August 17, 2017

Rick Johnson: Learn to Teach Students with Disabilities to Keep Them Engaged, Broaden Your Horizons, and Develop New Student-Teacher Relationships

Rick Johnson is a PGA Adaptive Golf Instructor at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, in the Greater Boston Area and Cape Cod, Massachusetts. He was the recipient of the 2016 PGA New England Section Player Development Award.

Rick Johnson on the importance of learning to teach individuals with disabilities:

In 2011 and 2012 I started learning about adaptive golf instruction and began teaching individuals with disabilities on a volunteer basis. It was both eye-opening and inspirational. In 2013, I started doing it full time. After three decades in the game of golf, I left green grass facilities and joined the amazing team at Spaulding Rehabilitation Center. Before long, I had a full schedule teaching folks who had experienced strokes, brain trauma, limb amputations, and spinal cord injuries. With equipment I had never used before and the assistance of physical therapists, I provide golf instruction to folks whose desire for the game is strong and whose trust and friendship I am proud to earn. We offer fifteen 3-week programs outdoors during the season and serve eight students per session. Courses throughout the North Shore of Massachusetts, the Greater Boston Area, and Cape Cod are wonderful in providing their facilities and golf carts at no cost to us. Students come for two hours, once per week for three weeks. One session is devoted to full swing, one to short game, and the third to on-course play. We also provide eleven indoor programs during the winter, teaching four students per session. There is usually a waiting list for these programs. In the spring of 2017, we will host our 4th year of adaptive golf instruction classes geared specifically toward veterans.

Rick Johnson on the business impact of learning to teach individuals with disabilities:

After over thirty fulfilling years in the game, the 140 days per year I now spend teaching is more inspiring and rewarding than ever. Promoting golf as therapy doesn’t only apply to the students. For many of these individuals, the golf they play with me is the only golf they play at all, and these programs are getting people back in the game. Improving their golf games is often irrelevant; we’re improving their lives. With the use of advanced methods and equipment, and the assistance of physical therapists, interns, and volunteers, we’re giving them back an aspect of their lives they thought they’d lost. It is truly rewarding work and the impact on everyone goes far beyond just “business”, the cost of each program being only $40 per student. However, a residual benefit to my own teaching business is the increase in lessons I give per year (at least fifty) as a result of the relationships that develop through these programs.

If you would like to email the author of this Best Practice directly, please email rjohnson36@partners.org