by Jason Hilton
I went to work yesterday morning like so many of us do. Sat down in the breakroom for our friday morning meeting, had my Pepsi in my hand, and started to look at the paper. My boss sits next to me and after a few minutes says, "There's an article in here about that game you play."
Puzzled I look at her and say, "What game?" She proceeded to show me an article written about Juliana Bower. Her comment though started me thinking about the perception of any non-mainstream sport. How do you buck the 'just a game' image and get people to look at it as a sport, with real athletes.
Disc Golf has this problem, and it's going to be a tough image to shed. Unfortunately, when people see all of us out there playing on our local courses, they just see people throwing Frisbees. Now anyone who has played a round of disc golf knows that this is NOTHING like playing catch with your best friend or even your dog. The problem is how do you get the public to start percieving it as a legitimate sport. The answer....EXPOSURE. If you try to get the public involved, peek their interest, then maybe, just maybe, the perception of our sport will break the 'game' image.
Exposure has to occur on all levels of the sport. We will hit the highest level of exposure possible with the World Games in Japan next year. But that isn't where it has to start, it has to start at the smaller events, and work it's way up. You have an upcoming tournament? You need to get the word out, And not just to people in the sport. Tournaments are a great way to get the public into this sport. Remember that the only way to keep disc golf growing as a sport is to get new people involved. If you are holding a tournament, see if your local paper will do an article, or if you have a community bulletin, see if they will list you as an upcoming event. See if your local news wants to list it as an upcoming family event. It's not a quick fix, but that is what it takes. Look at cycling, how many people today see it as an actual sport, they see Lance Armstrong as the athlete that he is. Now how did the cycling community get this image? You guessed it exposure. Now some people might say, but cycling is a sport, but it wasn't always considered a sport. In fact, you can look at any professional sport and it started out with a PR problem. It was considered a game. In fact other sports are still trying to kick that image, skateboarding, rollerblading, snowboarding. How did these go from just being a game kids played to being considered legitamate sports? Exposure. You now have the X Games on ESPN, which is bringing these groups into the public eye and it has an effect on the way people percieve them. I mean, even poker, and billiards get more exposure than any disc golf tournament. When was the last time the National's or even the Worlds in disc golf were on T.V.? But they have the World championship of poker on every year.
So the question is, is disc golf a sport or a game? I consider it a sport, but until we can get the average person to see it that way, they will always just see people playing Frisbee in the park.