Disc Golf Clinics Don’t Make You Better at Disc Golf

Yeah, I just said that.

This week’s Wisdom Wednesday post, along with a recent post on Instagram by Will Shusterick really have me thinking.  As the weather gets crappier and crappier, disc golfers will spend more and more time inside instead of outside playing.  I’ll save you a very long rant about that one (put on your big person pants and get the hell outside and play!!!), but it’s a fact of life.

What do disc golfers do when they’re stuck inside?  I’d like to think we all spend time practicing, but that’s just delusional thinking.  There’s a reason that Will and Paul are at the top of our sport.  What are they doing right now?  They are practicing indoors.

Indoor

I would kill to have a facility like this available to me in the winter.

What are most of the rest of us doing?  Watching You Tube videos.  We are watching endless in the bag, SpinTV, DDTV, DiscGolf Planet, and anything else we can get our little eyeballs on.  We all have to scratch our disc golf itch somehow, right?  Then, armed with the “knowledge”  just gained, people of all skill levels invade the online world of DGCR, Reddit, and Facebook to share their newfound expertise with anyone else who will listen.

One of the best things about disc golf videos on You Tube, in my opinion, is the wealth of knowledge.  There are countless instructional clinics and how to videos from the top pros in disc golf.  It’s one of the things I love most about our sport.  Where else do so many of the top pros in any sport take time out of their day to help others to play better?

One of the best driving instructional videos on You Tube:

One of the worst things about disc golf videos on You Tube, in my opinion, is the wealth of knowledge.  Those same countless instructional videos have people thinking that watching a video just made them better at disc golf.  I’ve got news for those people.  Those videos didn’t improve your game a bit.  A lot of people will argue with this, but it’s a simple fact.

I know from experience.  There was once a day when I thought that spending countless hours in front of my computer was going to lower my scores.  Well, years of frustration proved me wrong.  Understanding something in your head is a far cry from being able to do it in real life.

You have to do the work to get better.  Period.  There is no substitute for actually throwing plastic with an intentional focus on improving a particular skill or aspect of your form.  You can watch “how to drive further” videos all day and your disc will not go further until you go out and practice.  Here’s an analogy for you.  Next time you need a doctor, give me a call.  I’ll watch a couple of You Tube videos before I see you.  If you end up needing surgery, I’m sure there’s a video or two that will show me what to do.  You’ll be fine, really.  I not only watched some videos, but I chatted about it on a forum too.  I’m, like, an expert now.

One of the best putting videos on You Tube:

So a lot of people are probably reading this and saying, “Hey, I actually do go out and practice.  You don’t know what you are talking about!!”  Well, that puts you in the top 5% of people who watch videos or go to clinics.  I’m not saying no one practices.  I’m just saying most people don’t practice.  With that strong of a statement, maybe I should define what I mean by practice.

Practice is NOT going out and playing a round with your buddies sometime in the week after you watched a video or went to a clinic and kinda sorta thinking about what you saw while you play.  If that’s your approach, anything new you try will be quickly replaced by your old habits.  You are not getting any better this way.

One of the best lessons on rollers that I have found:

Practice is going out immediately after you attend the clinic or watch it on line.  Practice is going out with a stack of discs and only working on one or two things from that clinic or video that you think will help you the most.  Practice is doing those things over and over and over and over and over again until they are a natural part of your game.  Practice is pulling out your phone in the middle of those practice sessions to watch that video again and again to make sure you are on point.  Practice is bringing a camera with you, recording yourself, and watching it back to make sure you are getting it.

As I stated in the title to this post, disc golf clinics do not make you better at disc golf.  PRACTICING THE SKILLS YOU LEARNED IN DISC GOLF CLINICS is what makes you better at disc golf.

A little bit earlier, I made the statement that if you actually practice (as I just defined) the skills you learn at a clinic, immediately after the clinic, that puts you in the top 5%.  (I honestly think I’m being generous with that number, but let’s just say it’s 5%)  How did I come up with that?  Well, the next time you are at a clinic, here’s what you should look for…

How many people finish the clinic by walking up to the pro, getting an autograph, maybe hanging out and talking a bit, and then getting in their car and going home?  Almost all of them is my experience.  How many people do you see doing field work right after the clinic?  And I don’t mean throwing a couple of discs.  I mean a good solid hour or two of field work?  I’ll give an example.

This will vastly improve your putting game….  IF you do it:

In 2007, I played (poorly) in the Am Worlds in Milwaukee, WI.  Part of that event was a clinic put on by Avery Jenkins and David Feldberg.  After they did their thing, they let a good number of people come up to them with two discs, throw those discs, and get direct one on one feedback from one or both of those guys.  Are you kidding me?!?!?  One on one time with either of those guys is absolute gold!  I was so appreciative for the two tips that Feldberg gave me, I couldn’t wait to try them out and work them into my form.

They ran at least 35-40 people through this one on one time.  Guess how many people were doing field work to practice the tips they were given right after the clinic?  You know, when you have the most chance of actually remembering what they said you should work on?  Two.  That’s right, just me and one other guy.  A couple people threw a few times, but after 15-20 minutes, we were the ONLY people left out there.  And this is at Am Worlds.  These are supposed to be serious disc golfers!

Photo Nov 18, 7 38 50 PM

I threw that night until my fingers hurt.  But I ingrained both of those Feldy tips and they stay with me to this day.  Going to the clinic is NOT what made me better.  Practicing what I learned there is what did.

Normally I close my posts by asking for comments and for you to subscribe to my blog.  This time I want to close with a challenge.  Throughout this blog post, I’ve posted what I think are some of the best instructional videos on YouTube.  My challenge to you is to pick one.  Watch it.  And then go practice it.  A lot.  Practice it until you can’t get it wrong.  Then and only then go out and play a round.  You tell me, was it watching the instructional that made you better, or the practice that you put in afterword?