I just got done with another lesson this morning and I find it’s an incredibly rewarding part of my job. One of the things that drew me towards coaching was the joy that it brings other people, people who ask for lessons love the sport and want to be here learning it. I loved coaching soccer and seeing my players succeed with the skills they learned in practice. In disc golf it’s great because I see players learning a skill for the first time in front of me. Then when I get to see them out on the course where they’re throwing further and more accurately. That’s a little lesson from me, prodding them in the right direction, and then 99% them working hard in fields and on the putting green.
You may have been asked for lessons from a friend, it’s not uncommon. If you’re looking to give a disc golf lesson then I have some ideas and tips for you that I think will make your lesson go smoothly. I wrote this blog on introducing someone to disc golf last year, if the person you’re going to give a lesson to is brand new head on over there for some tips. If they have played a few rounds or for even a couple years and want a lesson then keep on reading.
Play the first 3 holes together normally. No tips or form critiques for the first three holes is crucial. People know they’re about to be judged and critiqued, it can be a little nervy and that leads to bad drives and missed putts. So just go with the flow and see what the person is working with for distance, for forehand/backhand throws, and use this time to get to know them a little bit. Half the time I know the people I’m giving a lesson to from being in the shop, but I don’t know what they’re like on the course.
Pack a wide range of discs. What you throw as the person giving the lesson, is not what the person receiving the lesson throws. Bring some extra mids and fairway drivers to throw, high speed drivers aren’t for everyone. You won’t miss a few extra discs in your bag. Also make sure that you know what you’ve brought with you. I’ve let people throw my discs and lost 2 this year because I didn’t keep track of what we were throwing.
Ask them questions ahead of time. One thing I do is ask people what they’re looking to get out of a lesson. I don’t want to spend 2 hours with them working on backhand drives and approach shots if they want to learn a forehand. So ask about what they throw for distance (if they know), ask them what they want to learn, ask them what their goal for disc golf is. Is it to beat their friend, to play in tournaments, or is it to be a 4X World Champion? This should help you shape your lesson to them.
Warm up ahead of time.We all know that warming up helps you play better. If you walk out onto the course cold you’re going to have mediocre drives and miss putts. You want to throw well so that you can demonstrate your skills. When I watched Will Schusterick’s online disc golf clinic I was distracted by him not getting close on 100 foot upshots. I don’t remember any of the tips he gave me in that 8 minute video. I was too shocked he wasn’t throwing well.
Work on one thing at a time. It’s tempting to talk about footwork, grip, angles, and follow through all at once. After all a successful throw puts all of these things together. For someone who hasn’t thought about their back leg following through on a drive, they can’t remember that and to stop rounding. It’s tough, because bad throws are generally the result of a few errors.
Praise folks when they get it right, but don’t just move on. Compliments are free, they make others feel better, and hopefully it makes you feel better as well. When someone makes a correction that improves their throw, make sure you tell them. But don’t just accept it as them getting it. Think back to math class in elementary school. The first time you multiplied numbers and got it right you didn’t advance to the next grade. No Mrs. Banton made me do it over again with different numbers to prove that I knew what I was doing. It’s just like math class. Doing something right once means they sort of got it. See if they can repeat their success. They may not, then it will come with practice.
Don’t stay in one place forever. Practice is harder than games. It’s designed that way, so that during a game you’re prepared. If I’m working with someone on drives we may drive 8 discs off a tee, pick up and throw them all again. We may do that 3 times. By the time they’ve done that they’ve thrown about as many drives as a full round in only 10 minutes. It’s enough to make you sweaty and tired. So don’t be afraid to move onto the next hole if you’re practicing drives.
Ask them if there’s anything they ever wanted to know about disc golf. It’s a judgement free question. Maybe there’s something you don’t really understand and you don’t want to feel like an idiot for asking your friends who all seem to “get it.” If you don’t know, don’t lie. Our sport is filled with jargon, it’s not all intuitive. If I toss you a disc of mine to throw and say “This Wraith is understable, so you have to throw it on a hyzer flip or it will anny out.” You may know exactly what I mean, but someone else may not. So explain that the Wraith is going to move a little further to the right (RHBH), so you have to throw it with the outside wing tipped down a little bit to get the flight path you want.
This is what I’ve learned over the last couple of years giving disc golf lessons. If you’re starting out giving lessons then I hope these tips help you out. If you’re an experienced teacher I’d love to hear your tips for giving lessons. The whole goal of this is to spread knowledge and drop everyone’s scores together.
I’ll throw in a plug here too. I give lessons here at Sabattus Disc Golf if you’re in Maine. If you’re interested click on the lessons tab and fill it out and we can work out a time.
May your discs miss all the trees, Andrew Streeter #70397