There are amazing people in the Disc Golf community all across the world. I got the opportunity to talk to one of these amazing people which was Paul Francz who hails from Switzerland. I was expecting some great responses to these questions but I was blown away by what he said and what advice he could give to players. His wealth of knowledge about the game and its history over the years is astounding and I learned so much from him and his responses. So give it a read and as always, enjoy!
1) How did you get your start in Disc Golf?
In spring 1980 I discovered an advertisement in a local newspaper, announcing the 1st Frisbee Swiss Championships to be held in Basel, Switzerland. At that time, I was trying out many different sports (soccer, swimming, tennis, athletics) but was not fully convinced to become really successful, did not fulfill the physical requirements or had the money to finance the sport. So, I thought “why not compete and just have fun”. We have thrown some distance (with 110 grams Frisbee), tried MTA and did some Accuracy. It was really fun, even though playing in the rain, but I had no thoughts then to become a Frisbee-player or even a Disc Golfer. It was just trying out something new.
2) What inspires you to continue within the sport?
End of the year, a guy from another Swiss city chased me up by phone to ask if I would be interested in creating a Frisbee club with some of the local guys who participated in the championships. He also told me, that they have created the Swiss Frisbee Association together with the general importer of the discs. There it was, the opportunity of my life, I thought, and I was right. The club got founded; I became a board member of the Swiss Frisbee Association and by this got in contact with the former IFA (International Frisbee Association) and Dan “Stork” Roddick. In 1982 I was invited to compete at the Wham’O Frisbee World Championships, held at the Rutgers University in New Jersey, where I’ve played also Disc Golf on real baskets for the first time. That was an outstanding experience. Even though I continued to play Overall competitions successfully for another couple of years, my interest for the technical events like distance and disc golf became stronger. Also because middle of the 80’s the first aerodynamic disc, the Eagle, was presented and sold during an Overall European Championships, as well as I have constructed my own disc golf basket (the first basket ever in Switzerland) and started practicing. While many players continued with Ultimate and due to the fact that the Overall competitions got less interesting, I laid my focus fully on Disc Golf, as a player as well as an organizer.
3) How did you get your role on the PDGA?
Even though we have created the WFDF middle of the 80’s I was looking for more information about Disc Golf and got in touch with the PDGA. At that time, the membership for non-US players has been of interest only, when competing at the PDGA Worlds. This changed later, when PDGA implemented the player rating system, the International Program and when we created the EuroTour, where a PDGA membership was mandatory. Meanwhile, I am a PDGA member since of 30 years.
4) What made you want to start accepting money and have the title of “Professional”?
As from the first registration with PDGA, I was a Pro-member. It was never the question becoming an Amateur first and switching later to the Pros just because of the prize-money. Today, I see myself (compared to other sports) more as an Elite-Amateur player rather than a Professional, regardless of my PDGA-membership. My main income does not come from playing disc golf, but from a regular job employment. This not only counts for me, but for over 90 percent Disc Golfers worldwide. Paul McBeth for example is a real Professional – his only job is playing disc golf and he holds contracts with various companies. Earning sometimes prize money is nice, but covers just a minor part of my expenses for a tournament. Therefore prize money is not important to me, as long as I do not have to
live from it – it’s a nice to have (mostly small), but winning a tournament and having played well in addition, makes my day.
5) What is it like to be sponsored?
The question here is “what is a sponsorship?” As a so called “Elite Player” my main goal is, next to playing well, the representation of the sport. I want to look good (which makes me feel good as well) and to provide a certain image to my sport. Due to the fact, that disc golf represents still a very small market within the sports world (including the media), real sponsoring is very limited and with some brands nearly impossible. Therefore, I personally invest yearly quite a lot for my outfit, including clothes, shoes and accessories.
In view of the discs things looks a little bit different. As I am personally not a friend of playing a selection of discs from different brands, I always tried to limit the number of molds and use discs from the same brand if possible. With Kastaplast, finally I have found an ideal disc manufacturer, whose philosophy “less is more” matches with mine and convinced them to “sponsor” me.
6) What is it like to be a part of Team Kastaplast?
The Kastaplast team is relatively new and consists of many excellent players from different countries and different ages, all united by the passion of disc life. We all became ambassadors for a high quality brand and this exactly what we love and share – quality. Personally, I do not expect (and do not want) many new discs every year, but consistency in quality of the current molds. Therefore I also play Kastaplast discs exclusively from driver to putter. To be part of the Kastaplast team makes me very proud and is a testament to my success as a player over 3 decades, but also the long-time work for the disc golf sport.
7) Favorite Disc?
My favorite discs became the Kastaplast Falk, even though I had the most problem to handle it well. As an under-stable disc, it needs your full attention, and this keeps my brain busy on the course. Next to the Falk it is the Grym.
8) Favorite Course?
I have played so many courses in my long career, but if I have to name one then it is Järva in Stockholm, Sweden – just, beautiful. Another one is the “Beast” in Nokia, Finland.
9) Do you have any pre-tournament rituals that you need to do before you compete?
What I always do is analyze the course and play it virtually days before the tournament (those courses). This also includes the selection of the discs for each hole. Another ritual is the check of the outfit in the morning. If the look into the mirror gives me a good feedback, I keep the outfit, otherwise I get changed. Look good, feel good, play good (maybe). So, it is the mental preparation. Another important part is a good warm-up (very important for aged players).
10) Do you have any advice for players who want to take their game to the next level?
Well, the golf-game consists of my so called “double-trilogy-elements”. First trilogy is the game itself with drive, approach and putt, which I practice separately. This means, I do not go out on the course and just play, but focus on the repetition effect when throwing the discs – get to know the flight path and the distance of your discs. Trust what you have learned when practicing and your disc selection on the tee becomes much easier. The second trilogy is the body game with the technical, physical and mental elements. The right throwing motions (technique) which includes all parts of the body is essential. In every sport, the “correct” motions are the key for a successful execution. Personally, I call it “correct” when it all looks easy and timed. To make you a better player, analyze the motions of the best players, watch videos in slow motion, and try to adapt. This means to be open minded, as we always have been when we were kids. Kids adapt everything easy, but sometimes also the bad things, unfortunately. Therefore adapt only from the best, and also participate in clinics offered by those “super-pros”.
The second part then is the mental game. All motions are executed by the muscles, but steered by the brain. Memorizing is the key work here. Memorize what you have learned from the best and what you then have practiced on the field. The memory-effect also gets supported by repeating all with your so called “inner eye”. Take a quiet moment, close your eyes and play the movie – see yourself throwing. You may also ask a friend to film your motions which you then watch in slow motion and analyze. During the game at tournaments, don’t think too much – trust what you have practiced, trust your skills and never try things you are not able to do. Play YOUR game – not others. As you execute throw by throw, it is a step by step process to become a better player.
The last part is the physical element. Throwing discs uses all parts of your body and all muscles (some you even don’t know). Disc Golfers are athletes and for a long-time success your body should be in a good shape as well. Besides throwing discs, spend some time for workouts in the gym or do some exercises at home. Important here is not only the upper part of the body, but the back muscles and the abdominal’s. The body rotation is well supported by these muscles. A good back also supports the putting motion. Want to reach the top? Get yourself a coach or a mental trainer.
11) What can we expect from you going into the 2018 season?
The main event will be the European Disc Golf Championships, which will be held middle of August in Croatia. For the first time I will compete in the Senior Grandmaster division, and if all goes by plan, winning my 4th European Champion title. Beside the EDGC 2018, there will be many great events in Switzerland, Germany and France on the map.
12) What do you think people could to continue to help grow the sport?
Growth comes from continued work at the different levels of the sport (local, regional, national, and international) and managing all the various sectors (courses, clubs, associations, tournaments, tours, championships, media, etc.) in a professional way. Sooner or later, Pros and Ams need to be separated completely and managed by different organizations. Main focus should be laid on the Amateurs (worldwide), the regular club-players and basement of the sport, while the real Pros performing the show for the media. The Pro/Am status definition needs to be changed sooner or later.
13) Is there anything else you would like people to know about you that they may not?
I’m very active on Facebook and people know pretty much all they need to know about me. My second big hobby is skiing and I go as often as possible on the slopes in the wintertime.
I would like to say thank you to Paul for taking the time to answer these questions. Also, for even letting me interview him at all. If you would like to know more about Paul you can find him on all forms of social media and look him up just in general. Be on the lookout for more interviews and more blogs coming soon!
Picture credit goes to Paul Francz