Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Kaiden Bell's Disc Golf Journey

By: Courtney Elder


For many parents across the nation, the chance to introduce disc golf to their children feels akin to a dream to come true. While it’s not uncommon to secure your child’s PDGA number right after they’re born, walking the delicate line between encouraging them to play while not forcing it upon them often becomes challenging after the vision of raising the next World Champion has entered into your mind. Yet for the Bell family, their passion for disc golf has truly influenced their children in an incredible way, and it’s positioned them to provide their kids with all of the tools needed to truly fulfill their wildest ambitions.

If you’ve ever seen a viral YouTube video of a child throwing a disc, there’s a good chance that it was featuring Kaidin Bell. A member of the Dynamic Discs family, Kaidin’s history with disc golf is far deeper at age 7 than many adults have experienced in their lifetime. Through the good and the bad, Kaidin and his parents have remained true to their passion for the sport, and the accomplishments that this young player has racked up are simply the icing on the cake.

Loving disc golf from birth is just one of the many details behind Kaidin’s journey, and whether he’s throwing long drives in an attempt to set world records or he’s competing at a local tournament, we guarantee that you’ve never seen a more focused, talented, and truly happy disc golfer. Let’s dive deep into the story of how Kaidin Bell got to where he is today and take an honest look at what it’s like to be a famous athlete at only 7 years old.

Start Them Young

So many times, parents will put minis in the hands of their children hoping that their love for disc golf will somehow rub off on them, but Kaidin’s ambition seems to truly be in his blood. Both his mom and dad, Melissa and Adam, discovered disc golf in their teen years, and having been together for more than half of their lives, have been able to encourage each other in their own love for the game.

“My dad installed the first disc golf course in Oklahoma that he knew of,” Melissa shared. “I’ve always been athletic but don’t really care for competition.” Adam, on the other hand, quickly excelled within the competitive ranks before having Kaidin, and noticed that’s when things did change a bit. “I didn’t want to stop at first, but bringing a one-month-old in a stroller playing Open in C and B tiers was frowned upon,” he said. “It didn’t take long for [Kaidin] to become a local legend. Kaidin has really changed our disc golf community - it is very much a family thing now.”

Even from birth, Kaidin’s impact on the sport was larger than he may ever realize, as he would sometimes hold a mini in both hands as security items instead of a traditional blanket or stuffed animal. “His mother worked as a nurse on the very floor he was born, so every nurse, doctor, physician’s assistant, secretary, and medical professional was asking ‘what is that cute little frisbee’?” Adam shared. Soon enough, packing a diaper bag had to include bringing a portable mini basket with them everywhere they went, or else Kaidin wasn’t having it.

“When we would go on walks or even in the isles at the grocery store, even when he could barely walk, he would go through the run-up routine of throwing both backhand and forehand over and over again to the point where everyone would comment on his ‘dance’ routine,” said Adam with a laugh. “But instead we would explain to people how he was twirling around throwing imaginary discs. People would usually give us a few minutes to talk about disc golf or it was just as simple as telling someone to Google him to show their kids when they get home.”

Despite the joy that came from encouraging Kaidin to play disc golf at such a young age, the Bell’s also endured a challenging time early on. From as early as his infancy, Kaidin had a difficult time keeping most foods down. Doctor visit after doctor visit resulted in most physicians telling Adam and Melissa that it was normal, but they knew something wasn’t right. “We were blessed and finally found the right doctor who didn’t say ‘it’s normal.’ She tested him for food allergies and found he was allergic to 99% of the test subjects,” Melissa explained.

Armed with this new knowledge, the family made the decision to stick to a vegan diet for Kaidin, and like any other kid his age, vegan mac and cheese with broccoli has become his favorite. All during this trying time, disc golf was there as an activity that Kaidin almost found solace in. Having something concrete in his life was certainly comforting for Adam and Melissa as well as they navigated this unexpected aspect of becoming parents.

Videos And Records Galore

Not every family could tell someone to look up their child on YouTube to get a better idea of what disc golf is about, but the Bell’s sure can. Kaidin’s debut appearance was at 13 months, where he was seen throwing minis from his toy box. His first clip to earn over 100,000 views was of him throwing a disc into a basketball hoop for a world record at the young age of 2. Shared through Facebook via trick shot legend Brodie Smith, it helped to propel Kaidin into becoming more of a household name among disc golf lovers. At age 4, CBS Sports featured his throwing skills as he attempted to take down his 32nd World Distance Record, and a plethora of other videos and highlight reels have featured the young player over the years.

To date, Kaidin has 63 World Distance Records to his name, and it’s become a huge aspect of the family’s life within the sport. Individuals over the age of 13 have to compete for these accolades at a sanctioned WFDF location, but as Kaidin is so young, he and his family have had to get creative when they make their attempts. His dad explained:

“When we go to a facility to attempt a world record he has usually practiced at home throughout the day just throwing and loosening up his muscles. When we arrive, we do the appropriate measuring and show Kaidin the distance and play catch for a couple of minutes to get his brain back into throwing mode. We cannot go to a park with a playground - it's so hard for him to focus in on throwing when all the kids are hooting and hollering over on the jungle gym.

Our first two years were way more hectic as we had to go to every school and big building we could find vacant. [Even] the local stadium doesn't even have a big enough flat spot to perform a world record roller because his disc makes such a large circle before coming to rest. This year the indoor roller took several days because he kept hitting the back wall with his disc still in full roll.

This gym [we use now] is huge - who knows how long he could actually roll one inside! He even is 50' down a hallway rolling into the gym. [Eventually] we found the oldest flat walking track in town that still has a grass football field. He will outgrow that track soon and we will be at a loss for an establishment for the outdoor roller.”

While attempting world records year after year is truly fun for the Bell family, Kaidin’s level of talent and skill has certainly presented some challenges when trying to find adequate locations. Adam and Melissa have also had to exercise a fair amount of options when trying to find which discs would be light enough for Kaidin to throw and actually achieve the results he’s looking for. So far, they’ve come up with some winners, but the road hasn’t always been easy.

Selecting A Sponsor

It’s difficult enough to wrangle a 7-year-old’s passion for something and channel it into a productive activity, and Kaidin’s world record attempts have added another layer to the disc golf world that the family has become so immersed in. However, one of the major pieces of Kaidin’s story also brought along its own share of frustration and heartbreak.

Since the start of his disc golf career, Kaidin has not always been a member of the Dynamic Discs family, but ultimately has found a home here thanks to his love of the Judge, Diamond, and more, along with the support of other players within our group. As early as age 6, sponsorship was something that Adam and Melissa had been wrestling with. While they were fortunate enough to have the support of local clubs to help out with tournament entry fees, it was clear that taking Kaidin’s game to the next level would really require a major partnership. Many of the details are quite personal and emotional for the family, but through their story, it’s become obvious over the years that selecting a sponsor as a junior player is certainly no easier than it is for an adult.

Initially, Kaidin and his parents were in discussion with several different disc manufacturers, and they believed that they had zeroed in on a particular partnership. However, as soon as one offer came in, so did another, as well as some conversations that were downright difficult. If you wanted your child to be sponsored by one of the top disc golf companies in the world but it meant having to take away all of their favorite discs, what would you do? It was this exact dilemma that Adam and Melissa struggled with for quite some time.

However, 2018 marked a huge turning point for Kaidin and his sponsorship journey, as many conversations that took place around Junior Worlds and Junior USDGC were instrumental in his alignment with DD. He and his parents spent a fair amount of time talking with Paige Pierce about the offers they had on the table and how important it is that in the end, they just want Kaiden to be happy.

One of the main considerations in selecting a sponsor was addressing Kaidin’s attachment to certain discs, and Adam describes how difficult it was as a parent to approach this conversation: “I understand being loyal and I understand this is the biggest opportunity in the world for us to grow the sport, but telling a 6 or 7-year-old about this loyalty is going to be hard.” Rather than take away the discs that Kaidin has become so attached to in order to align with specific companies, Adam and Melissa decided that DD was the right fit for them.

Kaidin was certainly happy too, and as the family was unpacking from their Junior USDGC trip, he said: “If Paige wants me on her team I’ll throw only her discs.” Adam said that the sense of relief they got from allowing Kaidin to throw the molds he wanted was immense and incredibly important to their overall disc golf journey.

Speaking To The Man Himself

It’s one thing to hear about Kaidin’s incredible journey through the eyes of his parents, but it’s quite another to get this 7-year-old’s take on his own disc golf accomplishments. Funny enough, Melissa mentions that Kaidin doesn’t really understand what he’s achieved, and from his point of view, his disc golf talents are akin to a child asking their parent to watch them do another summersault. However humble he may be, Kaidin’s perspective on the sport is one that reminds us all to have a little more fun and take both our wins and losses in stride.

To date, Kaidin has won 5 of the 7 sanctioned events that he’s competed in, and according to him, his success is due to a variety of factors. “[I won] because I took my time and listened to my dad. I wanted it [and] I got low scores,” he explained. His daily practice routines certainly don’t hurt either. He’ll spend time with Adam on their own private 9-hole course, named Kaidin’s Corner, and also makes sure he putts regularly as well. Not only does he focus on various elements of his game, like trying to improve upon his already impressive 200’ drives, but he’ll play a round or two just for fun as well.

His plans for 2019 are certainly lofty enough for any professionally touring player to achieve, but for Kaidin, he knows that he has the talent to make anything happen. One of his goals this year is to become a 2x World Champion, and he’d also like to see Ricky Wysocki at some point on the tour. Despite the fact that Ricky is no longer a part of the Trilogy team, Kaidin still has an incredible reverence for him: “I’m proud of him,” he says.

Children naturally have a difficult time accurately describing what the future may hold for themselves, and frankly, many adults even do, but Kaidin’s love for disc golf is the only thing that’s on his mind. He’s already thinking about when he’ll play against fellow junior Landon Brooks at Junior Worlds this year and talks optimistically that someday he might beat Paul McBeth or Eagle McMahon. Kaidin sees nothing but success in his future, and says that when he’s 40 “I’ll be at Worlds and I’ll have 20 World Championships by then.”

However, like any other 7-year-old boy, there’s more to what makes him tick than just disc golf. Kaidin loves playing with Pok√©man cards, doing Taekwondo, and watches Planet Earth TV with keen enthusiasm. He’s currently enrolled in a Chinese Immersion program which teaches him to speak Mandarin while focusing on other elements often seen in traditional American education. Each student has a Chinese name at the school, and Kaidin’s is “Ping.” Coincidentally enough, the symbol for his name looks very similar to a disc golf basket and means “to travel with peace.”

What The Future Holds

The dynamics of the Bell family has only shifted even more over the last handful of years as Kaidin’s little brother Brinlee is also making his name known within the disc golf community. He has a handful of World Flying Disc Federation Distance World Records himself, and his parents attribute some of his success to the wonderful example and help from big brother Kaidin. The duo can often be seen throwing discs on their course at home, an idea that, at the time, Adam likely had no idea was going to be so instrumental:

“I wanted to practice at home so I started to place baskets out making shots. I needed to practice and people started coming over [to play] so we started thinking of a design to actually walk a 9-hole course. It’s changed over time but we feel very blessed to live where we do so we are constantly sharing the yard with anyone who wants to play.”

Not only does the family property allow Kaidin the much-needed practice time over the course of each year, but he’s been able to fine-tune his distance drives more consistently than most adults out there. Using black and silver baskets at varying positions, he knows that he can accurately throw 200’. It’s his hope to gain even more distance this year, and his perseverance will likely serve him well, as he’s already had to deal with driving issues in the past.

Several months before the 2018 Junior World Championships, Kaidin fell off of the monkey bars at school and injured his elbow. He couldn’t throw a disc for two months and only got about two solid weeks of practice in before the event. “He had fun but his injury cost him 75-100’ in distance,” said Adam. Given that Kaidin has had to focus on rebuilding his driving technique already at such a young age, there’s no telling how much more distance he can add during 2019.

The Bell family is already looking forward to both of their sons setting new records this year, but will never put undue pressure on them to achieve. More than anything else, disc golf is intended to be a fun activity for them rather than something that induces unneeded stress, especially at such a young age. Spreading this enjoyment is something that’s on Kaidin’s radar as well, as he discussed a bit about his view on kids getting into the sport.

“I think it’s really really great,” he said when asked about junior players getting involved early on and being referred to as the future of the sport. Why so much enthusiasm? “So kids can play and be World Champions like me,” Kaidin explained. One can’t help but smile when thinking about how this seemingly overly simple approach to the game would actually work to benefit so many of us who are in our head too much or beating ourselves up for our performances. If we all took on an attitude that was more similar to Kaidin’s, how much happier might we all be on the course?

Kaidin’s advice for younger players who are interested in the game is to purchase their own discs and then spend some time practicing. “I would teach them how to play and I would also teach them how to throw as far as me,” he said. Again, it’s incredible to explore the ideas of teaching the sport from the eyes of someone who is simultaneously so young but also has had more years of experience playing than many other disc golfers out there.

Lessons We Can Learn

Even if as he gets older Kaidin’s passion for disc golf slowly transitions into other activities, he’ll still have an incredible career to look back on. Not many 7-year-olds can say that they have multiple discs with stamps that commemorate their world records or championships, and the simple fact that he has the support of Dynamic Discs along with so many of the team’s top players goes to show how truly special he is to the sport.

Whether you’re a new player who is just discovering disc golf in adulthood or you have younger children who have shown a bit of interest in the game, there’s a lot that can be learned from Kaidin. The lessons of persistence, hard work, and following your passions are ones that can easily be learned while on the disc golf course, and it’s amazing that Kaidin has nurtured these strengths so early in life. His outlook on the sport is bright, and when he was asked about his game, his answer contained more confidence than many four times his age might say: “I’m a champion and if I lose I know I will win the next one.” Keep working hard Kaidin - you’re making the disc golf world proud!
1 comment:
  1. Your story is fascinating. After I finished reading this article, I searched for a video of Kaiden Bell on youtube, and I saw a 4-year-old boy make a fantastic throw, unbelievable. When I had kids, I will also teach my child to play disc golf, and I hope they will love this game too

    ReplyDelete