Friday, May 17, 2019

Using Self-Awareness As A Tool In His Bag - Learning From DD Team Member Steven Jacobs

Anyone who takes disc golf seriously knows that there’s a mental element to the game that just can’t be ignored, and while this can be a challenge for some, others have it dialed in well enough that it helps them to take down the win at big events nationwide. For Illinois native Steven Jacobs, his ability to incorporate mindfulness into his disc golf game, and his life in general, has served him quite well.

Jacobs has been competing since 2009, and with a low enough PDGA number that’s likely coveted by many, he’s learned over the years that staying level headed is just as important as regular practice. Let’s learn a bit more about Steven, understand his disc golf background, and see how his 2019 season is shaping up.

Falling Hard And Fast

Steven hadn’t experienced the sport of disc golf until 2007, and it was actually thanks to his involvement in baseball that got him started. While competing at Warren Township Park in Gurnee, IL, he noticed the property also featured a disc golf course, and he quickly became hooked. By the summer of 2008, he was playing every day and sharpening his skills and joined the competitive circuit a year later.

It wasn’t until 2013 that things began to change, as he competed in that year’s Amateur & Junior Disc Golf World Championships. He came in first in the Advanced division, and later earned himself a spot in 23rd during Pro Worlds. “I remember Jeremy Rusco watching some of my play during that tournament. DD invited me to join [the team] soon after that!” Steven explained.

This year has been ideal for him so far, with a great result at the recent Skyline Classic in Wisconsin where he ended in a three-way tie for second place. GBO also put another successful notch in his disc golf belt, and while he placed 62nd in the MPO field, the highlight for him was seeing old friends and making new ones.

Handing The Pressure

Since Steven isn’t on the road full-time, he’s able to take a more balanced approach to his disc golf game. While he enjoys playing Magic: The Gathering, reading, and playing jazz trumpet in his spare time, he also brings an air of wisdom to his disc golf skill set: “I make a priority of practicing in my free time as well as working out, stretching, and trying to relax my mind. My life is busy and I do my best to balance the different aspects of my life. When I do that, my disc golf game is at its best.”

This year, keeping his mind clear both on and off the course is a primary goal for Steven, and with his trusty line-up of Deputy, Truth, and Raider molds, he’s ready to take on the rest of the season with confidence. “I’m looking forward to Pro Worlds,” he said excitedly. “It is at courses I’m familiar with in my home state. I love the high-level competition at Worlds and the intensity of the tourney.” We wish Steven the best of luck this year and hope that he has an awesome season!
Tuesday, May 7, 2019

What's The Most Dangerous Thing On The Disc Golf Course?

While disc golf is a pretty safe sport in the grand scheme of things, we’ve all encountered our fair share of danger on the course. Getting dehydrated is a real issue when you’re playing during the hot summer months, and unless you’ve prepared adequately, a sunburn likely comes right along with it. People throwing errant shots that hit others can also be a huge hazard, especially if you come into contact with a high-speed driver.

All “WTF Richard?” moments aside, there are some other more natural elements to consider when you’re playing a round of disc golf. Many times the things we’re most focused on include hitting our lines and having fun, but some key considerations need to cross your stream of consciousness, especially during summertime.

Strolling Through The Woods

Not all of the plants you’ll find on the course are your friends, and when you’re playing a heavily wooded course, there’s a good chance that a disc or two will end up in the rough, thus requiring you to go on a bit of a jungle adventure to retrieve it. Being careful where you walk and what plants you touch is a major thing to consider, and sometimes caution needs to come before making sure you leave with all of the plastic you came with.

Poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac are all things that disc golfers have likely encountered at least once, and if you’re not paying attention, you’ll encounter it again. These plants cause a very itchy rash due to the oils that they transfer onto your skin when you rub against them. These rashes can include painful blisters, they are contagious, and can take several weeks to fully go away.

While the three plants do look somewhat similar to each other, they do have some minor differences: poison ivy can grow as a vine or a shrub with leaves that are bright green. Both poison oak and poison sumac look more like shrubs with clusters of leaves, but the most important thing to look for is the number of leaves present; as the saying goes “leaves of three, let them be.”

Teeny Tiny Bugs

Spiders and ants aside, there’s another critter on the disc golf course that should strike even more worry into your heart if you aren’t careful - ticks. These minuscule creatures like to live in the woods, shrubs, and especially tall grassy fields and aren’t afraid to hitch a ride whenever they please. Ticks can find a new home on both you and any furry friends you bring along for a round, so making sure to thoroughly check everyone for ticks afterward is key.

These bugs can give a person Lyme disease with just a single bite and the condition can include a wide range of symptoms that include fatigue, joint pain, fever, and more. Many people battle with Lyme disease for years on end before even getting a diagnosis, so as a disc golfer, it’s important that you are aware of any bodily changes that you experience soon after spending time outdoors.

While these elements are certainly things to keep in mind, don’t let them deter you from heading out to your favorite course and playing a round. After all, while plants and bugs may be the most dangerous thing out there, not having a great time is equally as scary!

For more information on ticks and Lyme disease prevention check out our very own Derek Savory's LymeWarrriorDG site on the subject.
Friday, May 3, 2019

When Passion Turns Into A Job - Getting To Know DD's Art Director Jacob Torkelson

When was the last time that you got paid for something that was truly a hobby? We’re not talking about disc golf here, but something that you enjoy doing for fun that you would likely never think could turn into a career. For Jacob Torkelson, this scenario became a reality for him back in 2014. He works as the Art Director here at Dynamic Discs and is the guy behind many of our marketing efforts. If you’ve ever seen our YouTube videos or even checked out the sweet wrap on 2018 Worlds Champion Paige Bjerkaas’ van, you’ve seen Jacob’s work.

How exactly did his talent make its way to DD? Funny enough, there’s a bit of a story there that we’d like to share. Let’s take a few minutes to get to know Jacob, find out what he loves most about working at DD, and hear about how he helps to #growthesport.

A Twist Of Fate

In 2014, Jacob had no idea that he would be working for Dynamic Discs, much less had ever even heard of disc golf at all. At the time, the sophomore at Emporia State University had heard about an opening for a graphic design internship from his Marketing teacher. “Photoshop and graphics was something I always did in my free time. Whether that be creating wallpapers or superimposing my friend's heads on the body of Britney Spears for a few laughs, it's what I liked to do and I had gotten pretty good at it,” Torkelson explained.

Armed with experience and a go-getter attitude, he applied for the internship without having so much as heard of the company offering it. You guessed it, it was Dynamic Discs! After passing a hands-on Photoshop test, he started the following week and ended up getting hired on afterward. He’s since finished his degree and now works to create marketing campaigns and brand identities for DD.

Disc Golf Love

You hear it all of the time, but we’ll say it just once more - working at Dynamic Discs is truly like being with family. “I have had plenty of other jobs where you go to work and put up with other employees for 4-8 hours,” Jacob said. “Inside these doors is completely different. You come inside and are greeted by your literal best friends. Most people get off work and try to get as far away from coworkers as possible. Here, we are calling and texting each other to hang out after hours almost every day.”

Despite making some of his best friends here, Jacob still had one piece of the puzzle left - to actually start playing disc golf! He ended up grabbing a Blend Judge, a Fuzion Truth, and a Cadet bag and would throw at trees initially to better his aim. Forehands were practiced by throwing into his couch, and before long, Jacob was a full-fledged disc golfer. “I carry this brand with me everywhere I go. It's on my car, my shirts, my accessories. If I find a way to work it into a casual conversation, I will. I also donate a lot of discs in the form of losing them on the course to tall grass, bushes, and ponds,” he said with a laugh.

Jacob’s story goes to show you that taking a leap of faith is sometimes the very thing that gives you some of life’s greatest gifts. Now in love with the game and working at a company that’s both fun and challenging, he couldn’t be happier with his decision to apply for that internship.

Dynamic Discs Month In Review - April 2019

Dynamic Discs employees and fans are often asked, “Which of your discs are the most popular?” We tend to think that we know the answers, but some of our ideas may or may not be biased depending on our personal favorites. It’s time to put all that speculation to rest with some COLD, HARD FACTS. It’s time for the Dynamic Discs Month In Review.

Some discs may appear twice or more because of different plastic types. Here are April's top sellers:

  1. Fuzion Raider
  2. Prime Burst Judge
  3. VIP Gatekeeper
  4. Lucid Felon
  5. Classic Guard
  6. Opto Ballista Pro
  7. Hybrid Warden
  8. Opto Recoil
  9. Prime Burst Deputy
  10. Lucid Justice
  11. Lucid-X Trespass
  12. Lucid EMAC Truth
  13. Opto-X Compass
  14. Lucid Maverick
  15. Lucid Trespass
  16. Lucid Escape
  17. Classic Blend Burst Guard
  18. Classic Blend Burst Judge
  19. Opto Pioneer
  20. Opto River

Big surprise - the Raider stays atop the list. We should probably get used to that. #teamjudge was tired of being outdone by #teammaiden and solidified two appearances on the list alongside floaty newcomer, the Guard. The VIP Gatekeeper is becoming more and more popular for its torque resistance and line holding ability. Eric Oakley sold out of Lucid-X Felons last month but sold enough stock Lucids to jump up the board. Once again, the Ballista Pro and Recoil make an appearance and continue to be go-to max distance bombers with consistent control. Arriving at #7, my main man and my main putter - A.J. Risley’s Hybrid Wardens. Is that good? Deputy throwers came out in force during April and drove it up a few spots, while the GBO winds likely caused wind-fighters like the Justice and Pioneer to claim some top spots. The Lucid-X Trespass and Opto-X Compass showed up and sold out as have almost all of the Team Series discs - I guess it’s time to restock! Rounding out the month, some popular mainstays retain their positions in the EMAC Truth, Maverick, Trespass, Escape, and River.
Thanks for joining us in looking at a snapshot of our best sellers. Which discs are you surprised to see off the list? Leave a comment below, and let us know why your favorite disc should make May’s Month in Review!
Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Growing The Sport Through Clinics - Here's How LaRon Harris Is Making A Huge Disc Golf Difference

Introducing people to disc golf no matter their age is always a bit of a tricky situation - you want to share your passion, and dare we say obsession, with them, but being able to meet them on their current athletic level may prove to be a challenge. Explaining the rules of the game is easy enough, but how can you accurately teach someone the nuances of the sport?

It’s been 30 years since LaRon Harris started playing disc golf, and for him, the answer to our question above has been fine-tuned over decades. If you don’t know LaRon by name, you certainly know him from his smiling face seen all around Kansas City, Missouri. A member of the Dynamic Discs team, avid player, and perhaps one of the most involved teachers in the sport, LaRon took some time to chat with us about his own personal disc golf history and how he’s been able to reach so many kids and adults through his clinics.

A Walk Down Memory Lane

Playing disc golf is truly second nature for LaRon, but he didn’t grow up in the game like so many of his teammates have. Instead, during May of 1989, he was just wrapping up a 17-year career within martial arts, finding that he was getting incredibly burned out. A friend took him to Swope Park, a well-known course in Kansas City. After one round, Harris was hooked and began his headfirst dive into disc golf that so many of us remember like it was yesterday:

“I saw it and said ‘I think I can do this.’ I took a lot of the martial arts philosophy to the sport to help me focus. Once I realized that your whole body was involved in throwing, it kind of made it easy for me to watch and learn from my own movements. Once I got the basics down it was all about finetuning my technique - I kept asking questions and kept trying to figure the game out.”

Despite the fact that at the time he was working one full-time job, one part-time job, and was divorced with four sons, LaRon made disc golf a priority. He’d spend more time on the field than playing actual rounds, relying on his muscle memory to see him through each tournament. Between 1989 and 2006, he considered himself to be a steady player, but life ended up handing him a different set of plans.

Transitioning To Teaching

In 2006, he discovered that he had a degenerative tissue disease and that his hips were literally disintegrating. While LaRon took himself out of the game, his passion for the sport didn’t stop. By this time, he had formed solid friendships with many local players and was particularly close with Eric McCabe. The two had played and traveled together for some time, and while LaRon had started offering private disc golf coaching in 2007, Eric’s World Champion win in 2010 really spoke to him. “It proved that if you stuck to the process and didn’t get ahead of yourself, it proved what you can do. That was my first notion that I needed to get info out of there,” he said.

LaRon’s work with local Kansas City players continued, and in 2014 after a double hip replacement, he began slowly reintegrating himself back into the game. While competing was still on his radar, his teaching had ramped up to the point where he could see it was really where he was needed within the sport. Harris started integrating clinics into his offerings as well, and the response was overwhelming. Just when things were looking up, a prostate cancer diagnosis that resulted in 36 radiation treatments temporarily sidelined him.

However, that didn’t stop things from moving forward, as a call in 2014 from McCabe showed LaRon just how valuable he truly was:

“Eric called and said they wanted me on the team. I was reluctant at first because I wanted to be 100% physically ready - but they wanted me on the team for what I was doing and how I was giving back. That gave me a second wind that ‘ok, I can continue to do what I’m doing as far as education and build my body up and still play.' I still love competing but I had this urge to teach more.”

Focusing On The Masses

By 2015, LaRon’s clinics were in full swing, and while he still offered private lessons (he trained with Cynthia Ricciotti for two years before her 2018 Junior Worlds win), the need in Kansas City for larger teaching opportunities was too important to ignore. “I average about 900 people a year as far as clinics - the first year was over 1000. I’ll teach at schools, churches, community centers, and with the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts,” he explained.

So what actually happens at one of LaRon’s events? He described that no matter the age of the group he’s teaching or just how many people there are, he starts everyone at the basket. He’ll go over the basics of putting, how to grip a disc, discuss how wind affects your putt, and more. LaRon takes teaching to a more personalized level when possible, although a full day at a school tends to be a bit different. “Sometimes we get 600 kids and have to treat them like cattle,” he said with a laugh.

After some time near the basket, Harris will have people back up to roughly 100 feet and work on their approach shots. He’s also developed props for use in the field as well, offering people a visual of where they are supposed to be throwing:

“I bought a lot of PVC and now I have 6’ tall pipes and 10’ tall pipes. I’ll make tunnels and gates, and I have a 4’x4’ net and two 6’x6’ nets. I can move those anywhere, so now when I have certain types of clinics I can use them. Originally I built it all for myself to help me hit better lines.”

LaRon has several clinics coming up this spring, with a stop in April at an elementary school. His May clinic is with a private business who has always shown a love for the sport - they put on an annual tournament but decided to incorporate an educational element to it several weeks beforehand. “I run into this a lot where one golfer works at a company and they reach out to me to come in. Most people in Kansas City know who to contact when it comes to clinics,” he explained.

Doing What LaRon Does

The need for in-depth training opportunities through clinics and private lessons is sorely needed across the nation, but many times people simply don’t know what to do to get started. While teaching came very naturally for LaRon, there was also an element of networking and strategy that helped him to get where he’s at today. His advice? “Talk to your club and see if there’s a need for it. Talk to local community groups, YMCAs, community centers - all those people might have a need for an alternative sport,” shared Harris.

With so many disc golfers in Kansas City, including the Kansas City Flying Disc Club and a Dynamic Discs retail store right in town, LaRon has his work cut out for him when it comes to promoting his clinics. Even if you don’t live anywhere near the Midwest, he’s always available to talk with people about their game and encourages locals to reach out to him via email at or through his Facebook profile.

It’s time for more disc golfers to take a page from LaRon’s book and put themselves out there. Speaking with your first community group or two may be intimidating at first, but before long you’ll have the confidence needed to easily communicate to others just how beneficial disc golf is for people of all ages. Getting to create your own curriculum offers a creative outlet that most players don’t get to enjoy, and the reaction you get after a clinic is priceless. “I’ve never left a clinic where the kids weren’t happy,” LaRon said, and that right there is the ultimate measure of success.