 627 14-18 year-olds to mentor youngsters in schools and clubs. Now employing similar thinking for Golf Roots, the Foundation development team has worked closely with Philip Beard, national volunteer manager for the England Golf Partnership.
The partnership’s expertise in this area was invaluable for the training day at The Belfry and Philip was able to pass on his experience to young volunteers and the project co-ordinators present from each Golf Roots region.
Organisers ensured there was a good mix of volunteers in terms of age, background and experience in golf. The day’s sessions examined not only how more young volunteers could become involved in Golf Roots but how they could have a positive influence on their peers and encourage them to join in.
John Wood, regional development officer for the Golf Foundation, said, “The day was really useful to our team because we were able to sit down within a group and tap into the thought process of the volunteers.
Our development team is very experienced in working in schools but we are also aware that young volunteers can reach their peers and interact with them in a way that we never can. When dealing with youngsters from city schools, sometimes in deprived areas, this support could be invaluable.”
Philip Beard spoke in the sessions about the importance of providing the best possible experience for volunteers. He used as an example of good practice the recent World Swimming Championships in Manchester, which were supported by more than 400 volunteers.
Philip said, “Unless volunteers really enjoy their activities they won’t return the next time, so we have to ensure that volunteers are valued and respected, that they can play a role that suits their abilities. Young people have slightly different goals as volunteers than older adults, and the feedback we were given at The Belfry really helped us in our thinking.”
Philip added, “I know volunteers in golf who have worked for 40 and 50 years in the game because they love the sport and love helping new players. These people are fantastic and vital to golf. But we also need to find younger people who can bring another set of skills for mentoring new players in order to include youngsters from as many different backgrounds as possible.”
The 16 Golf Roots venues for 2008 are Birmingham, Bournemouth, Bristol, Cardiff, Corby, Derby, East London, Luton, Manchester, Newcastle upon Tyne, Portsmouth, Preston, Sheffield, South London, Worcester and Wrexham. This effectively doubles the size of a successful similar project in 2007.
Golf Roots has attracted heavyweight support, from golf lover and popular TV and radio presenter DJ Spoony, and professional golf’s European Tour. Both have contributed greatly in the development of Golf Roots. This year, with additional support from the National Sports Foundation, the England Golf Partnership, The R&A and the British Golf Industry Association’s ‘Grow Golf’ fund, the project is set for its biggest year yet.
During the summer ahead, local Golf Roots partnerships will see golf played in schools, at golf clubs and at public festivals in their areas. Younger children will play Tri-Golf. This is a game with light plastic clubs and soft balls and includes lots of fun team games and activities. Golf Xtreme, for older pupils (11-16s), is an ideal introduction to the sport, using imaginative formats specially designed to engage teenagers.
Much of the local work will be run through schools and community groups and will provide a pathway for youngsters to be able to move on to one of the Golf Foundation’s Community Links centres at golf clubs and driving ranges and then receive structured learning that is ready for them through the Foundation’s Junior Golf Passport.
Golf Foundation www.golf-foundation.org