Success Without Talent by Coach Jeff Lebedda

Categories: Blog

As a First Tee coach, I have had the privilege of working with a good number of our older kids in our Birdie and Teen clinics.  I see so much potential in all of these kids, and that goes way beyond what I see on the golf course.  I also see that some of these kids are not realizing the potential that they have.  

Some of our older participants have unmistakable talent, some have less.  But does talent, or lack of, determine success?  Let’s explore some ways that our teens can find success by discussing some things that don’t take any talent at all.


Being on time doesn’t mean getting to a 5:00 clinic at 5:00.  Being ten minutes early (minimum) for any clinic will do nothing but benefit a participant.  Being early allows for the participant to hit a few balls, interact with other kids, and have some one on one time with the coaches before the clinic begins.  And nothing drives a coach more crazy than having kids show up halfway through the introduction at the beginning of a clinic.  Life happens, and sometimes you will be late, but being early for clinics (and life events as well)  will do nothing but benefit the participant in the end.


Being prepared is just another way of being early.  Kids should take the time before they leave the house to make sure that they have everything they need for a clinic.  Clinics are once a week – take the time somewhere in that 7 day window the get ready for the next clinic.  Prepare like one would prepare for the next day of school.  A student wouldn’t leave the house without their books and pencils (and phone), would they?


You can’t always control the things that happen around you in your life but you can always choose the way you respond to them.  We all have bad days and it is always in our power to put that behind us when we get to our First Tee clinic.  Clinics should always be fun and coaches do the best they can to ensure that happens.  But if participants don’t come in being coachable, then progress won’t take place.  Just like in school, participants need to accept that they are not the smartest person in the room.  Coaches and volunteers have a wealth of golf and life experience that can do nothing but benefit a participant.  Being flexible and maybe trying a new drill that makes a student feel awkward or odd might be uncomfortable, but it may lead to new discoveries that lead to good changes and greater success.  At The First Tee, we say, “Be patient, be positive, and ask for help”.


In Par level, we talk about the core value of Perseverance – to keep going despite obstacles that may be in your way.  Having a good work ethic is a choice.  It’s a way of life.  No matter what you are doing, it’s a desire to do your best and overcome.  It’s about making the best decisions that give yourself the best chance to succeed.  Arnold Palmer said, “Golf is a game of managing your mistakes.”  Isn’t that true of life as well?


For some participants, a First Tee golf clinic is just something that they do once a week, along with 10 other sports and activities that fill their week.  Variety is a good thing, but if you want success in anything, including golf, you need to do more.  Touching your golf clubs once a week is just like doing math once a week – you probably won’t be very good at it.  Frequently visiting the driving range or practice putting green during the week will only serve to reinforce skills and lessons learned at clinics.  Also, doing some things on their own allows participants to form questions to ask the coaches the next time they see them.  In my own life, I have personally seen how doing extra gets you ahead.  Sometimes your “extra” may be working for little or no pay.  I looked back and realized that 4 jobs I have had in my life started with me volunteering my time to the company or working as an intern.  I know it works – I started out as a First Tee volunteer and it eventually led to my current full time position.

As you have seen, talent alone doesn’t determine success -it takes more.  At The First Tee, we teach participants the 9 Core Values – Confidence, Responsibility, Judgment, Respect, Courtesy, Honesty, Integrity, Perseverance and Sportsmanship.  If participants are open to learning, these values take no talent to acquire and no talent to demonstrate.  But these values will take them further in life than they possibly could imagine.

To learn more about the 9 Core Values and other ways the First Tee can put your kids on the road to success, check out our upcoming schedule.

Submitted by Coach Jeff Lebedda, Southern Regional Manager

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