How many disc golfers have you heard drop the phrase ‘Grow the Sport’ in the past couple weeks? Probably quite a few. If not, then you’ve undoubtedly seen #GrowTheSport shared across disc golf posts on every social media network. Alan at Infinite Discs wrote a good article a couple weeks ago on what he believes needs to happen to grow the sport of disc golf which offers a good perspective from someone who experiences large pro events in person. Now let me ask you a question.
What does it mean?
Silly question right?
Seriously, doesn’t it just mean getting more people to play disc golf? Oh, wait, some of you are referring to increasing the number of courses available. Oh, and some of you allude to making disc golf more popular in the eyes of the public. So it seems that ‘Grow the Sport’ may take on a number of meanings.
Before you continue reading I want to make something clear, I am not arguing against growing the sport or hindering disc golf’s popularity. Don’t read this as a cynical tirade against the growth of disc golf, you know me better than that by now and I only want you to consider the meaning of the phrase.
Here’s what I’ve observed over the past months with regard to #GrowTheSport. Nearly every disc golfer wants to jump on board. That’s great, it truly is, because we have everyone working for a greater disc golf cause. But there’s a problem with this which can be observed when everyone starts chanting a phrase and the phrase begins to lose meaning. The problem is that the phrase is too vague and the meaning and ultimate goal is different to everyone. When the meaning and desired outcome are different for the involved parties then the actions taken becomes less effective because not all actions are optimized for the same goals.
Let’s take another momentary pause. Each of these different goals is legitimate and it’d be great to achieve each of them. More people playing disc golf is a great goal. It’s a wonderful thing to watch new courses develop! Who wouldn’t want to see improved public perception of disc golf? But let’s face it, how many people have actually defined what ‘Grow the Sport’ means to them and what their priorities are?
I touched on a couple of the different meanings above, now I want you to stop for a moment and consider what ‘Grow the Sport’ means to you and why you want to grow it. To Alan, growing the sport means increasing the number of players and number of spectators in large part through a friendlier environment and increased media coverage. ‘Grow the Sport’ touches a little closer to home for me; the quality of experience for existing players is more important to me than quantity of players or amount of exposure.
By quality of experience I refer specifically to the positive attitude of the disc golf community, the number and quality of events, and the caliber of courses. I am passionate about enhancing the disc golf culture. While I could write an entire article about each of these areas, the import point is that my idea of growing the sport focuses around improving and maximizing what we currently have while also maintaining the current disc golf culture. I also truly believe that this will attract additional participants to the sport and the type of new players who will hold true to the current disc golf values. I do acknowledge the inverse, that by increasing the number of players and media exposure my ideals may become more easily achievable, but this becomes a matter of priority and which goals to work on first.
What’s more important than you agreeing with me, though, is that by defining what we mean by ‘Growing the Sport’ we can more efficiently decide how to allocate time and resources. If you have extra time will you spend that time cleaning up your home course or talking to your co-workers about disc golf? Hopefully you can do both, but at some point we all run out of extra time and when resources are limited you usually see the greatest benefit when those resources are focused. I can give you a personal example that you’re already familiar with, my writing. Rodney and I have many aspirations for our content, but the majority of our content is written toward those who are already familiar with disc golf and are interested in improving their game, but also not targeted toward disc golf experts. This doesn’t mean our content is exclusive or that it won’t appeal to casual disc golfers or even non-disc golfers, but we believe that we can make the greatest impact by focusing on disc golfers who have already made the decision to improve their game but are not yet experts.
So what do you mean when you call out ‘Grow the Sport’? The more discussion we can have the more informed we will be, thus the more effective we can be when growing our beloved sport of disc golf. I hope to see questions like this included in surveys and studies so we can begin collecting data to help make informed decisions, and the more articulate we are the better we can answer the questions. I encourage you to check out Alan’s post, and take a look at the series of documents by John Heaton from Whirld Sports on growing disc golf.
Join in the conversation and give us your thoughts, or even better – write a proposal and post it online!