Today, marks International Women’s Day, a day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women. In a report released by the National Golf Foundation in April of 2017, the number of females in junior golf now a third of all junior golfers, nearly double of what it was in 1995. Girls under the age of 18 is the fastest-growing segment of the golf population.
To celebrate today, we asked Sherry Dircks, the Program Director of The First Tee of Central Florida and the Site Director of LPGA-USGA Girls Golf of Central Florida, a couple of questions about the game of golf and its importance in the growth and development of young girls. Sherry has been a professional golfer since 1990 and a Class A Member of the LPGA Teaching and Club Professional Division since 1993. She has had roles as a Director of Instruction at a number of courses, taught at John Jacobs Golf Schools, worked for the Executive Women’s Golf Association, and has held numerous roles throughout The First Tee and LPGA-USGA Girls Golf.
Being a long-time participant in the golf industry, how have you seen the importance of golf in young girls’ lives?
Whether its golf or any sport, statistics show that girls who play sports are less likely to be involved in an unintended pregnancy; more likely to get better grades in school, less likely to use illicit drugs, and more likely to graduate than girls who do not play sports. Additionally, young girls who play sports have higher levels of confidence and self-esteem and lower levels of depression.
Research shows that among senior business women in the C-suite today, 94% played sports and over half played at a university level — suggesting a strong correlation between their success in sports and their success in business.
At The First Tee, the biggest change I have seen in our young girls through their participation in the game of golf is their development of confidence and the belief in themselves. The longer we can retain young girls in The First Tee and Girls Golf, we have seen their confidence and their belief in themselves grow and therefore they feel can achieve and do anything they want to do.
I believe a perfect example of the importance of golf in the lives of young girls is this quote we received from one of our high school participants.
“I usually had doubted my decisions and ability to be able to be great at golf or any other sport. I typically was hesitant to participate in any activity because I didn’t feel that I would be good enough. Today, I am now able to know that I am worth it! I can and should participate even if I am not familiar with an activity. Through the First Tee, golf has taught me that with practice and hard work you can accomplish most anything. The First Tee’s Nine Core Values has served as a guideline on how I can succeed in life to better believe in myself and believe in others. Being able to go out on the golf course and hit a great shot gives me the confidence that I have come a long way and I could do pretty much anything I set my mind to. The coaches and participants are my family and they support me and cheer me on. They never judge or humiliate me; instead they provide a safe environment where I can be comfortable to be me!”
With the rise of LPGA Superstars, what do you see for the future of women’s golf?
With many of the LPGA’s Superstars underneath the age of 30 and embracing social media, young girls now have the ability to follow their favorite players as they travel the world and learn more about them than ever before. Through their social media presence as well as increased television exposure, young girls now have the opportunity to see what possibilities are out there for them. And while for some it may be the opportunity that they can play the game professionally, others may learn about different career opportunities throughout the industry such as fashion and design, golf course architecture, as well as equipment manufacturing. I believe that as this generation of young girls become adults, we will begin to see more and more females land leadership roles in the golf industry and the board room.
What is the importance of the LPGA-USGA Girls Golf Program to The First Tee of Central Florida?
Our LPGA-USGA Girls Golf Program is the perfect complement to our The First Tee Programs, providing girl-centric environments to learn the game of golf. Participating in our Girls Golf Clinics provide girls a great opportunity for girls to be girls, to socialize, participate non-golf opportunities where they create lasting friendships, and just be themselves. While our classes in The First Tee far exceed industry average (37% versus an industry average of 25%), our classes still are predominately male dominated. During our Girls-Golf Classes our girls don’t have to worry about the boys being there. Fun is our focus for our Girls Golf Program, and, once we have the girls’ attention, our golf instruction helps prepare them for a lifetime of enjoyment of the game while also inspiring them to feel confident, build positive self-esteem and live active and healthy lives.
Why is it important for young girls to have accessibility to programs like Girls-Golf?
As I previously mentioned, participation in sports, particularly golf can have positive effects on the growth and development of young girls. By providing girl-centric programs led by strong female role models, we provide girls with the platform they need to become high-achievers in their personal goals, boost their self-esteem and experience competition in a fun, supportive environment.
Additionally the impact of participation in sports for a young girl can have results far beyond their formative years. Executive women believed that sports helped them in a variety of ways including:
- 86% of the women felt sports helped them to become more disciplined;
- 69% of the women felt sports helped them develop leadership skills;
- 68% of the women believed their past in sports helped them learn to deal with failure; and
- 59% of the women thought sports gave them a competitive edge over others in the business world.