Bryson Hughes, First Tee – North Florida and Megan Meng, First Tee – Greater Trenton win Pro-Junior Titles at PURE Insurance Championship at Pebble Beach

Three First Tee teens ace holes 5, 7 and 17 at the iconic course

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (Sept. 25, 2022) – Seventy-eight First Tee teens from across the country had the opportunity to learn from the game’s legends and explore possibilities in golf and beyond during the PURE Insurance Championship impacting First Tee, an official PGA TOUR Champions event, which concluded today at Pebble Beach.

Bryson Hughes representing First Tee – North Florida and paired with Alex Cejka, and Megan Meng representing First Tee – Greater Trenton and paired with Charlie Wi, claimed the male and female Pro-Junior titles today, respectively. Hughes and Cejka finished 18-under and won in a scorecard playoff, while Meng and Wi capped off the event 22-under.

The PURE Insurance Championship, in its 19th year, brings 78 teens from First Tee chapters nationwide to Pebble Beach Golf Links and Spyglass Hill Golf Course. Throughout the week the teens apply character strengths to play at an elite level at an iconic golf course where they are paired with and mentored by a PGA TOUR Champions player and amateurs from the business world. The annual event, hosted by the Monterey Peninsula Foundation, was televised internationally on Golf Channel.

PURE Insurance Championship male and female Pro-Junior winners with Pro winner; R to L: Bryson Hughes, Steve Flesch and Megan Meng

Three teens in the field made holes-in-one at Pebble Beach during their tournament practice rounds – Cooper Groshart from San Louis Obispo, Calif. on #7 (video), Theresa Shaw from Auburn, Calif. on #17 (video) and Sophia Bardunias from San Ramon, Calif. on #5 (video).

“We are proud of all the teens who played with confidence and composure this week at the PURE Insurance Championship,” said Greg McLaughlin, First Tee CEO. “These young people exemplify the character and values we instill through the First Tee programs every day. A special congratulations to Bryson and Megan for winning the Pro-Junior titles. Thank you to our partners – PURE Insurance, PGA TOUR Champions, Chevron, Monterey Peninsula Foundation and Golf Channel – for making this a special week for 78 First Tee participants.”

Hughes is a 15-year-old sophomore at Creekside High School in St. Johns Country, Fla. where he holds a 3.8 GPA. He has been involved with First Tee – North Florida for nine years and playing in this tournament has been a goal since he first watched it on TV as a six-year-old. Hughes holds a +2.3 handicap and is the No. 1 player on the golf team at Creekside High School.

“Thanks to PURE Insurance and First Tee for an amazing experience,” said Hughes.  “Pebble Beach is golf heaven and it feels great to get a win at such a cool course. I’ve tried to make the most of this week by focusing on what I could learn from Alex and all the pros in the field. My biggest takeaway is how well they handle themselves during high-pressure situations.”

Meng is a 16-year-old junior at Hopewell Valley Central High School in Pennington, NJ where she holds a 4.5 GPA. She’s been involved with First Tee – Greater Trenton for nine years and has progressed from participant to volunteer junior coach mentoring the younger participants in the program. Meng holds a +2.3 handicap and aspires to play collegiate golf. She was named 2022 NJ.com Golfer of the Year.

“I’ve worked really hard to get to this moment,” said Meng. “But the biggest thing I’ve learned this week is that golf is meant to be fun. I’ve had a really great time and I’ve made memories I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life. I’d like to thank my pro Charlie, PURE Insurance and First Tee for this opportunity.

During the week, First Tee partners PURE Insurance and Chevron both hosted events to celebrate their commitment to First Tee’s mission and raise additional funds to support the First Tee College Scholarship Program. Leaders from PURE Insurance extended a surprise invitation to the scholarship program to 17-year-old Isabelle Junio, a high school senior from First Tee – Phoenix. The program pairs Scholars with a mentor and provides professional development workshops and financial assistance throughout the college experience.

First Tee is a youth development organization that teaches life skills and helps kids and teens build their strength of character through golf. The PURE Insurance Championship is one of several national opportunities provided by First Tee Headquarters to encourage and motivate participants as they progress through the program and toward higher education opportunities.

To access photos from the event, visit here. For more information on the tournament, visit PUREInsuranceChampionship.com. To learn more about First Tee and see the full field list, visit TheFirstTee.org.

***

About PGA TOUR First Tee Foundation (“First Tee”) 

First Tee (www.firsttee.org) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit youth development organization that is supported by the PGA TOUR. Its mission is to impact the lives of young people by providing educational programs that build character and instill life-enhancing values through the game of golf. In 2022, First Tee celebrates its 25th anniversary and reaching millions of youth through its network of 150 chapters, 10,000 schools and 1,700 youth centers. Headquartered in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, USA, programs are delivered in all 50 United States and select international locations. President George W. Bush serves as Honorary Chair.  

About Monterey Peninsula Foundation 

Monterey Peninsula Foundation is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization which donates funds from the proceeds of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am on the PGA TOUR and the PURE Insurance Championship Impacting the First Tee, a PGA TOUR Champions tournament. The Foundation focuses on improving the quality of life in Monterey, Santa Cruz, and San Benito counties.  

www.attpbgolf.com 

www.pureinsurancechampionship.com  

About PURE Insurance 

Privilege Underwriters Reciprocal Exchange (PURE) Insurance is a property and casualty insurance company designed exclusively for successful, responsible families. We opened for business more than 15 years ago with the goal of offering something different in the insurance space: a company focused on doing what’s right for our membership (policyholders), one that promotes transparency and alignment of interests, and delivers greater value. 

Today, after growing at least 15% in each year since we began, we are the most awarded insurer in our category, offer coverage in all 50 states that includes high value homeowners, automobile, collections, watercraft, personal excess liability, fraud & cyber and flood to a membership of more than 100,000 individuals and families. 
 
Pureinsurance.com | 888.813.7873 

About PGA TOUR Champions 

PGA TOUR Champions is a membership organization of professional golfers age 50 and older, including 34 members of the World Golf Hall of Fame. The Tour’s mission is to provide financial opportunities for its players, entertain and inspire its fans, deliver substantial value to its partners, create outlets for volunteers to give back and generate significant charitable and economic impact in tournament communities. Follow PGA TOUR Champions online at PGATOUR.com, at facebook.com/PGATOURChampions, on Twitter @ChampionsTour and on Instagram @pgatourchampions. 

All events are televised in the United States, with most receiving complete coverage on Golf Channel, the exclusive cable-television partner of PGA TOUR Champions. Tournament programming is available via 25+ TV linear partners in 145+ countries and territories, with 25 channels carrying long-form and/or highlights coverage, and 200+ hours of live coverage distributed in 135+ countries and territories. Programming is also available via the OTT platform GOLFTV powered by PGA TOUR in every market outside of the United States, excluding China and Korea, with live coverage distributed in 130+ countries and territories. 

Participant BJ Little shares love of golf: “I want that to be a piece of my legacy”

With a perfect 4.0 GPA and student government experience under his belt, BJ Little wants to change the world. He aims to become a criminal defense attorney, U.S. Senator and eventually, President of the United States.

But first, BJ is focused on serving his community. Starting with his high school.

When BJ entered his freshman year at Cristo Rey Atlanta Jesuit High School there was no golf team. BJ wasn’t going to sit idly by, he was determined to form a team.

“In my freshman year, the very first thing I did was ask for the school to start a golf team,” says BJ. “The school went through all of the necessary preparations for the golf team to start, but then Covid happened.”

For BJ, and most of the country, school was now virtual for the next year and half, halting all chances for the team.

But BJ says the pandemic did not discourage him from achieving his goal.

“Going into my junior year I went in with the same mindset I had freshman year. I asked the school for a golf team, and they delivered.”

BJ helped by recruiting players and finding a practice facility. Leveraging his go-to team, a concept taught and encouraged at First Tee, he smartly enlisted help from his coach and director of golf operations at First Tee – Metro Atlanta Jeff Dunovant. They worked out a plan that the school could use the chapter’s facilities while BJ secured players for the team.

In 2021, the team officially launched. But there was still much work to do.  

“BJ was the only player on the team who was not a beginner, so the practices would consist of BJ and I teaching the new players,” says Dunovant.

And for BJ, that’s what it’s what this is all about.

“In all honesty I just want people to have fun. The State and District titles will come with time. But ensuring students are happy and want to learn about golf is the most important thing to me. I hope that when I graduate Cristo Rey, students will still be playing golf. I want that to be a piece of my legacy to the school.”

BJ is one of 78 First Tee participants teeing off this Friday at the PURE Insurance Championship. The tournament pairs First Tee teens with PGA TOUR Champions players providing life-changing mentoring opportunities for the teens. This experience opens the participants’ eyes to the possibilities in golf and beyond as they are contemplating their future education and careers. 

The tournament airs on Golf Channel.

Overcoming Obstacles: First Tee Teen Going to Pebble Beach

Isabella Lohr was in for a big surprise earlier this year.

She met PGA TOUR player and First Tee alum Austin Smotherman during the AT&T Byron Nelson in May, where he told the 17-year-old from First Tee –  Dallas that she was selected to play in the 2022 PURE Insurance Championship.

Isabella is one of 78 First Tee participants who will tee off at Pebble Beach during the tournament, which will take place Sept. 23-25, 2022 and airs on Golf Channel.

“It’s the greatest honor anyone could receive, playing at Pebble Beach,” she said.

The welcome news came after a tough time for Isabella. She lost her childhood friend Dylan Dorrell on August 13, 2020, at the age of 17. He collapsed at a cross country practice and died at the hospital from an undetected heart condition. She says it’s the hardest experience she’s had to overcome.

“Grief was an obstacle I was not ready to face in life. It was a tremendous loss for me personally as every fond memory I had as a child included him.”

Shortly after Dylan’s passing, his parents created a foundation, #runforDylan in his memory.

“We were all still grieving but watching his parents turn their grief into a positive helped me gain a different perspective on life’s purpose.”

Isabella decided she too would honor his memory. In addition to nine years with First Tee, Isabella has been involved with Girl Scouts for more than a decade and decided to focus her Gold Award Project on raising funds for the #runforDylan Foundation.

Her project focused on organizing an annual 5K fun run to build awareness and gain funds for the foundation. More than 800 people participated in the inaugural event on the morning of November 6, 2021, raising close to $25,000. The proceeds will help fund AEDs at local parks in the community.

***

First Tee is celebrating its 25th anniversary of teaching life skills through the game of golf. Follow the PURE Insurance Championship at PGATOUR.com.

Four Teens Earn Selection into the First Tee College Scholarship Program

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FL.  (September 12, 2022) – First Tee participants from Minnesota, Massachusetts, San Francisco and Orange County, Calif. have each been awarded scholarships and selection in to the First Tee College Scholarship Program. The teens were selected following their participation in the First Tee Leadership Series and Summit in partnership with PGA TOUR Superstore based on their intentional and innovative commitment to personal growth and development as leaders throughout the course of the program.

First Tee and PGA TOUR Superstore congratulate:

  • Gabriella Mercado from First Tee – Orange County:  Gabriella is a 16-year-old high school junior from Placentia, Calif. She’s been involved with First Tee for seven years. She holds a 4.0 GPA and has aspirations of playing college golf and then becoming a sports lawyer.  Gabriella enjoys community service and in her first two years of high school accumulated more than 225 hours.
  • Jaylyn Remolona from First Tee – San Francisco: Jaylynis a 15-year-old high school junior from San Francisco.  Jaylyn attends Mercy High School in Burlingame has been involved with First Tee for seven years. She holds a 3.65 and outside of school her two hobbies are golf and singing.  
  • Kyzar Joshi from First Tee — Massachusetts: Kyzar is 17-year-old high school senior at Ashland High School in Ashland, Mass.He has been involved with First Tee for more than 10 years. He holds a 4.12 GPA and his career aspirations include playing college golf and majoring in finance or economics in college.  Kyzar serves as his class treasurer, and helped lead the Ashland High School golf team to the state section tournament. Kyzar is in the process of completing the ACE level of the First Tee Curriculum.
  • Saloni Somia from First Tee – Minnesota:  Saloni, from Plymouth, Minn.,is a17-year-old high school senior at Minnetonka High School. She has been involved with First Tee for four years. She holds a 4.0 GPA and serves as the President of her school’s National Honor Society, Captain of the Minnetonka Girls Golf Team, Founder and President of Everyone Eats (an organization that provides homeless youth allergy friendly foods) and co-founded a teen-led YouTube channel that gives good allergy advice to teens.

As First Tee Scholars, the teens will receive support throughout their post-graduate careers. The need and merit-based program provides scholarships up to $5,000 per year, renewable for up to four years of college admission. In addition, each scholar is paired with a dedicated, trained adult mentor who will help encourage and guide them throughout the college experience, including virtual and in person meetups. The program also provides professional development workshops held in person throughout the year.

“We are very proud of these four deserving teens from across the country,” said Greg McLaughlin, First Tee CEO. “They each showed dedication and impressive character traits throughout the Leadership Series and Summit.  They are leaders in their schools, at home and at their First Tee chapters. Through the First Tee College Scholarship Program, we will continue to support them in their personal and professional development and empower them to hone their leadership skills as they pursue their careers. We’re thankful for partners like PGA TOUR Superstore who support these game changing initiatives.”

The four teens were selected from the more than 250 participants who attended the Leadership Series and Summit.  Boasting an average GPA of 3.9 the teens meet the College Scholarship Program eligibility requirements which are based on academic performance, length and involvement in First Tee programs, financial need and commitment to volunteerism.

First Tee College Scholarship Program is made possible by donors and corporate partners who stand behind the program and First Tee’s mission. For more than a decade, PGA TOUR Superstore and PGA TOUR Superstore Chairman Arthur M. Blank have championed First Tee’s mission through charitable and in-kind donations across the country. In September 2020, PGA TOUR Superstore announced a new grant that will help First Tee reach more youth across the U.S. and strengthen its curriculum for teenage participants, including the development of the Leadership Series and Summit.

“We are committed to being a positive influence in our communities and truly believe in the positive impact sports has in developing and supporting youth,” said Dick Sullivan, President & CEO, PGA TOUR Superstore. “We are proud to partner with the First Tee to empower young people with values-based leadership skills that will help them succeed throughout the course of their life. Congratulations Gabriella, Jaylyn, Kyzar and Saloni.”

Photos and broll of the Scholars is available here.

The Key to Setting Reachable Goals

Have you ever thought about your achievements in life? What were the dreams and ambitions that you wanted to work towards? How did you get there? At First Tee, these are the type of questions we propose to kids and teens to help them understand the process of attaining goals; but to reach their goal, they must first understand how goals are formulated.  

A goal is something that you want to do, be or have, but it’s not something that you can do, be or have right at this moment. It’s something you must work to get in the future, and you can apply that to any challenge in life. For example, if your child wants to achieve Honor Roll and receive all As and Bs in school this year, what would that require them to do? They would need to do well on tests and assignments. How would they accomplish that? Encourage them to take good notes, turn in their work on time, and study for their tests. 

For kids, having guidelines or tools can effectively help them identify their goals and make them feel comfortable about reaching them. At First Tee, we utilize four guidelines to do this. Talk to your child about the dreams they currently have and try these out for yourself. 

Four Guidelines for Setting a Reachable Goal: 

  • The goal is Positive: 
    • I want to achieve a passing score of 80% or higher vs. I don’t want to fail this test 
  • The goal is Important to You: 
    • The goal needs to be important to you, not to someone else. You should be able to explain why you want to achieve it and why it will make a difference for you. 
  • The goal is Specific: 
    • You want to know exactly what you’re working toward. 
  • The goal is Under your Control: 
    • Your efforts will allow you to achieve this goal vs. Something that is out of your control like becoming famous or winning the lottery. 

Goal setting is a strategy kids and teens will apply for the rest of their life. When we set our goals, we want to be very clear about them so that we have the best chance to achieve them. The key to remember is that goals come in all shapes and sizes. Just because it doesn’t work for someone else doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve it. Your kids will learn from both their achievements and setbacks, but as they begin to set personal goals, they will learn and grow in ways that you did not think possible. 

Want to get involved with what we are building at First Tee? Click here to find out more. 

A Game for All

First Tee Chapters provide inclusive golf and character building programs for all kids and teens 

By Megan Hart, First Tee HQ 

About a quarter of Americans have a disability, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but as many organizations have redoubled their focus on diversity, equity and inclusion in recent years, this group can often go overlooked in discussions on the topic. 

For 25 years, First Tee has shown up every day, determined to ensure that every kid and teen feel welcome and included. First Tee – Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky is just one example of our Chapters who promote inclusive programs.  

The Chapter partners with organizations like Els for Autism, Special Olympics of Hamilton County and SCRATCHgolf to serve players of all abilities and skill levels, proving golf is for everyone. 

Thanks in part to the United States Golf Association’s IDEA Grant, the chapter has been able to expand its opportunities for all kids. The IDEA Grant was created to promote inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility efforts at the local golf level. This grant program awarded $200,000 from USGA to First Tee Chapters across the country in 2021. 

“USGA’s support is a game changer for the youth in the communities that we serve,” said Greg McLaughlin, First Tee CEO. “With these grants, our chapters are opening the door to even more youth, especially in underserved and underrepresented communities, to explore the possibilities in golf and beyond as they build their character and life lessons through the game.” 

The USGA’s efforts to make golf more inclusive go far beyond its work with First Tee. The association will host the inaugural U.S. Adaptive Open at Pinehurst this July, which will feature the globe’s top golfers with disabilities, including those with limb impairments, intellectual and neurological impairments and seated golfers. Among the field is First Tee — Tampa Bay alum Joey Hill and First Tee — Triangle alum Zachary Duncan! 

‘You just have to love the kids and find out what they need’ 

First Tee – Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky is focused on reaching children from all backgrounds and abilities, and with the help of the USGA and other organizations, they have found creative ways to become more accessible. 

The Chapter will bring back programming for kids with autism this fall after it was put on hold by the COVID-19 pandemic. Staff first trained with Els for Autism in 2018.  

Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky also partners with Special Olympics of Hamilton County to introduce participants to golf. The program attracted about 20 kids per year before the pandemic, and it’ll return this summer for a weekly series.  

Three kids have transitioned from the Chapter’s Special Olympics program to its golf course program, and Executive Director Alicia Yund recalls seeing a Special Olympics participant return for a community field day hosted by the chapter. 

“It was cool to see him thriving and see how all the other kids were in awe of him and his ability to hit the ball,” she said. “It’s great when all kids are included.” 

Wendy Mockabee manages the School Program at First Tee – Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky, which integrates First Tee’s life skills program into elementary and middle schools in the community. One of the participating schools exclusively serves special needs students, and it’s been inspiring to see how teachers have adapted First Tee programming to meet the needs of the kids. For example, teachers attached a leaf blower to a golf club so children with mobility challenges could instead push a button to move the ball. 

In addition, the chapter hosts programming for kids with life-threatening and chronic health challenges, including SCRATCHgolf. In partnership with Cincinnati Children’s Heart Institute and the Congenital Heart Alliance of Cincinnati, the chapter recently held a multiday camp for kids with heart defects, who are then provided scholarships for future programming. 

“We’ve been very focused on making sure all kids have a safe space, an environment where we’re prepared to make any modifications necessary to make them feel welcome and part of First Tee community,” Yund said. “Weaving accessibility and inclusion into programming — outside of finding more volunteers — it’s not a daunting or taxing effort. You just need to love the kids and find out what they need.” 

A number of First Tee chapters within the network offer youth development and programming for participants with disabilities. Contact your local chapter to learn more. 

PGA TOUR Professional Austin Smotherman Joins First Tee as an Official Ambassador

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FL., (July 12, 2022) – PGA TOUR professional and First Tee alumnus Austin Smotherman has been named an official ambassador of First Tee. A Loomis, Calif. native, Smotherman participated in the Greater Sacramento chapter from age seven until 18 and developed his golf game and character during his time in the program. As an ambassador, Smotherman will showcase his involvement with the youth development organization and the impact it has on his life to help inspire the next generation.

Smotherman is debuting the First Tee logo on his bag this week during the Barracuda Championship in support of the program and its mission to empower kids and teens to build their strength of character through golf. As an ambassador, he will also give his time to meet with participants, donors, and chapter leadership to inspire more support of its mission and participation of the program.

“I’m honored to take on this role as First Tee Ambassador,” said Smotherman. “Looking back at my time as a participant, I really value the balance of developing my character while I was also developing my golf swing. Those experiences and the skills I acquired helped shape who I am as a person and now as a professional athlete. They still guide me today as I navigate the ups and downs of this game that I love.”

“On behalf of the PGA TOUR, congratulations to Austin Smotherman on today’s announcement regarding his new role as official ambassador of First Tee,” said PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan. “Competing on the PGA TOUR requires hard work and perseverance and his story and the character strengths he developed during his time in First Tee will help inspire many kids and teens as they explore the many opportunities golf can provide. Austin paying it forward is another example of what makes the PGA TOUR – and our members  – so special.”

During his time in First Tee, Smotherman progressed through the program, transitioning from a participant to a junior coach and mentor to the younger kids. In 2009 and 2010 he played in the PURE Insurance Championship Impacting First Tee and in 2011 he earned First Tee – Greater Sacramento’s Core Value Award.

In 2016, he graduated from Southern Methodist University where he played on the men’s golf team. After competing for two seasons on PGA TOUR Latinoamérica (2017 –2018) he transitioned to the Korn Ferry Tour (2019-2021) until he earned his PGA TOUR card in August 2021. Smotherman is the third First Tee alum, following Scott Langley (retired) and Cameron Champ, to achieve this milestone.

“We are proud to welcome Austin as our First Tee ambassador,” said Greg McLaughlin, First Tee CEO. “This is a special moment as we celebrate our 25th anniversary and the lasting impact we are having on youth and alumni across the country as they pursue their careers and passions, both on and off the golf course.  His commitment to giving back and dedication to living out his values is an inspiration and will impact many lives.”

Launching in 1997, First Tee is celebrating 25 years of enabling kids to build the strength of character that empowers them through a lifetime of new challenges. By seamlessly integrating the game of golf with a life skills curriculum, First Tee creates active learning experiences that build inner strength, self-confidence and resilience that kids can carry to everything they do. These character education programs are offered at golf courses, schools and youth centers in all 50 states and at six international locations.

About PGA TOUR First Tee Foundation (“First Tee”)  

First Tee (www.firsttee.org) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit youth development organization that is supported by the PGA TOUR. Its mission is to impact the lives of young people by providing educational programs that build character and instill life-enhancing values through the game of golf. In 2022, First Tee celebrates its 25th anniversary and reaching millions of youth through its network of 150 chapters, 10,000 schools and 1,700 youth centers. Headquartered in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, USA, programs are delivered in all 50 United States and select international locations. President George W. Bush serves as Honorary Chair.  

Contacts:
Sara Henika
[email protected]
(904)881-7398

JP Ray – First Tee Alumnus

What happens when you provide free programs? The results are game-changing. 

With support from Southern Hills Country Club, host of this week’s PGA Championship, First Tee – Tulsa provides free character-building programs to everyone who walks through their door. JP Ray is one of many participants impacted by the program.

Developing Positive Mental Health

May is Mental Health Awareness Month – a great time to check in with yourself and consider how you might be able to support others. 

“Showing up for others means that you are there for someone when they need you,” explained Emma Laker, a participant with First Tee — Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky. “You show kindness by helping others and not just thinking of yourself. You give people the respect they deserve.” 

Mental health challenges can affect anyone – from professional golfers to friends and family. In 2019, a third of high school students reported persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  

All of that is to say: If you’re struggling, you’re not alone. 

Be there for your team and ask for help when you need it 

Emma said it feels good to have people she can count on. “It shows me that I am surrounded by friends and family that love me no matter what. I can look up to my friends and family to help me through the rough times,” she said. 

Who is on your go-to team? Maybe it’s family, friends, teachers and coaches. Building strong relationships is one of the best strategies for improving your mental health, according to the CDC. 

Game Changers seek out good groups of people that lift them up and allow them to feel safe to be themselves. 

If you’re feeling alone, there are organizations that can help

Talk about your feelings 

It takes lots of courage to speak out about mental health issues you may be facing. By sharing your challenges, you’re not only helping yourself but others, too.  

Recently prominent members of the sports world, from Simone Biles to Michael Phelps, have talked about their own struggles and the importance of destigmatizing mental health challenges. No one should feel embarrassed or scared to acknowledge the difficulties they’re facing. 

Talking about your problems is the best way to find help! Some mental health situations do require bigger interventions, which is why it’s important to talk to adults about how you’re feeling. 

Develop a healthy mindset 

As we’ve all seen over the last few years, there are periods when unexpected challenges appear. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many kids experienced the difficulties that come with virtual school, family financial troubles and even losing loved ones.  

Fortunately, there are ways to help prepare for tough times.  

  • Stay positive: Don’t be too hard on yourself when things don’t go perfectly and take a few moments to feel proud of your victories – no matter how small. 
  • Do your best: Giving your best effort helps you realize your capabilities. 
  • Give back: Emma volunteers at her church and school, and it feels amazing, she said. “I realize how extremely lucky and blessed I am to have all the love and support of my family and friends. When I am helping others, I feel like I am giving them some of my joy and happiness.” 
  • Take ownership: It’s normal to feel anxious sometimes but remember that you have control over many of the challenges you face. Practicing problem solving tools like STAR – Stop, Think, Anticipate, Respond – can help you feel empowered when future difficulties arise. 

Building Understanding, Trust and Empathy with Active Listening

Every conversation can be an opportunity to learn something new, build trust with someone, and deepen connections. This happens when we build the skill of active listening and learn to treat listening as an active process – not a passive one. 

What is Active Listening?

Active listening is a way of listening and responding to another person that improves mutual understanding. It’s about being present, listening to understand (not respond), and showing active interest and engagement in the dialogue.  

Why does it matter? 

Active listening is an important skill for all of us to cultivate. Not only is it an important leadership skill, it has been shown to promote mindful thinking, can reduce anxiety and depression, helps build relationships and can promote empathy.  

How do we practice it?

At First Tee, we use a process called A-L-R to help build connection through active listening. This helps us to deepen conversations, keep them going, and get the most out of them. Here’s how A-L-R works:

  • Asking questions: Asking thoughtful questions is not only a way you can keep the conversation going, but it gives you a deeper understanding of the person or topic you are engaging with. 
    • Helpful Tip: Be curious. Try asking questions that dig a bit deeper: How did they feel in that moment? What was going on in their minds during that experience? What would they do differently the next time? These make the conversation richer, rather than closed-ended questions that are typically answered with a simple Yes or No.  
  • Listening to understand: When you ask a question, it is important to listen carefully to what the person is saying. We can sometimes be fixated on what we are going to say next, or when it’s our turn to jump back into the conversation, but try not to think about what you are going to say next.. Your focus is on them and their perspective rather than your own. 
    • Helpful Tip: Make an effort to try to clear your mind first of any distracting thoughts. It can help to jot down a mental or physical note of things on your mind in order to give your full attention. 
  • Reflect & respond to the reply: Keep the conversation going by responding in a way that connects with what they just said. You can try to restate in your own words what the person said, share what you think or feel about it, or ask another open-ended question that connects with what the person just said.
    • Helpful Tip: Show engagement and interest in what they are saying: look them in the eye when they are talking, use body language like nodding your head.


Active listening requires work, but you’ll be surprised at how much reward there is when you approach conversations and communication with this skill. Active listening is just one of the skills we are supporting kids and teens to build at First Tee. Click here to find out more about our programs.