Urban lessons a hit with young people


A ground-breaking pilot scheme in Staffordshire is using golf to help young people put themselves back on the right course.

The programme is just part of the diversionary work undertaken by Walsall Integrated Young People's Support Service (IYPSS)

Walsall IYPSS works across the borough to offer a wide range of practical help to young people, focussing on areas such as career guidance and employment support, positive activities and youth justice services.

Coach and PGA Professional Craig Thomas, who is based at The Golf Academy at Essington, near Wolverhampton, is delivering six sessions to 10 youngsters between the ages of 12 and 18.

But there is no need for them to visit a golf course to take part.

The urban golf sessions are held at local youth centres, using Golf Xtreme equipment with follow up sessions provided at The Golf Academy introducing the youngsters to more traditional golf clubs.

Thomas, an Advanced PGA professional, explained: "It was a privilege to be asked to offer our skills and services to engage these young people and to be able to build relationships with them, all which has helped us to understand some of the reasons why they do the things they do.

"Golf Xtreme equipment can be used to introduce youngsters to golf away from the course, in a youth centre or car park, for example. It is an opportunity for them to do something away from their normal environment and golf can help them learn life skills like respect for the people around them and how to work together.

"It can give youngsters a sense of achievement, increasing their self-esteem. It is easy for youngsters to be hard on themselves, but through the golf games we have been able to encourage a self-recognition of their own achievement, which can hopefully rub off in other areas of their lives and prevent potential problems in the future."

The youngsters on the course have been full of praise for its impact.

One 17 years-old said: "I really enjoyed the whole experience and atmosphere of the sessions. I learnt how to listen better to myself."

And another teenager added: "The project helped me to improve my golf skills, meet new people, keep myself busy and get out. I plan to continue with the sport."

The scheme is being organised under the umbrella of the PGA-backed Staffordshire County Golf Partnership.

County development officer Sean Hammill says: "This sort of scheme shows that golf has far more to offer than many people might think and that even by taking it out of the traditional golf club environment it is still a sport that can be enjoyed in new ways.

"The feedback on this scheme, which is receiving Sportivate funding, has been very positive. The youngsters have been fully engaged, really behaving well and are learning new skills.

"They are all enthusiastic participants and we are now getting more asking if they can take part.

"We will be providing urban golf kit to the group facilitators so that they can continue with golf in community centres and other non-traditional sites."

Discounted range balls and a free golf club are also being offered to encourage the youngsters to maintain their interest after the programme has finished.

The Staffordshire CGP also hopes other community groups will take the opportunity to try urban golf and enjoy the many health and social benefits that the sport can bring.

For further details contact Sean Hammill by emailing sean.hammill@btinternet.com

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