Freestyle Players Association
By Dave Lewis - FPA World Co-Op Champion
I know what is good for the freestyle. EXCITEMENT.
The potential new players who we want to get psyched about the sport are teenagers. Teenagers like radical stuff. People get excited by athleticism and danger and perceived risk. That's why people like diving catches in baseball, or the long bomb in football, the fast break in basketball or the home run in baseball. It ain't easy. That's why people go wacko when Larry Imperiale kicks the disc high in the air then hits the big scarecrow. People can sense the risk.
One might say, well, some diff is too hard for non-disc people to understand. Well, everything should be done in balance. Many hard moves are very easy for people to understand. Physical risk is more obvious to the public (i.e. acrobatic moves). Once we have the crowds and the commentators, the commentators will tell the audience about the technical difficulty. I still can't tell the difference between a triple toe loop and a triple salchow in figure skating. But I still dig watching it. I really wanted to see Nancy Kerrigan go for a triple at the Olympics. Mary Jorgenson told me nothing gets her students burning to learning freestyle more than showing them a video of Mikey Reid catching a roots or flying gitis, two big diff catches.
Let's talk about difficulty. Difficulty doesn't have to mean awkward moves that are weird and ugly. If you learn a "difficult" move, if you pick a cool one, after a bit of practice and persistence, you can make it look smooth and add your own style (presentation) to it. "Going for it," being on the edge, excites crowds in my opinion. A vast variety of different looking moves on the playing field - some hard, some not as hard - is much more interesting than just a few safe moves. I agree that difficulty for difficulty sake can be a bad thing. But showmanship without content is just as bad.
Don't forget that moves that are difficult to us today will be considered easy to players in the future. But that's only if we allow ourselves to push the limits of freestyle. Anything new is usually hard to do at first. It's possible to completely wire a double spinning gitis or any difficult move with proper training, conditioning, determination and practice. Look at Erwin Velasquez. Don't tell me his double spinning gitis, which he can get 9 out of 10 times, is not more exciting to the public than an under the leg. I didn't see Dave Schiller drop one spinning gitis during the worlds. And just because a player gets a move wired doesn't mean it's not difficult anymore. The scarecrow is a hard catch, and I know Larry Imperiale has it completely wired. And we all know that's an exciting catch.
CONSECUTIVITY, a lack of any kind of "the", is much more fluid and beautiful to watch than a combo with lots "the" interruptions. It flows more and displays the moves that are being performed with clarity. The combo or co-op is not clouded up with non-moves or "the" set ups. Itís an approach to difficulty but also a form of presentation. To me it's like speaking without saying ìyou know... you know... uhm... uhm...you know...î If you know what I mean. uhm. Consecutivity is more difficult to do, but it's not to be done just cause it's harder. It flows more and allows more possibilities and continuity. With co-ops, not resorting to a "the" delay after receiving a pass also allows for more exchanges and surprises.
I totally agree 100 percent with Randy that we should push the limits of presentation in a routine and come up with FRESH and NEW ideas. But they must include content, interesting moves, and be exciting and have perceived risk to build that excitement.
The judging system we're talking about was designed for the World Championships. If a spectator goes to the topmost tournament to see the best players in the world, a spectator wants to see the highest level of play. As Randy says they also want to see routines performed that are PROFESSIONAL, well constructed, and fun to watch. But they also want to know they're seeing the best and they want to gasp and ooh and ahh. Difficulty should be equal to presentation and execution in emphasis. Teams who win two of the three categories should be able to win. Teams who win just one category should not have as great a chance.
Now we might be worried about them saying, "I could never do that". When it comes to the worlds I don't think the general spectator will expect to be able to win a world title two years after picking up a disc. Nor they should expect to be able to play at a small tournament. And that is something we will work on, and I have lots of ideas on how to have them participate. But I don't expect to play in the NBA after learning a jump shot. We can create smaller and more public participation events to have them join in at a lower freestyle level. But demo routines should not compete for world titles. And if we leave the system the way it is now, eventually demo routines will win the worlds.
Remember, this is a sport first and foremost. It's a creative SPORT. If we suppress the athleticism of the sport we will kill it. We need to reward athletes who push the limits of athleticism and disc skill and creativity.
Now it's very important that these limits are pushed in a tasteful, cohesive and artistic way. Diff for Diff sake is on shaky artistic ground. But that check and balance would be the job of the presentation judge. An ultra high diff routine with poor co-ops and routine design will be penalized. Sloppy performance would be penalized in Execution. The same would be true of the difficulty judge to make sure that a highly creative and thematic routine has world class content.
As for keeping our audience interested, nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd. People feel more comfortable watching and hanging out when there are other people. That problem of few spectators has to do with Marketing and Promotion. Disc needs to have an edgy image. This is not your father's Oldsmobile. The new players we need are teenagers and kids, not adults. Kids like energy, and being on the edge. Those are our new players. That's our true audience. That's our demographic.