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Girl’s Golf Gets Kids Movin’ and Groovin’

By: Jordan Pye
Posted: April 23, 2010

PHOTO: Girl playing golfNow in its fifth year, Movin’ and Groovin’ Day is still teaching local kids the fun and importance of health and exercise, now as a special event for JMU’s Girls’ Golf Program.

Movin’ and Groovin’ Day was first held in 2005, before the official naming of the Morrison-Bruce Center for the Promotion of Activity for Girls and Women, and has been a staple spring activity since. Originally a joint venture between the Center and the service fraternity for physical education majors, Phi Episilon Kappa, Movin’ and Groovin’ Day provided a free day of physical activity and the science of physical fitness to children of the Rockingham County area. It has since developed into a major part of the Morrison-Bruce Center’s year-round Girls’ Golf program, which began in the fall of 2008.

Established in 1994, Girls’ Golf is a national program administered by the Ladies Professional Golf Association and the United States Golf Association, modeled after the club founded in 1989 by an LPGA member in Phoenix, Arizona. It’s open to girls ages seven to 17, and designed to introduce them to the game while also encouraging self-confidence and a love of competition.

“It was started really just to get girls into the game of golf, teaching them fundamental skills, some rules of etiquette, some of the socialization that goes along with that,” the center’s director Dr. Judith Flohr said, adding that the center’s program is the only one in the country that combines golf with fitness, wellness and nutrition components.

PHOTO: Girl with ballThe Morrison-Bruce Center’s Girls’ Golf program holds two Saturday sessions each month, half of each session is devoted to helping the participants develop golf skills and mastering the game of golf and the other half is devoted to fitness/wellness and the science of physical activity. The center has teamed up with  Wendy Kern the golf pro from Mulligan’s Golf Center of Harrisonburg who is also a JMU alum and played on the women’s golf team while a student.. During good weather and in the summer the girls meet at Mulligan’s to play three or five holes of golf. For their three-hour sessions on campus, the girls start off with a general physical activity, practice some golf skills with indoor equipment, and then rotate through stations related to fitness, nutrition, and workshops on body image and self-concept. The idea, Flohr said, is to broaden the girls’ exposure to physical activity while also teaching them the importance of keeping their minds and bodies active.

Most of the 35 participants come from the Harrisonburg and Rockingham area, and Flohr said their group is mostly younger kids, with the oldest being 14.

“And that, quite frankly, is pretty cool to me, because the earlier you can start with trying to instill those behaviors and give them experiences with fun things with activity, then the better,” Flohr said. “In fall of 2008 the Surgeon General of the United States presented our Girls’ Golf program and the Morrison-Bruce Center with the Champions Award because they recognize it as a program at the local, grassroots level trying to minimize and prevent childhood obesity by getting these kids active.”

One of the ways Girls’ Golf bolsters local interest in the program is through encouraging girls to bring a friend to Movin’ and Groovin’ Day, the only session held in March. Because the center provides all clubs and equipment, it’s easy and affordable for girls to jump right in.

“I started Movin’ and Groovin’ not just to get kids moving and grooving, but I wanted them to understand a little more about the science of physical fitness,” Flohr said.

This year’s day-long event took place on Saturday, Mar. 20th from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., planned and run in part by undergraduate and graduate kinesiology students who are either completing an internship in the Center or  fulfilling their service-learning requirement for KIN 420 Exercise Programming for Special Populations. . Participants rotated through stations in Godwin Hall to learn about different aspects of wellness. In Godwin’s computer lab the girls entered different foods into a computer game to create a balanced diet, and in a station on cardiovascular endurance they learned about cardiac function with an EKG machine, seeing how blood pumps through a real cow’s heart and measuring their own heart rates. In addition, games and activities emphasized the importance of muscular strength and flexibility. The Duke Dog led the kids through their warm-up activity, and throughout the day the kids fill out worksheets to record what they learn.

This year about a third of the 75-some participants came from Richmond. JMU alumnae Janet Phillips ,brought girls from the Girls’ Golf  program at Windy Hill Sports Complex and the two high school girls golf teams she coaches:  St Catherines  and St Gertrudes. Theolder girls received their own specialized track, testing their fitness levels to develop their own physical fitness program specifically to improve their golf game. Flohr hopes that the event will encourage these older girls to think more about going to college, or even to consider an exercise science major.

“My thinking is, let’s get some girls into science and math, and they may have a better appreciation for science and math if those concepts are related to  their bodies and physical activity,” Flohr said. “Maybe you talk about calories and then they do the math and…it’s something they can relate, it’s something they can put their hands on.”

Senior Brittany Abetz, a kineseiology major, has worked in an internship with the Morrison-Bruce Center since last spring. This year she and Graduate Student Director Christine Nicewonger played a large role in publicizing and organizing Movin’ and Groovin’ Day, and helped to oversee the activities. Abetz said she thinks the Girls’ Golf program benefits Harrisonburg girls by getting them active on weekends and promoting a healthy lifestyle.

“Our hope is that after Movin’ and Groovin’ the girls can take what they have learned and apply it to their lives, and hopefully even influence their family to become more active and participate in healthy living habits such as good nutrition and daily exercise,” Abetz said.

Nicewonger agreed the Girl’s Golf program also provides kids with the experience of learning more about their bodies and health in a social environment.

“In connecting these areas, girls are able to see the interaction and how maintaining a healthy lifestyle will also help their golf game, etc,” Nicewonger said. “The Girls' Golf program is great because it meets more than once, so the girls are also able to begin new friendships and grow with the program, all while having fun.”

View more photos from this year's event