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Riverview golfer learns lessons of a lifetime at First Tee Leadership Academy

Saanvi Parmar said she felt like a brand-new person after attending the Atlanta event.

Saanvi Parmar smiles wide at the First Tee Leadership Academy, held June 17-22 in Atlanta.
Saanvi Parmar smiles wide at the First Tee Leadership Academy, held June 17-22 in Atlanta.
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It was a change noticeable on sight. 

When Saanvi Parmar, a rising junior at Riverview High, returned from a week at the First Tee Leadership Academy in Atlanta, people in her life immediately clocked a difference. 

"They were like, 'Oh my gosh, you are glowing,'" Parmar said. 

It was not just from the Atlanta sun. At the week-long event, held June 17-22, Parmar and other attendees got lessons in leadership from some of the brightest and best in their fields, including Maya Moore, a four-time WNBA champion and a advocate for criminal justice reform; Atlanta United CEO Garth Lagerwey; and PGA Tour Superstore Chairman and CEO Dick Sullivan.

Saanvi Parmar said she had her perspective on failure changed at the First Tee Leadership Academy.
Courtesy image

Parmar was one of just 48 invitees to the event. She applied through the First Tee of Sarasota/Manatee, a youth golf program which she has attended for approximately two years. First Tee focuses on golf, but also seeks to help its youth with self-confidence, proper etiquette and other life skills. 

Initially, it was not her decision to join. Parmar said her family informed her that they signed her up for the organization's summer camp. She arrived for her first session two days later, not sure what to expect. Parmar had previously only played putt-putt with her family; real golf was a mystery. 

After finishing the camp, Parmar asked to go back. 

"I felt comfortable," Parmar said. "The coaches were great and in general it was so fun, all the games we played — putting, chipping and on the range — and things like water balloon fights. I became friends with the kids around me." 

Parmar quickly became entrenched in the First Tee ecosystem, attending as many events as she could and even volunteering to help coach younger players. Fast forward to now, and Parmar has honed her own game; she holds a spot on the Riverview High girls golf team.

Attending the organization's Leadership Academy was an honor, Parmar said. It required first going through a five-week leadership program at the local chapter, after which a group of people from the PGA Tour Superstore — which partners with First Tee on the Leadership Academy — selected five people from the chapter to apply for a spot at the Academy. Parmar's application earned it.

Riverview High's Saanvi Parmar was one of just 48 attendees of the 2024 First Tee Leadership Academy in Atlanta.
Courtesy image

Getting to listen to the Academy guest speakers would provide plenty of wisdom on its own, but that was just the beginning of the experience for attendees. Like a professional conference, each day of the Academy featured workshops where attendees were asked to carry out tasks meant to teach them things. One day for instance, Parmar's group had to figure out a way to keep four balls suspended in the air at the same time; another day, they had to build a bridge. Each activity was connected to a point about leadership. 

"A big theme was that your first attempt will never be the best one," Parmar said. "It's about growing and working together as a team to get to the right solution." 

The group also got to visit places around Atlanta, like Atlanta United’s training facility and the College Football Hall of Fame and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. 

One day, the group went to a zip line and obstacle course. 

"It was scary," Parmar said. "I get stressed and nervous in those situations. But my friends were all, 'Come on, you can do it,' and I did. It felt like a big bonding moment." 

Parmar said it was her favorite day of the Academy. 

Upon returning, Parmar glowed. But she also felt different inside. Parmar said she has always had a fear of failure. In school, that manifested the most when it came time to take an exam. She felt like she had one chance to get it right, and anything less than high marks would be a failure – in her mind, at least. The Academy changed her perspective. 

"It was freeing," Parmar said. "I took a step back. In real life, it's not just one chance. You grow and take things away from your failures and push forward. That resonated with me. We are all human. Failure is a part of life." 

Parmar is only getting started with First Tee. She will continue to attend classes and volunteer, and in the future, she would like to help with the Academy. Parmar said several of the attendees' chaperones throughout the week were past attendees themselves. Parmar would like to give back in the same way. 

She's thankful to the organization that changed her outlook, not just on golf and leadership, but on life. 

"I hope more people get into it and see the opportunities it can provide," Parmar said. 



Ryan Kohn

Ryan Kohn is the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. He was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. His biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. His strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.

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