By Josh Woods, PhD ~
In the first two decades of the twenty-first century, several sports reached their fast-growth stages.
Skateboarding was headed to the Olympics and regularly appeared on television and in fashion magazines. Energy-drink-powered teens were pulling down big paychecks from esports megaevents. The Ultimate Fighting Championship was filling large arenas with fans and pouring mass-mediated adrenaline into mixed martial arts.
Even a few lesser-known sports were on the rise. Spikeball, the promoter of roundnet, landed deals with Shark Tank and ESPN. Cornhole was appearing on ESPN and courting moneyed sponsors like Johnsonville Sausage. Ax throwing and wood chopping were being nationally televised.
After decades of slow growth, disc golf was also on the rise.
But why was the popularity of these sports mounting? While many researchers have written about the growth of mainstream sports like football and basketball, less is known about fringe sports—those residing on the normative margins.
In my forthcoming book, Emerging Sports as Social Movements: Disc Golf and the Rise of an Unknown Sport, coming this August, I examine several grassroots sports but focus on disc golf. I argue that non-traditional sports develop through two processes: one driven primarily by product development, commercialization and consumption, and another that relies upon public resources and grassroots efforts to grow the sport.
Informed by my experiences as both a player and a sociologist, I show how disc golf’s incredible rise has depended on the consistency of insider culture and ideology, as well as on how the movement has navigated a broad field of market competition, government regulation, community characteristics, public opinion, traditional media, social media and technological change.
Throughout, I probe why some sports grow faster than others, examining cultural tendencies toward sport, individual choices to participate and the various institutional forces at play.
“I’ve loved these magical platters since their very beginning, and it has been fascinating to watch the interplay between the ‘real sports’ and our own. In that watching, we’ve made lots of completely unsupported suppositions. On these pages for the first time, Woods clarifies many key issues with his impressive analytical toolbox and innovative methodology. He makes me proud to be a lover of both the saucers and the sociological imagination.”
— Dan “Stork” Roddick, PhD, PDGA #003, USA
“Woods does a masterful job at using theoretical frameworks without letting the reader get bogged down by them. Methodologically sound and innovative analytical techniques are used throughout to support his claim that disc golf is a social movement worthy of academic study. Much more than a pleasurable read, this book is a significant contribution to the field and one of the most meaningful books published about the emerging sport.”
— Justin Menickelli, PhD, Associate Professor of Kinesiology at Western Carolina University, USA, and President of the PDGA Board of Directors
“Using historical and media analyses, surveys and interviews, Woods shows how disc golfers created both a physical and social space for the sport’s eventual expansion. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in disc golf, but also to academics who study non-normative sports and the sociological conditions that link individuals to communities.”
— Christopher Oliver, PhD, Professor of Practice, Sociology and Environmental Studies, Tulane University, USA
- A Social Movement
- A Modern Achievement Sport
- A Lifestyle
- Group Integration and Disruption in Disc Golf Social Media
- Social Media and the Growth of Disc Golf
- Movement Commercialization and Disc Golf’s Closed Economy
- The Framing of Disc Golf in News Media
- Growth without Commercialization: Regional Patterns in Participation Rates and Media Coverage
- Neglect, Trivialization and Stigmatization: Disc Golf in Popular Movies and Television, by Joshua Woods and Matthew P. Hartwell
- The Future of Disc Golf
Don’t Buy It Yet
Yes, You Read that Correctly.
I’m proud of this book. It wasn’t easy convincing an academic publishing house to embrace a book about disc golf. To my best knowledge, this is the first book about the sport published in a peer-reviewed academic press.
Books with academic publishers are more likely to find a permanent place in research libraries across the world than trade or self-published books. Such a publisher may also help introduce disc golf to a new audience and lend additional legitimacy, however small, to the sport.
But there’s a downside. The marketing strategy of academic publishers is focused on an audience of professors, researchers and some policymakers who access books through their subscribing institutions.
For this reason, initially, the hardback of this book will be priced for libraries, which will put them out of reach for most individuals.
The good news is that the publisher, Palgrave Macmillan, has large sales a few times a year to accommodate individual buyers. In November 2021, not long after its late-August publication date, the book will be available for $10 or $20.
I will also be posting articles and videos about the book over the next months. If there’s interest, I’ll cover all aspects of the book, free of charge.
To follow along, you can subscribe to the YouTube channel for the videos and follow Parked by entering your email address below. The written content will be housed in the Category “Rise of an Unknown Sport.”
Josh Woods, editor at Parked, is a professor of sociology at West Virginia University. He is the author of five academic books, several journal articles and publications in popular media, including articles in Udisc’s Release Point and Ultiworld Disc Golf, and serves on the PDGA Diversity and Outreach Task Force. A Michigan native, he now lives the disc golf life in Morgantown, West Virginia.