Program Report: Doug Hodges – SwingPal

Doug Hodges is a Brit who came to this country with little money in his pocket but found his way into the business of oil commodity trading. To fill a personal need for more community involvement he found Big Brother Big Sisters to be something that was very fulfilling.

Doug wore a PGA shirt but didn’t say much about his golfing background. In fact, he pointed out that the bad news was that anyone expecting the program to be about golf was going to be disappointed. The good news was that he was sure that what the program was about, could improve a golf game.

A little online research did make the golfing connection. As one of over 29 thousand PGA professionals Doug was the Founder of ThinkWorkPlay a golf coaching business. For more than 20 years he researched and studied the mental aspects of golf and ways to achieve optimal performance.

Improving performance in such a mentally challenging game as golf and mentoring youth in Big Brother Big Sister programs gave birth to SwingPals, where golf is used to teach life skills.

Currently the SwingPals formula is being applied to four of Durham’s middle schools, Neal, Lowe’s Grove, Brogden, and Shepard. Plans are in the works to add Githens.  About 1000 students are served including all sixth graders in the four schools.  The 6th graders all get 5 to 10 sessions, 5 as part of Physical Ed classes and the rest at Hillandale Golf Course. Students can then apply for additional instruction in subsequent grades eventually aging out in the 12th grade.

A significant part of the SwingPals program is mindfulness and emotional regulation which means responding positively to stress, making good decisions and motivation. The program “demonstrates how synchronicity of the heart, mind, and body assists learning, goal-setting, and relationship building skills.”

The quote is from the SwingPals website which provides much more detail about the program and some great testimony from the kids themselves about the program.

The latest wrinkle in the program is to try to measure and document the impacts of the program, a significant step necessary to continue to expand the program and duplicate it in other places.

Doug also recognized two members of his Board at SwingPals that he brought with him. One was Dan Hill, who long time members remember as a former Rotarian and Durham businessman active in politics, sports and other civic endeavors. The other was Micah Copeland, the Principal at Shepard Middle School, who took the podium to endorse the program.

Doug wound up the presentation with a pitch for support. SwingPals is a 501 (c) 3 organization that can accept financial contributions, of course, but they are also looking for volunteers and mentors.

Submitted by Jay Zenner

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