Bennie’s First Tee Leadership Summit Experience!

The First Tee Leadership Summit, in partnership with PGA TOUR Superstore, is designed to strengthen the participants’ leadership skills through dynamic outdoor and team-building activities with the intended purpose of personal growth, education and coming together to make a difference. After participating in a 5-week local Leadership Series available to First Tee Orange County teens, Bennie was chosen as one of our chapter’s nominees to be considered for the Summit. He was then selected as one of just 40 First Tee participants in the nation to take part in this amazing opportunity and this is his story:

“The First Tee PGATSS Leadership Series with the local chapter was an amazing experience for me! The best part of this training was that I got to know myself much better than I did before. I never before had a chance to seriously envision my future career, but now, I feel that I am pretty clear about it. Related to that, I now know clearly what my key values and strengths are – this knowledge is beneficial for a lifetime. This training has really helped me to create a solid vision of what I want to be when I grow up. I would say that the most valuable experience for me was creating a presentation centered around an envisioned career. This experience gave me a chance to do an in-depth examination of the path to become a sport psychologist, which is a career that, until recently, I did not have a very clear idea about. I was able to look into the work of my role model, Dr. Bob Rotella, and analyzed how my values and strengths could tie in to my envisioned career. I also found out what goals I should set for myself and what degrees I needed to earn in order to get to the top of my goal ladder – becoming a mind doctor.

        The week of the First Tee PGATSS National Leadership Summit in Montana was undoubtedly the best week of my life. The lectures and activities at the leadership summit taught eye-opening concepts that I will forever hold dear as I continue my journey to become the leader that I aspire to be. The lecturers, including retired NFL quarterback Michael Vick, at the summit were excellent in sharing their inspiring stories with us, and the activities, including archery and horseback riding, were so effective in reinforcing those concepts. Many conversations, including all of the lectures, during the week were very helpful to me, but I particularly loved PGATSS Partnership Marketing Director and former Alabama running back Ralph Stokes’s talk about his experiences. First and foremost, I loved his interpretation of “success”—how it is individualized and that one has achieved success when one has earned the right to decide (for example, if my goal were to make the PGA Tour, I will have been successful when I have earned the right to CHOOSE whether or not I join the Tour). As for his stories, I found his insightful stories extremely intriguing, especially because he was a pioneer in what he did. Mr. Stokes brought up a really good point regarding representation. He explained that representation can be important but is not absolutely necessary. From football to business sales, Mr. Stokes was “One of the First.” His stories really captivated me and inspired me to aim higher. I liked his story about being a black player on the Alabama football team in the 1970s, but I especially loved Mr. Stokes’s story about his sales. After he was unsuccessful on his first sale, his boss told him to not worry about it because his boss believed that the sale was unsuccessful just because the targeted buyer was racist. Mr. Stokes refused to accept his boss’s advice and persevered through the setback. He ended up making a sale to the imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan! Amazing! When I asked Mr. Stokes about why he was so determined to persevere, he gave a very powerful answer: truth. He sided with truth. He knew that the failure of the first sale was really his own fault and knew that he could improve on his mistakes so that he could achieve success. His level of honesty is TRULY (no pun intended) inspiring. 

Having gone through this amazing leadership training process, I feel that I am a different person now. My number one takeaway from all of the training is this: I must explore more to achieve my full potential. I used to always underestimate my potential and would hold myself back from achieving goals that I thought I could not achieve, but now I know that I can achieve more than I think. Jumping off the top of a 25-foot-high pole at the summit certainly taught me that! I am now stronger and am ready to be a leader to face life’s many tough challenges.”

If you want to help build more game changers like Bennie then consider supporting First Tee – Orange County today!