Learning About Life and Leadership Skills at The First Tee Academy

Categories: I am the First Tee
Participants at the 2015 Life Skills and Leadership Academy in Blaine, Minnesota
The First Tee Life Skills & Leadership Academy participants

Congratulations to the 96 junior golfers from The First Tee network
who attended the 2015
Life Skills & Leadership Academy!

These teens had the opportunity to develop and hone skills to become leaders in their chapters, schools and communities all while experiencing championship golf, career exploration and dorm living.

Deion Shepherd, an Ace-level participant from The First Tee of Raritan Valley, shares what he learned during the event. Also, be sure to check out this clip about the Academy that appeared on Golf Channel!

Deion Shephard
Deion Shephard

“What I enjoyed most about The First Tee Life Skills & Leadership Academy was that we were able to immediately use the skills we learned and take them to the golf course.

I also got a lot out of listening to the inspiring speakers who generously shared their wisdom and experience with our group:

  • Steve Keating from [The First Tee Trustee] Toro talked to us about leadership development;
  • Anton Vincent, Vice President; President, Snacks Division, spoke to The First Tee Life Skills & Leadership Academy participants about leading through change and making meaningful connections
    Anton Vincent, Vice President; President, Snacks Division of General Mills

    Anton Vincent, Mark Wilhite and Maerenn Jepsen from General Mills talked to us about heir involvement with the Nature Valley First Tee Open at Pebble Beach, leading through change, making meaningful connections, the importance of branding, how they relate to customers, and new developments in healthy snack options;

  • Jordan Leopold, NHL defenseman for the Minnesota Wild, shared his story of perseverance through adversity;
    Jordan Leopold from the NHL's Minnesota Wild
    Jordan Leopold from the NHL’s Minnesota Wild


  • The First Tee Coaches led us in activities about implementing life skills in our lives, like STAR [Stop, Think, Anticipate and Respond], planning and decision-making.

In addition, I enjoyed the extra activities we did because it gave us a chance to experience cool new things, such as touring: the [The First Tee Trustee] Toro headquarters, the General Mills campus including the Betty Crocker Test Kitchen, and behind-the-scenes at Target Field.

The Academy taught me golf skills that I could use on the golf course to help improve my game and lower my scores. The skills I learned helped make the game seem much easier, and made it less stressful.

Deion address 800 attendees of The First Tee Network Meeting in Dallas
Deion address 800 attendees of The First Tee Network Meeting in Dallas

In addition, it taught me leadership skills that I can take with me for the rest of my life. Skills that I can use when getting a job. I am honored to have gone to the Life Skills & Leadership Academy and I will never forget the skills I learned and the new friends I made.”

Deion has been a participant for five years and has volunteered more than 200 hours at his chapter where he is an assistant golf coach at the summer camps. He was selected as one of eight finalists for The First Tee Outstanding Participant Award. Deion plays on the varsity golf team (was awarded with the 2014 All Conference Athlete for golf) and participates in his school’s Computer Programming Club. 

The First Tee wants to give a big thank you to the hosts of this year’s Academy: The First Tee of Blaine, The First Tee of St. Paul, The First Tee of Three Rivers, and the National Sports Center.

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