Coach Dustin Marsh – Lessons in Leadership

At First Tee, we guide kids to strengthen what’s inside and put it into action because strong character, inner strength and resilience is needed now more than ever. This month we are talking to leaders within our Network about their experiences and key lessons learned over the course of their careers.

Coach Dustin Marsh, First Tee – Central Carolina

What is your current role at First Tee, how long have you been in that role and what is the most rewarding part of your job?

Currently, I am a recognized First Tee Coach. I have been coaching with The First Tee since 2009.

This month we’re celebrating Black History Month and lifting up voices of Black participants, coaches and leaders exploring what it means to be a leader. As a coach, you’re both a mentor and leader to the participants in the program. What does that mean to you?

It means a great deal to me! Many people get to middle age and find themselves in a job or career that they did not foresee. They get caught up in making a living. They may or may not like what they do. I like what I do but, before I started with The First Tee I was not participating in my community as I thought I needed to. I was searching for something to fill a void in my being. When I was young, I was an education major but, life happened and I took an opportunity to work in computer technology. Now that I am coaching with The First Tee, I feel like I’m exercising the same passion I had when I was on a path to be an educator.

How important is it for participants to see diverse leaders like yourself and others coaching at the chapter?

It’s extremely important that our participants experience the program from a diverse range of leaders and with diverse peers. I think specifically about some of the kids I have coached over the years who have gone on to college and professional careers, and I know having diverse coaches was instrumental in not only attracting them to the program, but also keeping them engaged for the long run.  At the end of the day, it’s about making kids feel welcome and comfortable, and when a kid can see themselves in me or another black or brown coach, that increases the likelihood they will want to come back.

Who were some of the strong voices or mentors in your life that inspired you?

Many of my coaches made strong impressions on me for various reasons. Some of my teachers inspired me as well. However, I think the strongest voices in my life were those that exemplified and instilled the importance of decency toward others.

What accomplishment are you most proud of in your life or career?

One thing I’m most proud of is my track record of community service, specifically through First Tee – Central Carolina.  I’ve been doing this for over 11 years.  It isn’t always convenient or easy in my schedule, but it has been worth it.  I’m proud that kids have called me a mentor even when I didn’t think I was, and that I’ve been able to help them figure out all how to deal with the hard things life has thrown at them.

Can you give an example of a challenge you have faced in your career and how have you worked to overcome it?

A challenge that I have faced in my career is leading teams of people and how to get the best results possible.  What I’ve learned is that you have to know what motivates them and what their strengths and weaknesses are.  This takes time and building relationships.  Once you know these details, you can put people where they are going to be the most effective and the whole team benefits.  I’ve done the same thing in the First Tee classes I coach.  I try to learn as quickly as I can why a kid is there and what they are looking to get out of the experience.  Once I know this, I can adapt my coaching to best match their needs.  Like we are trained in the First Tee Coach Program, match the activity to the child and not the child to the activity.

How does or can First Tee play a role in bringing more diversity to our game?

I think we must continue to find ways to make golf inviting to a diverse group of people. There isn’t one way to bring more diversity to golf. We have to try every approach we can come up with. It’s not something that can be accomplished overnight. Golf used to be a sport that was available to only those with financial means and making it more inclusive is going to take time and perseverance. There is a lot of untapped talent that golf has yet to tap into. It ultimately comes down to building relationships in your community that are genuine and time tested.  The opportunities to be more diverse can be hard to initially see, but if your focus is on building relationships, the opportunities to engage with black and brown communities will become more apparent.  When it comes to this type of work, don’t worry about being the first one there, focus on being the last one standing.

What leadership advice or concept do you think is most important for your participants to know?

Focus on the process, not the outcome.

Angela “Coach Angel” Whorton, First Tee — Greater Akron

Coach Angel has been an educator for 15 years. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Master of Arts in Elementary Education from Hampton University, where she attended on a full NCAA Division I scholarship helping lead her team in March Madness. After graduation, Coach Angel traveled extensively and was invited to speak on diversity and educational practices. She began her teaching career in Turkey, teaching English as a Second Language before going back home, to Akron, Ohio where she is currently an educator at the Lebron James IPromise school. Coach Angel was introduced to First Tee 8 years ago when her son, John Ramon, joined the program. She joined in not long after and has been coaching at First Tee — Greater Akron for 7 years.  “I feel it is important to stay involved in the First Tee to offer the kids in my urban community the opportunity to play a sport that they may have not felt was in their realm of abilities.  When we begin working with these athletes we open a whole new world for them while developing their character through the Core Values to instill a solid foundation for success.  I also feel it is essential to have representation in the world of golf and being able to interact and develop friendships and perspectives with people in the golf community that may have otherwise never built a relationship with someone in the Black community such as myself.” Coach Angel is just one of the many inspirational coaches across our network and we invite you to learn more about her journey and thoughts on leadership in the video below.

Clinic with Jimmy Stanger and Emmy Martin for First Tee – Clearwater participants!

In 2019, Jimmy Stanger was introduced to our Foundation and immediately asked to do something with our participants. He hosted an hour-long full swing clinic and everyone loved it! So naturally, when Jimmy wanted to host another and bring friend Emmy Martin, we ecstatically said yes! Jimmy (PGA’s Korn Ferry Tour) and Emmy (LPGA’s Symetra Tour) dazzled our participants and families with long hits and stories of their lives on tour. Following the hour long clinic, they stayed for another hour taking photos and signing items for anyone who wanted. Plus, both have also donated clubs, clothes, shoes and hats for our students! Thank you Jimmy and Emmy for spending so much time and energy with our kids! You have gained fans for life!
Want to keep up with Jimmy and Emmy on their journeys with professional golf? Check their pages out below: Follow Jimmy Stanger on Twitter @jimmy_stanger Follow Emmy Martin on Twitter @emmyymartinn Emmy’s Played with Heart Charity website:

First Tee Alumni Compete on the APGA Tour

We believe that golf provides a powerful vehicle to help kids build inner strength and life enhancing skills they can take to everything they do. Joseph Dent, Marcellus Dillard and Joey Stills are First Tee alumni using these life lessons as they compete on the APGA Tour, a launching pad for African Americans and minority golfers to compete and make their way to the PGA TOUR. The three alumni shared their experiences through First Tee and how it’s empowered them to develop their character as they pursue their goals.

First Tee’s New Look!

The Chi Chi Rodriguez Youth Foundation isn’t the only one going through a logo refresh. On September 1st, First Tee Headquarters and chapters around the globe introduced a new look. The mission of impacting young people through golf remains the same, but the logo and tag line have been upgraded. Here’s to many more years of our program Building Game Changers!

First Tee – Clearwater Life Skills Experience and Academy programs are back!

Though summer looked a little different on campus this year, it didn’t stop our Coaches from making a big impact. With social distancing and CDC guidelines being followed, sixty five youth in our community enjoyed seven weeks of life skills and golf programs. Plus, our Chi Chi Academy students are back to golf twice a week during their physical education classes. First Tee – Clearwater is one of three Tampa Bay area chapters and serves over 3,600 participants through the on-site classes and in school programs.
Shout out to Florida Junior Golf Council for their loyal and unwavering support of our programs!

Valspar Championship & First Tee’s come together with Footjoy Video

Click here to see the video featuring our participants! Valspar, First Tee and FootJoy partnered to create a colorful, custom golf shoe pattern for the PGA TOUR Pros to wear at the Valspar Championship. The tournament may have been cancelled, but that doesn’t mean that the shoes had to go back in their boxes. Watch Valspar bring smiles to some pretty special kids’ faces, and visit the link below to purchase your own pair of custom Valspar Championship shoes to benefit The First Tee. You can get a pair of these limited edition shoes, while they last, and benefit The First Tee by clicking here:

Valspar Championship makes an impact at Chi Chi campus and with First Tee students

In February, members of the Valspar Championship team, including Tournament Director Tracy West, volunteered their time and the supplies to refresh some of our office space. While the team was painting, they also provided a unique opportunity for four of our participants to be interviewed by a professional crew for an upcoming segment with Valspar Championship, First Tee and Footjoy. Photos:Left: Tournament Intern James Conner, Tournament Intern Helary Gladstone, Valspar Championship Tournament Director Tracy West, Valspar Brand Manager Sara Hackney, Valspar Associate Creative Director Kelsey Jaglowski, Tournament Intern Eddie Klem; Right: Eddie painting in the conference room Though the tournament was canceled this year due to COVID-19, we are so lucky to have this Championship so involved in the local community and providing unforgettable experiences for our youth. Thank you Valspar Championship for all you due for Tampa Bay year after year! Photos: Left: Eleanor being interviewed; Right: Coach Lizette and Program Director Coach Karen with Eleanor, Mackenzie, Panagioti and Paige

Program Director Karen Wise receives Award from the PGA West Central Chapter!

This month, Coach Karen was honored with the PGA West Central Chapter’s Youth Player Development Award! This annual award recognizes a PGA Professional who is a leader in junior golf and reflects the ideals of those who work with youth. Karen will be one of three chapter nominees presented to the North Florida PGA section Committee for a Section Award. In April, all PGA Chapter Awards will be honored during a lunch at Palma Ceia Country Club. Congrats Coach Karen!

Program Spotlight: Inaugural Pin Seekers League

This summer, Program Director Karen Wise hosted our first ever Pin Seekers League for The First Tee participants. Over 11 participants from our PAR, BIRDIE and EAGLE classes joined Coach Karen and Coach Lizette 7 Friday evenings throughout the summer. This in-house scramble competition played at Tarpon Woods Golf Club, The Eagles Golf Club, The Landings Golf Club, Cove Cay Golf Club, East Lake Woodlands Golf Club and of course Chi Chi’s Golf Club. Congrats to all who participated! We look forward to another great league next summer!        

Program Spotlight: The First Tee Summer Camp

The First Tee welcomed 318 campers for the Life Skills Experience this summer! Students enjoyed course time at least one day each week, along with driving range access and various games designed for fun as well as learning core values and healthy habits. Thanks to grantors like the Florida Junior Golf Council, Pinellas County Business Technology Services, Paradise Golf and the Salvatore Mascari Family Fund, we offered camp at a discounted rate to all families and provided 40 scholarships for youth in need! “The First Tee does such an amazing job at making golf fun and teaching kids in a way that they can understand.” ~ 2019 Scholarship Parent