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SwingPals Are Becoming Winners

Published: 2021-11-06
SwingPals Are Becoming Winners
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By Doug Hodges

If I asked you to describe in one word when you hit your best golf shots? You’d probably say when I am relaxed. Or when I am calm, focused, or confident. Some end with when I am not thinking about it.

Have you been searching for this space? Look no further.

Having given hundreds of workshops and worked with many fine players over the past 20 years, I can say with complete confidence that this is the case. The unfortunate thing for many with whom I talk is that this has opened a can of worms that cannot then be closed. Some, though, choose to embark on a journey that leads them to a place I call the freedom to be and, of course, to shoot lower scores (be happy)!

Though I do still work with a few golfers, my focus today is on providing joy and happiness to 1,000 Durham public school children each year who have been marginalized through generations of ineffective programs and societal and institutional racism.

Their journey with me begins with helping them to build what we call the PlayBox (note to golfers, think Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott). This is SwingPals, a Durham, NC, based 501(c)3 non-profit organization focused on improving the physical and mental health of students in the Durham public school system since 2012.

SwingPals was founded with the conviction that by developing a sense of safety and confidence in their abilities, using golf as a medium, students will be able to create change in their lives.  

We offer marginalized youth healthier patterns of thought and behavior, allowing them to relax, be focused, and feel confident. Students create real change in their lives that will allow them to challenge their status quo, do well in school, and ultimately live happier, more joyful lives.



Back to our golfers… most know that this space is what they want, however, oftentimes their deep-seated resistance to change prohibits them from pursuing it. Not so for the 1,000’s of Durham public school children we serve each year at SwingPals.

They are young and still open to change if given the opportunity. Their journey begins a SwingPals conversation in any one of our four schools, Neal, Lowe’s Grove, Shepard, or Githens middle schools. They are introduced to a process carefully designed over the past 10 years serving our families. One that provides the skills they need to be empowered to make a change. The journey begins by providing children the opportunity to learn the skills they will need to learn how to emotionally self-regulate and build self-awareness. Enter HeartMath the powerful fuel feeding SportsEdTV’s Learn to Win Channel.

SwingPals curriculum utilizes bio-feedback tools that help students learn how to transition from experiencing negative emotions to choosing positive emotions. Specifically, we expose students to cutting-edge biofeedback technology developed by HeartMath, Inc., a company specializing in human performance.

This evidence-based technology has been developed by HeartMath over the past 30 years. HeartMath is used in 3,000 schools, and, at last count, 300 hospitals.  This technology is used in the Duke Health and Wellness Department and at the University of North Carolina NC Burn Center. Our students use this software to improve their emotional regulation and self-awareness so they can manage stressful situations more effectively and healthfully. For the population we serve, this skill is particularly important.

How does this technology work, you may ask? 

 Download a full HeartMath based description in SportsEdTV’s FREE Learn to Win workbook.

In simplest terms, by regulating breath and our emotions, which are generated by what you think, we can balance our parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems so our heart beats in a rhythmic coherent way. When this occurs, our amygdala no longer sabotages our brain functioning preventing creativity, innovative thinking, and the ability to make good choices.

young girl holding a sign




Pay attention to what you are thinking and feeling and hit great shots, or let your mind drift off, allow the status quo, and continue to struggle, repeating past failures.

Which would you prefer? It is that simple.

Sorry to say, I am OK with the status quo when it comes to the millions of adults who struggle to play the game; what I am not OK with is sitting on the sidelines watching as so many Durham public school children who have been marginalized by society and who lack resources fail.

That is unacceptable and is why I volunteer my time to deliver programming so these young leaders may learn our SwingPals skills; keeping their focus on what they can control, their minds and their emotions, and letting their imaginations lead them to their dreams.

Future leaders in the making, learning to win in life and sports.