Coach Dustin Marsh – Lessons in Leadership

At First Tee, we guide kids to strengthen what’s inside and put it into action because strong character, inner strength and resilience is needed now more than ever. This month we are talking to leaders within our Network about their experiences and key lessons learned over the course of their careers.

Coach Dustin Marsh, First Tee – Central Carolina

What is your current role at First Tee, how long have you been in that role and what is the most rewarding part of your job?

Currently, I am a recognized First Tee Coach. I have been coaching with The First Tee since 2009.

This month we’re celebrating Black History Month and lifting up voices of Black participants, coaches and leaders exploring what it means to be a leader. As a coach, you’re both a mentor and leader to the participants in the program. What does that mean to you?

It means a great deal to me! Many people get to middle age and find themselves in a job or career that they did not foresee. They get caught up in making a living. They may or may not like what they do. I like what I do but, before I started with The First Tee I was not participating in my community as I thought I needed to. I was searching for something to fill a void in my being. When I was young, I was an education major but, life happened and I took an opportunity to work in computer technology. Now that I am coaching with The First Tee, I feel like I’m exercising the same passion I had when I was on a path to be an educator.

How important is it for participants to see diverse leaders like yourself and others coaching at the chapter?

It’s extremely important that our participants experience the program from a diverse range of leaders and with diverse peers. I think specifically about some of the kids I have coached over the years who have gone on to college and professional careers, and I know having diverse coaches was instrumental in not only attracting them to the program, but also keeping them engaged for the long run.  At the end of the day, it’s about making kids feel welcome and comfortable, and when a kid can see themselves in me or another black or brown coach, that increases the likelihood they will want to come back.

Who were some of the strong voices or mentors in your life that inspired you?

Many of my coaches made strong impressions on me for various reasons. Some of my teachers inspired me as well. However, I think the strongest voices in my life were those that exemplified and instilled the importance of decency toward others.

What accomplishment are you most proud of in your life or career?

One thing I’m most proud of is my track record of community service, specifically through First Tee – Central Carolina.  I’ve been doing this for over 11 years.  It isn’t always convenient or easy in my schedule, but it has been worth it.  I’m proud that kids have called me a mentor even when I didn’t think I was, and that I’ve been able to help them figure out all how to deal with the hard things life has thrown at them.

Can you give an example of a challenge you have faced in your career and how have you worked to overcome it?

A challenge that I have faced in my career is leading teams of people and how to get the best results possible.  What I’ve learned is that you have to know what motivates them and what their strengths and weaknesses are.  This takes time and building relationships.  Once you know these details, you can put people where they are going to be the most effective and the whole team benefits.  I’ve done the same thing in the First Tee classes I coach.  I try to learn as quickly as I can why a kid is there and what they are looking to get out of the experience.  Once I know this, I can adapt my coaching to best match their needs.  Like we are trained in the First Tee Coach Program, match the activity to the child and not the child to the activity.

How does or can First Tee play a role in bringing more diversity to our game?

I think we must continue to find ways to make golf inviting to a diverse group of people. There isn’t one way to bring more diversity to golf. We have to try every approach we can come up with. It’s not something that can be accomplished overnight. Golf used to be a sport that was available to only those with financial means and making it more inclusive is going to take time and perseverance. There is a lot of untapped talent that golf has yet to tap into. It ultimately comes down to building relationships in your community that are genuine and time tested.  The opportunities to be more diverse can be hard to initially see, but if your focus is on building relationships, the opportunities to engage with black and brown communities will become more apparent.  When it comes to this type of work, don’t worry about being the first one there, focus on being the last one standing.

What leadership advice or concept do you think is most important for your participants to know?

Focus on the process, not the outcome.