On the March 16th episode of the Stick and Hack Show, Mike and Adam speak with Kansas City firefighter Captain Steve Pope to discuss Steve’s mission of using golf as a way to cope with PTSD. Listen here to hear Steve discuss the healing power of golf. 

The following excerpt has been edited for space. Check out the full interview here.


Stick and Hack: You are doing some pretty remarkable work in short order in just the last year. As you build this kind of community and this thought process of golf as the healing power for first responders and firefighters, helping them through PTSD, run us through what the platform is, what you’re doing, and why you’re doing it.

Captain Steve Pope: So I started last January, my YouTube channel, Instagram, Facebook, the social media plunge to try to use social media is good to bring awareness- even more so to the PTS that firefighters, first responders, military, I don’t want to exclude them- of what we go through. It could be suicide, it could be substance abuse. For me, it was just trying to cope, and what the everyday stresses that my job brings, and then come home and not bring that home to my family. Because I found out that a lot of struggles with a lot of my brothers and sisters, more so than the other things, but suicide is becoming biggerin first responders. Statistics show that more firefighters are dying from suicide now than in line are doing. So, it’s a real thing.

S&H: You’re going through and you’re playing golf- you’re filming it, you’re talking to them, and you’re showcasing how golf can heal and how it can kind of erase, to the best of its ability, some of the memories and some of the things that people are going through. But more specifically, you’re hearing their stories that they’ve gone through, and it’s captivating. It really is. And you have fun, because you get to play golf. Where did the idea come from? And where did you say let me take my two loves and combine them?

Pope: Well, I’m 49, almost 50 years old, I’ve been playing golf, probably for a good 30 years or more. But competitively, I’ve been playing for about 10 years, and my game got better. In 2017, playing golf with my friend Ryan, who went through our peer support group and the program for that, and he brought up that I had just bonded with my son. And he said, “Steve, you don’t realize what this job has done to you,” for over 20 years at that time. It put things in perspective for me, it started the healing journey. So it took me a while to get it going in my thought process. And then what I was worried about was healing myself and getting help. 

But I always like to stay self aware, because we’ve got to be aware of what’s going through our mind. Even if we go see a doctor, we have to do it after we leave the doc. So I’m trying to spread that part of the mission as well. And then I got to thinking that was me coaching- I shared this with you the other day- when I coach high school golf, I always look at YouTube videos to try to find something for each kid that might work for them because they’re all different. And I got to thinking, “man, I could I could do a YouTube channel. I think I could do that.” And again, go back to the process that I’ve already gone through. I need to do something so that I can share this mission; that shares my story, my healing, of still trying to get better. And that’s kind of where it came from. It manifested from 2017, took a few years for me to figure it out, and I said, “I’m gonna do it.” It was a lot of trepidation because I didn’t know anything about editing, I didn’t know anything about filming. I just jumped right into it. And here we are a year later and I’m proud of where it’s going.

S&H: Steve, why do you think that golf provides such an outlet for therapy, when you’re working with firefighters that are, you know, dealing with PTSD? I’m interested to hear your perspective on what you think about golf makes it easier for folks to get out of their own heads.

Pope: Well, you touched on it in your opening that you’re out there for the four or five hours, you’re out there with nature, you’re with friends. A lot of times I come off duty and I’ll race right to the course and play and it’s just something about it that you’re out there, focused, like you’ve mentioned, on yourself. You’re worried about the game and you’re not worried about what happened and I just feel sense a calm when I’m out there, which is kind of funny because golf is a frustrating game in itself. Maybe I should have taken up knitting and did a YouTube knitting channel. But there’s those guys on the fire department that hunt, they fish, so whatever it is, you got to find a way to be self aware. What’s going through your mind if you are stressed out and use those things to decompress and reinvigorate yourself back into life, your family, and friends.

S&H: When you’re a kid and thinking about what the life of a firefighter is… it’s not far off, but then there’s those terrible moments. And the moments where you’re saving somebody, something is happening. You’re seeing some pretty heinous things. I don’t see how somebody gets through that just by playing golf. But I’m glad that you see it because it’s important. But your love for the game, do you feel outweighs your love for firefighting, reversed? Are they the same?

Pope: I’d say now, golf outweighs firefighting. And the reason I say that is because of the stresses over the 25 years that this job has put on me. And the good thing is I realize that now I have a lot more joy when I go into work. There was a period there for years that I wasn’t having as much joy going to the fire station. Because I didn’t understand what was going through my mind. And that’s my mission- you can understand what’s going through your mind. You need help from a doctor but you have to do it yourself. 

So right now, I’m trying to share this mission through golf, combining those two and getting people to come play with me once COVID is gone so I can travel. A friend of mine from Fort Worth, I don’t know if you guys saw that fire down there yesterday. And I shared it on social media and that hit me hard. Because that’s the type of stuff we see. Like you said, it’s hard to overcome. So I reached out to him, and just to make sure it’s okay, said, “if you need to talk, reach out to me.” So it’s real.

S&H: Now you’re not a clinical psychologist, you didn’t go to school for it. But you probably have one of the better educations of many. And it’s part of you. Do you feel yourself getting stronger, getting smarter, getting more in-tuned to the mental, psychological side, medical side of this? Or is this as simple as, “Hey, guys, you’re going through some pretty heinous stuff, go play golf, and let’s talk about it. And let’s get you through this together.”

Pope: I have become smarter about it. I’ve done my own research. If it wasn’t for COVID, I would’ve already visited Center of Excellence, it’s a wellness place in DC, or that our union is involved with their national association of firefighters, and I would have already visited them and learned even more. I’m going to go through our peer support classes and learn about it even more. But I’ve learned through this year from research and just talking to wives that have instant messaged me on Facebook, because I put my real talks all over social media, they contacted me and said, “hey, that’s exactly like my husband.” And that’s a real thing for the spouses too. That’s something else I’m going to cover in my YouTube and Instagram interview with my wife and me talking about it. I’m gonna do that shortly. Because they have things to overcome too. It’s just one of those things with first responders and the military. I’ve mentioned it earlier, everyone has stressors in life, we all have to understand how to get over it. So yeah, to kind of answer your question, let’s just go play golf. And if you want to talk about it great, if you don’t, let’s just play golf and use that as a way to decompress. And because most everybody that’s going to come play with me knows what I’m trying to do anyway, we don’t have to talk about it. But if you want to, I’m there for you.

Listen to the rest of the episode here, to learn more about the lives of firefighters and coping with PTSD.

Check out the Show After the Show, where the guys discuss the emotion and heart of Steve’s message and mission:


Key takeaway: Sometimes the best therapy is bonding with others over a shared love.