In the 1990s Rachel Hetherington was ranked number two in Australian women’s golf, competing with the world s best female golfers on the LPGA tour. Rachel would go on to record eight LPGA victories and 11 victories worldwide. Today, alongside husband and former test cricketer Greg Ritchie, Rachel operates the Rachel Hetherington Golf Driving Range at Tweed Heads in northern NSW, giving one-on-one sessions to conduct private lessons and run children s coaching clinics. Rachel also shares her love of the sport with children in the local community and visits local primary schools and after-school care centres as a community coach in the Australian Government s Active After-school Communities (AASC) program. We caught up with Rachel to find out how she got involved in the AASC program. How did you find out about the AASC program? I was investigating ways to help children get into golf. I visited the Australian Sports Commission s website and their AASC program fit the bill in terms of being able to expose children to the game. I rang the state contact and they put me on to a Regional Coordinator who manages the program in my area. What does a typical AASC golf session look like? It’s held on the school oval after school. Between 15 and 25 children attend and a teacher supervisor is always present to assist. Before the session I set up with the MYGolf Schools equipment. This equipment includes seven irons, putters and rubber golf balls that look, feel, and play like real golf balls. What are the benefits of being involved? It’s definitely the sporting pathways; they are the key. Taking golf into the schools and centres for seven weeks and then following up with a session at a range or a local golf club is a great way to introduce children to golf and market your facility or club. Can you give an example of how the sporting pathways work for golf in Tweed? I have just completed a seven-week AASC program at a local after-school care centre. Next week 25 of those children who did the program will visit my range. They will play with real golf balls, play holes and putt on greens. We ll also put on a barbecue for them. It’s all aimed at giving them a fun and enjoyable experience so they have the desire to continue playing; showing them where to go to play at the range or a local club; and what they can expect if they sign up to a clinic or with a club. Have you learnt anything new from your AASC experience? Definitely, it s been a great learning experience for me. In the AASC program you may have children from five years through to 11 years in the same coaching session. The AASC staff, through their free Community Coach Training Program give you the skills to ensure you engage all participants for the hour-long session and the resources available through the AASC program greatly assist with this. The AASC program uses a Playing for Life approach to coaching. How does this work in a golf setting? Playing for Life is ideal for children beginning to learn golf. Golf is quite difficult and it takes time to learn the skills. The Playing for Life philosophy uses a variety of games to introduce golfing skills to children. It’s important that golf heads in this direction when introducing children to the sport. Who can be involved as a AASC community coach? You don t have to be a professional to coach in the AASC. I would recommend it to junior coordinators who are looking to kick off a junior program. For more information on the AASC program, click here to download a Fact Sheet or visit the AASC website.
Author: Julia Hunt / AASC