VCDG | Jenna Weiner
Jenna Weiner is an outstanding community member. Ultimate player, disc golfer, trans woman, scholar, musician, TEDx speaker. UNR '20, UC Berkeley '15 (she/her). Follow Jenna on Twitter to get to know her or visit her website to read some of her insightful writing, including "Transitioning (In)-Between Disc Golf and Ultimate".
Jenna recently took over the VC and VC Disc Golf social channels to discuss all things disc golf and inclusivity in the sport, and was kind enough to answer some questions for us.
You’ve been incredibly involved with the ultimate community for years. How did you get involved in disc golf; what interested you in picking up the sport?
So fun fact, I’ve actually been playing disc golf recreationally for more than a decade, although I didn’t play any PDGA tournaments until just last year. I started playing disc golf with my dad and other family during the holidays, and it remained a side sport until last year. It was about a year ago when I played my first sanctioned DG tournament as the ultimate season wound down, and after I did better than expected at it I decided to get more into it and went from there. I picked it up more seriously as a way to continue throwing discs in different ways as ultimate dropped off my schedule, and then stayed involved after I found some success and a pretty welcoming community with the women in the Northern California disc golf community.
What’s been the most fun about getting more into disc golf? Anything in particular contrast with ultimate?
If I’m honest, the most fun thing about getting more into disc golf is getting more discs and figuring out what works best for me. And then of course the payoff when you throw a disc you really like really well on an important hole at a tournament. Disc golf has also of course provided a welcome athletic and competitive outlet for me without ultimate, which I’ve come to really appreciate. I think there are two contrasts with ultimate that stand out to me. The first is just having so many more discs to work with and learn, which is a different challenge than ultimate’s one disc. The second is that disc golf is largely an individual sport, and so it’s a good and different challenge to work on my mental game and bouncing back from bad stretches.
What’s the one ultimate throw you’re finding the most success with using in disc golf? Any quick practice tips?
Definitely a big step-out backhand has been the biggest help for disc golf. Often in disc golf you’re in awkward positions where you have to step sideways out of a bush (at least that happens often for me). Having a strong step-out backhand where you can stretch out or around and obstacle and still get a strong throw off can really help get you out of trouble, especially if newer ultimate disc golfers are finding themselves in more trouble than they’d like.
The practice tip I’d give is one that many pros preach, especially for newer players, which is to do field work. With every disc flying differently, it’s critical to understand how each of your discs fly. Going out to an empty field, emptying your bag, and doing that several times until your arm starts to tire is a great way to learn new discs and figure out what throws you are stronger at and which discs you prefer.
What are differences in the community landscape between disc golf and ultimate?
I think the default answer when asked about the differences between the disc golf and ultimate communities is their inclusivity, and that’s largely true. Disc golf is more white and far more male dominant than ultimate, and both of those lead to a very different community feel than in ultimate. As a white trans woman I don’t feel out of place as a white person, but I do think more about how I am perceived and accepted in the disc golf community than in the ultimate community as a trans woman. People are welcoming and friendly, of course, but there hasn’t been the same movement for inclusivity and social justice as ultimate has seen in the past 5 years especially.
The other consideration is obviously the individual vs team sport aspect, and I think that plays a role in the community landscape but less than you might think. Disc golfers organize in local clubs that often host weekly tournaments, and between those and the often at least monthly local sanctioned tournament you get to know people pretty quickly. With the clubs and frequent tournaments you do get a feel of a team environment, although it is still an individual sport and you’re competing against many of those same club members. So it ends up having a different vibe to it than the feelings you get from being on a team and in a team sport community.
VCDG is striving to transfer our experience in challenging inequitable norms in sport to the disc golf community. Would you like to add anything from your own perspective on this topic?
I think there are two fundamental inequitable norms in disc golf that VCDG can hopefully help challenge and address, and they’re the overwhelming whiteness and maleness of disc golf. Getting more folks of color into disc golf will definitely be challenging, but I think the efforts that VCDG is making to promote players like Remi Ojo and Leah Tsinajinnie are helpful to show that disc golf doesn’t have to be or stay predominantly white. As for inequitable inclusion of women that’s a more active question that people are trying to work on.
Efforts to create spaces for non cis-men to play disc golf are ongoing, but there is definitely room for tournaments with both men and women players to improve in the ways that they include women. That goes for how divisions are set up, what discs and weights are offered as tournament discs, and just simply where bathrooms are or aren’t available. Disc golf absolutely has a ways to go in challenging some of those inequitable norms and systems, but I’m hopeful that we’ll see some changes in the next few years as these issues are brought more to the forefront.
As part of our compensation for working with VCDG, we made a donation to an organization of Jenna's choice. Please check out Black Trans Advocacy Coalition and support if you can!