I got a pretty cool opportunity last week. One of my best buddies, Cam, Facetimed me and asked if I was available on a Friday to teach some high schoolers about disc golf. Of course I want to spend a day teaching disc golf!
Sabattus Disc Golf had already donated discs to Winthrop High School in the past. In fact they were the first recipients of our end of season donated discs. Most of the donated discs were high speed drivers (because that’s generally what people lose). Not ideal to learn on, but good to get a disc in their hands versus a frisbee for learning disc golf.
It was the day before April break for the high schoolers, and it was a casual day at the school where instead of classes teachers were sharing their hobbies with students. There was archery, geocaching for lollipops, tree climbing, Minecraft, Settlers of Catan, firefighting drills, and of course, disc golf.
I don’t remember teachers sharing their hobbies with me in school, but I think it’s awesome. Nothing is better for learning than when the teacher is interested in the subject as well. I’m a little jealous they had this in school, who knows what cool hobbies my teachers could have exposed me to.
I got to work with a chemistry teacher who plays at Sabattus Disc Golf regularly. She’s a disc golfer and was the one running the blocks of time where we taught kids about disc.
She, a couple of teachers, and I brought our baskets in and set up a temporary 5 hole course. With some tight woods lines for the kids to hit as well as some wide open distance shots. I brought the rangefinder along and got them spaced from 160-300 feet.
When I spent 10 years as a camp counselor at Falmouth Community Programs I worked with kids aged 10-15, in the “Senior Camp” group. This event had a familiar feel to it for me.
If you’re doing a group lesson one thing you have to keep in mind is everyone’s physical ability. Having a 15 year old compete in the same way with a 10 year old isn’t fair to the younger player. You want to make a mix of holes so that all players are challenged and have a chance to succeed. Trees are a great equalizer, they don’t care how far you throw. If you hit a tree in or off the fairway you’re out of luck. But it’s important to keep morale up as well, so throw in those open holes so people can let loose.
We had a quick and important safety meeting before playing. I think that this is often glossed over when teaching newer players. As I watched a bunch of teenagers start to toss high speed drivers back and forth I remembered those times I’ve seen a disc split skin.
If you are teaching disc golf, please remember to tell people not to throw discs at other people. If you play this is a no brainer, but new folks might not know the dangers. Here’s a blog I wrote about some disc golf safety awhile back.
Anyway, after the brief safety overview students were taught the power grip for backhand throws and the stacked grip for forehands. I had them try out a few drives and see how the discs flew before they went off to their holes. Discs littered the baseball field and flew in all sorts of directions. Some had S curves, others released on hyzer. If you’ve ever played in a ring of fire it looked similar to that.
We had about an hour and a half, so the groups of 3-5 got to play the course twice as well as a quick lesson. Then there was about 10-15 minutes of downtime at the end for the groups who finished early.
Some kids played on their phones. Others hung around and talked about their spring break plans. But in both of the sessions, there were at least 2 kids who kept playing. Not just kids who’d shown up with their bags, but completely new players. They wanted to try their friends' discs, throw tomahawks, and they’d already started to figure out that holding the disc on an anhyzer release would allow it to fly differently. Some were even teaching others the things they’d learned during the round.
While I taught the kids some grips, and to draw the disc level across your chest for backhand, I didn’t teach them much else. Disc golf is about imagination as much as it is athleticism. We didn’t get to where we are by everyone throwing the same discs and lines as everyone else. Discovering what discs do is half the fun.
By the end of the rounds there were several teenagers who were touching 300 feet, inconsistently. But that’s pretty incredible and I hope they stick with the sport. Even those who struggled with staying out of the prickers and water had a good time. If you’re looking for a way to #GrowTheSport, volunteering to work with interested kids is a great way to do it.
If you do get a chance to teach a group of kids about disc golf, just let them have fun. This group lesson was a nice change of pace for me. Usually I get folks who are very serious about learning the game and it’s a 2 hour lesson where we try to work on improving one skill or maybe two.
May your discs miss all the trees,
Andrew Streeter #70397