The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

November 15, 2013

Park Middle students take swing at new sport

By Brandi Underwood
The Register-Herald

BECKLEY — Park Middle Schoolers put new spin on America’s pastime in gym class Thursday when the baseball bat was swapped out for a golf club and home plate became a tee box. The result was a baseball/golf hybrid that had the students rounding bases and yelling, “Fore!”

While getting kids out to a golf course isn’t exactly an easy task, modifying the sport for the indoors can still allow kids a beneficial exposure to the sport, explained health and physical education teacher Angie Culicerto.

Richard Kissinger, director of programming for The First Tee of West Virginia, gave students an introductory lesson to the sport, including tips on how to properly grip a club, swing and follow through.

But according to Kiss-inger, the lesson taken away from the activity included more than just style and technique.

“The First Tee believes that golf is the elite vehicle to help teach life skills,” Kissinger said. “It’s a character-building program.”

Those life skills are gained through practicing The First Tee’s Nine Core Values — honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy and judgment — which represent some of the positive values associated with the sport, Kissinger explained.

Culicerto said she is enthusiastic to incorporate golf into her gymnasium more often in the future. She recently applied for a grant that, if received, will be used to purchase indoor golf equipment for her students.

“P.E. has changed so much in recent years,” Culicerto explained. “It’s not just about traditional sports anymore, but has now shifted to also teach lifetime sports like golf and tennis.”

This semester, about 200 kids were able to participate in Kissinger’s golf instruction. Next semester, he’ll be back to teach the other half of the student body, and in the meantime, he’ll be making rounds to other elementary and middle schools across the county.

“The ultimate goal of The First Tee of West Virginia is to have programming in every elementary school in the state,” Kissinger said.

Culicerto said she’s using Kissinger’s instruction as a lesson for herself as well, as she’s working to become more knowledgeable in the sport in order to integrate the sport into her P.E. curriculum as a permanent staple.

“My goal is to expose them to everything, and hopefully they’ll find something that they enjoy and are passionate enough about to continue participating in throughout their lifetime,” Culi-certo said.

— E-mail: bunderwood@ register-herald.com