A Gift of Empowerment, Belonging, and Love

At The First Tee, we seek to provide unique opportunities that are transformative and empowering for our participants. We believe that through the reinforcement of character education, connection to the community and exposure to caring, positive role models, our participants have the tools necessary to succeed in life. The following is a reflection piece written by Coach Nicole on a recent unique opportunity made possible through a generous donation by Jim Malone. “I’m nervous!” said Troy. “I’ve got butterfingers” said Jamal. “I’m going to throw as hard as I can… I’m going to try my best… if I mess up that’s okay too” said Klei. There is something truly special about first time experiences. There’s excitement, there’s nerves, there is anticipation of how it will unfold. Watching kids navigate the emotions of new experiences is one thing, but having the opportunity to actually be a part of that process with them as they step into each moment of the experience is another level of special. As a coach, the honor I receive is the invitation to walk through new experiences and emotions with each child. The joy of coaching is not in imparting knowledge or wisdom, the joy is in walking alongside each child offering encouragement and love as they discover the new things and navigate new emotions. Last month I had the opportunity to be a part of a unique new experience at The First Tee… This past year we have held a class partnered with the Charlottesville Police Department where officers pick up a group of students each week from Walker Elementary and bring them to Birdwood Golf Course to participate in a Life Skills Class together. The officers and participants have formed influential relationships as they have played and learned together each week. On May 11th, two police officers took 4 of the young boys from class to a UVA baseball game where all 4 boys threw out the first pitch. I could tell you what I saw… how the boys faces were full of excitement as they held shining white UVA baseballs in their hands, how they jumped out of their seats in anticipation as a foul ball came in their direction, or even how they shared fries and m&m’s with each other and myself. But that’s just the surface, that’s just the outcome of an even greater story of what I saw happening in their hearts…. Thanks to a generous donation of a new experience, 4 young boys were picked up by 2 police officers and they felt the joy of being set apart and special. They walked up to the ticket gates and into the stadium together and they knew they belonged and were accepted by one another. They were escorted into the dugout where they waited in nervous anticipation, and we made them laugh and reassured them that it was not about how they threw the ball but about the opportunity to be on the field and enjoy the experience, and they began to take control over their anxious thoughts and have confidence. And when they walked off the field in smiles and laughs they walked a little taller, empowered by conquering their nerves and energized by the stadium full of fans. As the night continued they received hot dogs, fries and m&m’s from the officers and I saw these young children feel safe and cared for.  And because they had received such abundance, their hearts were freely willing to share what they had with others- mainly fries and m&m’s with me! I watched them all stand together leaning over the railing chatting and cheering, and I saw that they received more than just an opportunity to throw the first pitch and watch a UVA baseball game, they received the gift of empowerment, belonging and love. At The First Tee, GOLF IS MORE THAN A GAME!
  Nicole Cattley is our Life Skills Coordinator and serves as Head Coach for the Charlottesville Police Department partner class.