USA disc golfers Nate Doss and Valarie Jenkins travel to Russia as EnvoysBy Brian Canever May 29, 2015
Nate Doss was sitting in his tour vehicle in Phoenix, Arizona at the end of February, waiting on his wife and fellow professional disc golfer Valarie Jenkins to finish her course, when he answered a call from Brian Graham, executive director for the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA). Graham’s question was simple, “Are you interested in traveling to Russia to teach disc golf?”
“My initial thought was ‘Whoa, Russia!'” recalls Doss. “That seemed exciting and new. Of course, without any hesitation, Val and I said, ‘Absolutely.'”
Doss and Jenkins, professional disc golf’s power couple with three PDGA World Championships apiece, will officially make the trip to Russia as Sports Envoys for the U.S. Department of State SportsUnited division on May 31.
The married duo will spend the first three days of their trip in Moscow, leading clinics for trainers and local children and meeting with members of the Moscow Disc Golf Federation. On June 4, they leave the Russian capital for Omsk, a city located 1,400 miles from Moscow in southwestern Siberia. In Omsk, Doss and Jenkins will meet with representatives from various government ministries, including the Ministry for Youth Policy and Sports and the Ministry of Education. They will also work with children from the Kirovskiy Orphanage for Children with Developmental Disabilities, and hold open training sessions with coaches from schools, colleges and universities.
Before returning to the United States, Doss and Jenkins will meet with Omsk’s disc golfers at a park where there are plans to install a disc golf course — according to the Russian Disc Golf Association, there are currently only three open courses in the entire country– and participate in a day-long inclusive sports event.
“It’s gonna be pretty packed,” says Jenkins, a five-time PDGA Female Player of the Year. “We’re on the mission to teach more people — especially women — how to play. Showing our sport in the spotlight, people can get addicted once they learn how to play. When they realize they can throw any shot and do what they’re not expected to do, that’s when they get hooked to a new sport.”
Disc golf is growing significantly in popularity in the U.S., with more than 3000 courses popping up throughout the country since Ed Headrick (“The Father of Disc Golf”) installed the first standardized course in Oak Grove Park outside of Los Angeles, California in 1976. With its eco-friendly nature, disc golf is also expanding globally; in particular through Europe, where Finland alone has 217 courses. In the first-ever Major held in Australia earlier this year, Doss placed fourth in the men’s division, while Jenkins took home the trophy in the women’s category.
“The sport has been growing at an exponential pace over the past 10 years,” Doss says. “It’s a very global sport. We’ve been working hard to get it into other areas and this opportunity is huge.”
Jenkins also believes disc golf is a great sport for women, and can be used as part of inclusion initiatives in Russia and abroad.
“The throwing technique is graceful,” Jenkins says. “You don’t have to be the strongest, most muscular person because it’s really about the technique and using the best form to throw the disc. It’s a lot like ball golf. It’s not about how far you hit the ball, but the strategy of getting it to the basket. It’s a mental game, as well as a physical game.”
Doss and Jenkins, who are currently on a break from their tour schedule after three weeks competing in California, are excited to take the trip together as a part of the Empowering Women through Sports initiative, and will be blogging from OnTourDiscGolf.com during their time in Russia. You can also follow along on Twitter @nathandoss and @valariejenkins.