Saturday, March 2, 2013

How Throwing Plastic Changed My Life

A few times a week (if weather permits), I push work and school aside and do something that makes me really, truly happy. Now, I’m not saying that I don’t enjoy work or school, because I do! But this is a different kind of happiness, and I’ll tell you why. Slinging round, plastic objects at big, metal baskets has been my passion for five years now, and I have not only gained appreciation for a new sport, but have also gained new-found confidence. If you don’t already know the sport I’m referring to, I’ll let you in on a little secret: I’m talking about disc golf, a game much like ball golf, in which you compete against others, but your main opponent is always yourself.

2012 Magnolia Open, an all-women's disc golf tournament Appling, GA
My college professor introduced me to the game of disc golf in the spring of 2007. At the time, I was playing competitive ultimate Frisbee on the Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) team and didn’t have much time to take up any new hobbies. It wasn’t until I played in my first disc golf tournament in May 2008, the Pennsylvania State Championships, that I fell head over heels. The loud “CHING!” I heard when my disc hit the metal chains; watching the flight pattern of the disc as it flew through the air; the feeling of the sun on my face; the beautiful scenery on my home disc golf course and finally, the confidence this game brought out in me; I just couldn’t get enough! 

Since that first tournament, I have played in about 30 more, including two world championships; I have acquired close to 100 discs; I have played 120 courses in 16 states; I have been picked up by a sponsor (check out Hyzer Flip Disc Golf!); and I founded both a collegiate disc golf team and a women’s league.
Some may say I’m obsessed, but I would argue that I’m merely in love.  

Me driving off the tee!
Some people are born with a natural inclination to throw a disc 600 feet, and others have to work at it; I am one of those people that had to work at it, and I worked long and hard for several years. With my focus turned to disc golf instead of ultimate Frisbee, I started going out to fields to practice my driving and spent 30 minutes a day working on my putting. Although it was frustrating at times, I knew that I wouldn’t get any better if I didn’t put a lot of time and effort into it. I was also fortunate enough to live near Pittsburgh, which boasts several top courses and is the home of many professional disc golfers, helping me to shape my game. 

As my throws got longer and my putting gained more accuracy, I experienced confidence that I had never felt before. I certainly didn’t win every tournament I played in, but each time I stepped up to the tee to launch my disc toward the basket, I felt more self-assured. I have found that most people I play disc golf with are competitive, yet encouraging. Now, as the only female competitor on the University of South Carolina Disc Golf Team and one of the few ladies in the Columbia Disc Golf Club, I strive to grow the sport, especially amongst women. I try to create a comfortable and supportive environment for women to learn how to play disc golf so they can gain skills and confidence while playing with others around their same level.  When teaching new players, I am always amazed by the amount of progress between the first and 18th hole, and try to encourage that person to come out and play more.

Whether you are a world champion or play casually with friends, the game of disc golf forces you to look deep within yourself and find that confidence that you didn’t know you had. It has been said that disc golf is 80% mental and only 20% physical; so telling yourself, “I can do this!” before every throw or putt really makes a difference and could be what you need to turn that bogey into a birdie. 

Some ladies in the Columbia Women's League
After working at SC Campaign for almost two months and learning more about healthy relationships and self efficacy, I have also found that playing disc golf has not only improved my confidence but also my level of self worth. I think playing sports, whether it be an individual sport like disc golf, or a team sport, can greatly enhance one’s ability make healthy decisions and practice healthy habits. So whether you throw plastic, play basketball, tennis or run, take a moment to think about how this sport has helped you to be a stronger, more confident person and try to pass it along to others who may need an extra boost. 

The object of disc golf is to throw a disc (much like a Frisbee) down a fairway in as few throws as possible to get it into a target. Many courses have a full 18 holes with par on each hole usually ranging from three to five. There are courses in every U.S. state and some in other countries, including Australia, Japan and Switzerland. You can find a disc golf course near you by visiting Check out the Professional Disc Golf Association’s (PDGA) website, to find a tournament near you or to learn more about this wonderful sport! For more information about women's disc golf, visit

The above video features the USC Disc Golf Team (filmed and edited by Kevin Allison)

by Sara Lamberson, Health Communications Graduate Assistant, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

1 comment:

  1. My favorite part of that video was Buck flipping his hat up and then catching it on his head!