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Junior golf takes major strides in Canadian indigenous communities

Canadian culture extends its arms to welcome people of all race, ethnicity and background. A nation rooted in diversity, accessibility and inclusiveness has molded Canada into the one of the most accepting nations in the world. Now golf—with a new pilot program aligning junior golf life skills with student learning outcomes—is taking steps to make the sport more accessible in First Nations communities. 

Golf Canada, working in conjunction with the PGA of Canada and The University of Ottawa, has partnered with Indigenous Northern Affairs of Canada (INAC) to pilot the Future Links Driven by Acura Golf in Schools program at Alexander First Nations, a community northwest of Edmonton, Alta.

A first of its kind pilot program integrating golf’s Life Skills with student learning outcomes, the Golf in Schools pilot ran from January through April at the Kipohtakaw Education Centre, supporting school curriculum and community engagement of students through golf.

For Golf Canada Chief Sport Officer Jeff Thompson, the Alexander First Nations pilot is an important step and learning opportunity in the continued growth of golf among underrepresented communities across Canada.

“First Nations engagement with golf represents an important growth opportunity for our sport in communities across Canada and we are extremely proud to be conducting this initiative in partnership with Indigenous Northern Affairs of Canada,” said Thompson. “Earlier this year Golf Canada proudly embraced a new policy around Inclusiveness, Accessibility and Diversity. This pilot program supported by INAC is a meaningful application of that policy which we believe has great potential to connect Golf Canada and our partners with more First Nations golfers and make the sport more inclusive.”  

In February, the PGA of Canada partnered with Golf Canada to host a Community Golf Coach workshop with eight participants at the education centre in Alexander. Over two days, teachers and community members were trained in golf fundamentals and tactics to help establish a safe, welcoming environment for junior golfers.

“With many people in Alexander golfing regularly and loving the sport, it made sense to partner with the PGA of Canada and Golf Canada to allow for growth of the sport in the community,” said Jody Kootenay, Director of Education with Alexander First Nations. “We have some amazing youth who could very well take their love of golf and make it more competitive. We wanted to allow for the sport to have not only coaches available to the youth, but to start showcasing pathways for the golfer who is just starting out—we wanted to ensure our children had that chance.”

An important feature of the Golf in Schools program is the Life Skills component which focuses on transferrable lessons—both interpersonal and intrapersonal—that can be applied outside the golf space in peer groups, at home, and within the community.

The Intrapersonal Life Skills—perseverance, goal-setting and emotional regulation—are meant to instill focus while the Interpersonal Life Skills—honesty, teamwork and respect—embody a sense of sportspersonship. 

The University of Ottawa led the introduction of Life Skills integration with Golf in Schools and have since identified areas where the transfer of Life Skills are made in everyday activity. A student survey was conducted prior to the Alexander First Nations pilot to further the understanding of Life Skills applications in Canadian communities.

“Working with the Alexander First Nations was a meaningful step forward as we look to further expand the reach of golf in Canada,” said Glenn Cundari, Technical Director with the PGA of Canada. “We both learned a lot from each other and had some good laughs along the way.”

More than 50 students at the Kipohtakaw Education Centre are participating in the daily Golf in Schools unit during their Physical Education classes. Golf Canada and the PGA of Canada are working to organize a teaching professional to deliver an in-school lesson as part of the Get Linked initiative, ultimately strengthening the golf community in Morinville.

The Golf in Schools program is equipped with a teacher-friendly learning resource to assist in the delivery of lesson plans for six components: Learning Outcomes, Equipment, Warm-Up, Task Development, Closure and Method of Assessment. The kit includes safe, age-appropriate golf equipment for all three tiers of the program: elementary, intermediate and high school.

As the Alexander First Nations pilot nears completion, Golf Canada is investigating opportunities to partner with additional First Nations communities to help grow the game. Since the launch of the pilot, nearly a dozen First Nations communities have expressed interest in integrating golf into their community programming. 

To learn more about the First Nations golf initiatives or submit an application for consideration, please contact Adam Hunter, Golf Canada’s Manager, Grow the Game at ahunter@golfcanada.ca

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