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. 

Schilling Show Interview

Jin Ellington, Executive Director, and Bruce Blair, our new Program Director, talk about The First Tee of the Virginia Blue Ridge with Rob Schilling on the Schilling Show. Listen to the interview below at 28:30.

Press Release: Program Director Hire

Charlottesville, VA (March 6, 2018): The First Tee of the Virginia Blue Ridge announced today that Bruce Blair has been appointed as the Program Director, a new position for the organization. Blair will manage the recent fast-growing programs of The First Tee of the Virginia Blue Ridge which serves the Charlottesville and central Virginia area. Having served as a senior program director at the Staunton-Augusta YMCA for 5 years, Blair brings a wealth of experience in sports-based youth development programs to further expand the influence and impact of The First Tee of the Virginia Blue Ridge to the local community. The First Tee of the Virginia Blue Ridge, founded in 2016, is a local chapter of the international nonprofit youth development organization. With offices right next to the Birdwood Golf Course in Charlottesville, The First Tee of the Virginia Blue Ridge has a mission “to positively impact the lives of all young people, by providing transformational, educational programs that build character, instill life-enhancing values, and promote healthy choices through the game of golf.” As participant numbers increased from 118 in 2016 to 167 in 2017 and the partnership with local schools, the Boys and Girls Club of Central Virginia, and other youth-serving nonprofits is growing, Jin Ellington, the Executive Director of the First Tee of the Virginia Blue Ridge, felt the need to hire a Program Director. “We are trying to inspire, educate, and transform the lives of as many youth in the area as possible through our teaching of core values and life skills. With the addition of a Program Director to the team, we can meet the demands of growth within the community while focusing on taking our program quality and impact to the next level,” described Ellington about her vision for the growth of the organization. After a few months of searching, The First Tee of the Virginia Blue Ridge found their perfect fit. Blair has a passion for youth development utilizing sports as the vehicle. He received a Bachelor’s in Sport and Business Administration from Ball State University and a Master’s degree in Sports and Recreation from James Madison University. With over 11 years of youth development experience at JMU, various non-profit organizations, and the Staunton-Augusta YMCA, Blair is ready to help The First Tee of the Virginia Blue Ridge to reach a new level with his experiences in and his passion for youth development. “I consider myself as a forward-thinking visionary who is passionate about serving the community, impacting the lives of others, and developing young leaders who will be college-ready, career-ready, and community-ready,” said Blair.