Most recently I attended a sports networking event in Austin, TX. It was a casual event hosted by the local city sports commission and it allowed the opportunity for many in the sports culture to collectively come together and mingle. The groups represented were from the City of Austin, major universities, local and global businesses, and many others that are associated with the active sports culture around Austin; this included everything from yoga to running clubs.
I saw this as a great opportunity to step up to the tee-pad, analyze the field of play and “grow the sport” by throwing the “driver” of disc golf to introduce the disc-golf-curious to what our passion is all about.
It may seem odd in this modern day of technology where information travels at the speed of the internet and everyone seems “hip” and up to date on the latest trends and crazes, but disc golfers still need local opportunities like this event to grow our sport and make our presence known. No technology can replace great human contact and a firm handshake. It creates a bond of trust that sometimes gets forgotten in an age of automation.
Currently the sport of disc golf is still growing its “brand” and influence. It needs to be consistently identified to many groups in the community. This consistent identification reminds everyone, even if slightly, that disc golf is relevant to the community and a great sport for everyone to participate in. Disc golf has simply not reached the caliber of recognition that many other “main stream” sports have, but, it is growing and it is getting better!
At this event, I approached it as a disc golfer. I saw this crowded environment as my field of play and I was competing for recognition against many other sports. I looked at this event as a simple putt and approach “Par 3.” You throw what you know, you play it safe to not go “OB” and you always putt with confidence.
During these networking events, people will be relaxed and casually open to conversation; these are great opportunities for you to speak about disc golf.
Like any round that you play in disc golf, you should know the course rules, have your “go to” discs, and bring enough water for a long round. On this night, I came prepared for a long 21-holes of play. I carried with me: a notepad, a pen, business cards from my disc golf club, and brochures from my disc golf club. My goal was to stay on the lead card and not lose any strokes to my competitors.
[I know your thinking about it] Yes, I said I brought “business cards” and “brochures.” Don’t you when you’re attending these events? If not, why not? These are the key items that can make a lasting impression long after your funny jokes have faded and they are items that give them something to take away and reference later. You are not blindly canvasing a parking lot or neighborhood with business flyers, you are making a one-to-one connection that will have positive and lasting effects. I am not selling a service, but I am selling a passion for our sport and it’s a great opportunity to educate those around me at the event.
Wayne Gretzky once said “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” So, GO FOR IT! You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Wayne Gretzky was right. With opportunities at an event like this, you take those shots. Place your marker on the ground, talk about your sport with truth and passion, and make that putt with confidence. You may not know what the score is on the leader board or how your fellow competitors are playing, but by playing your game and following your rules it only takes one throw to make an “Ace.”
In example, I was able to hold a group conversation on the topic of disc golf and dispel many of the cliche’s that sometime follows our sport; yes, some of these were the “stoner” and “hippie” references. For those, I explained with a smile that they are a part of our history and feel that they are not a part of the sports true future. I emphasized that almost every “main stream” sport has it’s own scarlet letter attached to them. Disc golf is not alone with stigmas like this and over time this will fade from conversations and no longer be the first description of our sport. Reflecting on my whimsical analogy and level approach, some actually smiled with humor knowing the recent sports scandals in the news, and my point was well taken (it made a good impression).
By the end of the evening, I met many people from the community in Austin, TX. I felt it was an overall successful round of play. I was confident to say that I finished under the course par with many “Birdies” in the bag and one good “Eagle” for our disc golf club.
These events are not frequent, but they are in each of our communities and I would encourage you to get out and participate. It may be an informal potluck at church, it could be a workday at the park, it could be during a local sports expo. The opportunities to promote disc golf are endless and you could be the one to do it.
I encourage everyone to prep their promotional disc golf bag, throw the seeds of our passion into your community, and always know that you are the driving tee pad for growing disc golf. Everyone may feel like a “Recreational” player at their first networking event, but when you are in conversation with a non-disc golfer, you are the first “Professional” they will have ever known.
Grow the sport, because disc golf starts with you.