Bring your Kids and Join Us for the 3rd Annual Juniors Championships Saturday October 10th at Foxhill Elementary School
In support of Growing the Sport, why not bring your family out for a fun day of disc golf. This is not just for the competitive golfer. It’s an opportunity for kids to play tournament golf that is geared exclusively for juniors, but any skill level is encouraged to play. It’s one round and the kids are divided into 5 different appropriate age groups. Raffle and other prizes throughout the day, CTP and Ring of Fire. There’s also a BBQ lunch served.
A majority of the event proceeds are donated to United Way. Bill Lentz, the Fox Hill P.E. teacher and tournament co-director’s goal every year is to raise $300 for United Way. Fox Hill has hosted a Frisbee tournament and disc golf event in KC for numerous years and we hope to continue growing this event and raising money for United Way. The flyer states that is the 3rd annual KC Juniors Open, but this event started as a frisbee and hula hoop event fundraiser for United Way is one of the longest frisbee events in KC’s rich history going steady for 24 years.
A conversation with John Theiss,
one of the organizers of the Juniors Open
John Theiss: PE teacher for the Blue Springs School District for 13 years and playing disc golf for 14 years
Course designer and member of the Disc Golf Course Designer Group
Designed five 18 hole courses
One 9 hole school course
One 4 hole school course
I recently had a conversation with John to get his thoughts and perspective on growing the sport and how he sees the future. He had great advice to share and ideas on promoting disc golf through school programs and more.
Where do you see the future of disc golf heading?
You have a real passion for promoting our sport to kids. What lessons have you learned and advice can you give others that might have the same passion?
John: My passion is all things related to disc golf, but not strictly promoting it to kids. I am very fortunate to have a profession where I am able to impact disc golf, been privileged to design, and able to instruct thousands of students. With my main professional P.E. goal of promoting lifetime fitness, disc golf is an activity that aligns perfectly. Youth are an untapped population in the disc world and anyone can make a huge difference in this group, not just P.E. teachers. YOU can make a difference and one does not need to be a P.E. teacher. Do not wait for someone else to do make things happen at your local school.
Team sports are fantastic and our country embraces team sports, however, team sports are not for everyone. I witness large percentages of my student population struggle with traditional team sports. Disc golf provides opportunities for full inclusion and teaching a disc golf lesson is one that encourages everyone to be active and engaged. All students have a piece of equipment versus waiting around or watching. All physical abilities can participate, those with poor hand eye coordination or foot agility can achieve skill progression and mastery, and my student in a chair is able to throw rollers as far or even further than his classmates. Disc golf levels the playing field and students can quickly progress, master skills, and interact together in cooperative but competitive environment.
“Some lessons learned along the way, why install permanent baskets at your neighborhood school, purchasing discs and baskets, and the matching baskets program”
We’d love for you to share more about how you went about putting in the school courses. Tell us more about your experiences and how you were able to make this happen.
Having permanent baskets was important for me and I wanted my students to have real baskets to utilize in class and outside of class providing families and students a place to play after school. Fold up baskets are great for some teachers, but lugging them out and setting them up takes some prep time and over the years they start to show wear and tear. I was passionate about installing permanent baskets for my school (but the price was a big factor) and luckily one year our PTA donated money for our 4 hole course designed on a perimeter loop of a field. My passion for school courses did not stop at my school and I continued to push and have since put in numerous baskets at schools using the DB-5 from Lightning Golf Discs. From my experiences, schools can be easier than parks departments to get courses installed. I have worked with various park departments and two school districts, but I have found schools are more willing to approve the project and have less bureaucratic measures and red tape slowing you down. The biggest hurdle with schools is money. However, you can write grants, ask the PTA to earmark the money for this year or next, sell tee sign sponsorship, do a walk-a-thon or exercise -a-thon to raise funds. I have written several grants and it can be a very difficult process to find outdoor grants that are not specifically geared towards S.T.E.M. (science, technology, math). Do not get discouraged when searching for grants, writing grants, or working with schools to convince them to install a course. Schools often have some of the best overgrown and neglected spaces between sports fields and buildings that are just waiting for you and your energy to install a course. Once one school installs some baskets, often times the other P.E. teachers in the district will jump on the disc golf band wagon and the domino effect has begun.
If you teach elementary school or want to get a disc golf program started at your child’s school, finding the right discs are also very crucial. Students need to feel successful and experience skill mastery in order to stay engaged. I recommend that you call a manufacturer and ask them to mold your discs as light as possible. If you do not get the answers you want, call around. Someone will be willing to help you out today since the market has so many new companies. When working with elementary kids, I use weights starting from 117g to 150g. Most of my students in grades K-5 stay in the low weights of 117g to 130g until they are turning them over. I know that sounds super light, but if you purchase a stable disc, they fly predictable and have great glide. I also look for a plastic that has some flex so they are not as stiff in case they make contact with other students. I tend to go with an approach and putt disc that has some flex. Discs that have beveled edges are too dangerous, even mid ranges discs are too firm on the edge and can be pose safety issues with errant throws. Go with a slower lightweight flexible disc that they can control.
I would also like to see the Matching Baskets Program thru the Disc Golf Foundation be offered to elementary, middle and high schools. After building two 18 hole courses at schools that required numerous resources, funding was our major obstacle. How many colleges or universities are hurting to muster up the funds required to purchase 18 baskets? Many universities have large activity fees focused towards building massive student rec centers. For 1/10 of 1 percent of the cost to build a rec center, universities could build a disc golf course.
We need to get more permanent courses in at schools and the cost of 9 or 18 baskets is quite large when considering other costs for installing a course. I believe that when elementary, middle, or high schools have the adequate space and interesting terrain and features, they should have an opportunity to be considered for Matching Baskets. Disc golf grows when more students have a access to it thru the instructional approach of a teacher versus being exposed to the sport on college campuses.
In addition, schools need help from basket manufactures by providing affordable permanent outdoor baskets. Businesses must make a profit, but it would be nice if schools were given wholesale basket prices that are offered to retailers. Some retailers may be upset by this notion, but if you have a course nearby, that will drive more business into your store. I have had two different store retailers (Disc Golf World and Discs Unlimited) sell baskets barely above their cost for my school courses.
Schools should be able to buy baskets at wholesale prices. This enables schools to have extra resources for tee signs, tee pads or for machinery needed to clean and clear land. So the revenue problem, in my opinion, can be handled two ways to help grow the sport. Matching baskets for all schools that qualify (with appropriate land for 9 or 18 holes) or cheaper basket pricing for schools.
I started my quest for a school course only three years into playing. Since then I have continued to grow and learn as a player, teacher, and designer. Folks will ask me questions about their city and the absence of a course. I ask them, “Why are you not going to your park board and making your wishes known? Why are you not asking questions at your kid’s school and all that great land behind the playground? You can do this! You can make a course happen! You do not need to be a teacher or designer. There are many folks out there that can help you but you can be the driving force to get the process started. Go to your local club or local disc golf store and ask for help. You just have to have the energy, passion, and be ready to get your hands dirty to make it happen.”
Want to help GROW THE SPORT? Do you have any advice or ideas to share? Please leave your comments and feedback below.