What Is The Role Of The FPA?

These are some ideas I have shared with the FPA Board.

How can the Freestyle Players Association improve in its role as an educational organization? In a small organization with limited resources, how can we go beyond competitions to reach potential freestylers and fans? How can we grow memberships so the FPA can be more ambitious in spreading the jam? What do we say when a potential benefactor asks what the FPA does? What is its story?

The FPA has accomplished much over the years, but its potential goes far beyond sanctioning tournaments, writing rules or even publishing a website. The future of the FPA is as a catalyst for freestylers and lovers of freestylers to get things done. The FPA has the potential to enable individuals to grow our sport, to spread the jam.

The FPA needs to consider a fundamental shift in how it operates in order to reach its potential. Until now, the organization has relied on volunteers to handle all its programs. If the FPA is to take freestyle out in the world and become more than a small club, it cannot rely on unpaid work.

Insisting on volunteerism is a dead end. Volunteer projects are wonderful, but in the end there is no incentive for quality, meeting deadlines or even finishing. People need to be compensated for their time, and that takes nothing away from all of us who have poured our hearts and souls into FPA projects over the years. On the contrary, making this shift honors all the previous volunteer work by building on it, by decentralizing outreach efforts and laying the groundwork for the longterm health of freestyle.

The FPA can be a catalyst for greater participation in freestyle by supporting the spread-the-jam projects of its members. Membership money should be used for grants that fulfill our educational goal. Not enormous amounts but micro-grants that make a project happen.

For instance, what if a compelling local disc program can be set up in a city, but only if a local freestyler can spend time planning with the city during work hours? If the freestyler cannot afford to take time off from work, the entire program will not happen. The FPA can be a catalyst for creating that program with a micro-grant that compensates the freestyler for his lost wages. But if the FPA gets stuck on a rigid “he should volunteer” philosophy, it misses the point. If this guy cannot volunteer for this program, there may not be anyone who can replace him in his area. Our sport loses a great opportunity. The FPA has to step in and make success happen, even by compensating people for their time.

Freestyle have been fortunate to have amazing design talent on the FPA Board throughout the years, but that talent is stretched to its limits. What happens if a non-designer has a local or regional project that needs a professional look to succeed? An FPA grant needs to be an option for helping hire the talent necessary for spreading the jam.

Everyone understands the organization has limited resources. Hard decisions will be made. That’s what happens with grants. Many worthy projects will not get funded, but more importantly many will get funded and will do a great service to our sport

Beyond granting money, the FPA needs to partner with project creators to help them acquire outside grant money, to go beyond the FPA’s limited finances. A grant proposal written by a freestyler in partnership with the FPA has a much greater chance of success than if the freestyler sent it out as an individual.

The FPA needs to parlay grantmaking and grantseeking into corporate matching relationships. As a non-profit, it will be eligible for matching gift programs from the employers of some freestylers. Members of the footbag community are benefiting from these matching gifts right now; disc freestyle should do the same.

Right now, the FPA is a dormant organization. Sanctioning a world championships, collecting membership money and publishing a website are not enough. Members deserve more for their annual membership fee beyond a disc and some promotional items. One way to give more value to members is to fund projects that support the sport’s growth. An FPA membership becomes a lot more meaningful if we know the organization is putting our money to work.

The FPA needs a story to tell, and the way we write that story is by partnering with enthusiastic people to fulfill the FPA’s educational mission in a professional way.

12 Replies to “What Is The Role Of The FPA?”

  1. The first question, should be, "How do we measure the success of the FPA"? I would argue that the success of the FPA will be achieved when there is significantly more critical mass in the sport and when the average age of the Top 20 Players in the World is significantly below the age of 40. Clearly there is something wrong with a sport that doesn’t have the youngest and most energetic as its TOP players.

  2. I agree. The FPA has an educational mandate – in other words, getting the
    sport out there to new participants. It has had some success, but I would
    argue that the organization has not focused enough on expanding
    It would be great to see the top echelons dominated by younger players. We
    are starting to see a little of that now, with players like Fabio Sanna rocketing
    to the top, but more would be better.

  3. I’ve been very active in Freestyle and Ultimate since 1979. The growth in Ultimate has been fantastic, while the growth in Freestyle has been embarassing. Clearly the two sports are very different and Ultimate is much easier to learn. But, it is just unbelievable how there seems to have been just one or two generations of freestylers and then it just stopped dead in its tracks. New York City, the greatest place in the world, and the place where Freestyle originated, is still embarrasingly devoid of young freestylers. The Rose Bowl was the place to be and to this day there is nothing anymore like that. Had Whamo continued with that type of sponsorship and promotion, perhaps Freestyle would have taken off more. Until then, I dare say that Freestyle will continue to be a cool, fun little group of people not much different than the Juggling clubs out there. Youth is the key, and while I love Robert Fried and Joey Hudoklan (the two greatest freestylers in the World), there are only so many years left that these guys can continue to be the Hein.

  4. Ciao.
    Penso che le due cose siano differenti, anche se una “lavora” per l’altra. FPA come “giocatori” e cio

  5. I estimate that more than half of Shrednow’s regular visitors are native Italian
    speakers. You can get a (very) rough translation at babelfish.

  6. My own experience with youth players is that the learning curve is very steep in the beginning. And they dont have a credit card to to pay the FPA membership.
    When I play with the young ones I use the whizzring or a spinjammer. That makes the fun better and when they get enough of it they want to play the real frisbee. 🙂
    And for new players, specially the young ones, the jargon is also hard to understand at the first time.
    Kids want action, and they don’t want to learn a lot before that. They learn when they do!
    P.s. It’s not the best English but you don’t need to translate. 😉

  7. Good points. However, when I talk about "youth", I’m really referring to college-age kids who certainly have the skills to pick up freestyle if they wanted. And they certainly have the free time. When I was in college up in Boston with Keith Armstrong, Dave Barken, Doug "Air" Propp, etc., there seemed to be more people excited about freestyle. Bill Dublier, Rick Williams, Mark-the-Martian, etc. were also local Boston types who were a part of the same generation and excited about the sport. During those same years, you had a whole crew of young 20-year olds in NYC excited about freestlye. The problem is that this generation of great freestylers never had anyone to pass the torch to. The new generation of freestylers never materialized. And to this day, you still have 40+ year old guys/gals keeping the sport alive to some extent. While I never expected Freestyle to grow anywhere as big as Ultimate due to the difficulty of learning the tricks and movements, it is still embarassing to see this sport dominated by 40+ year olds. My suggestion is to get more HOT women involved in the sport. Every Dance studio should be targeted to attract the hot women who already have the body skills to pull off freestyle. This is the key to revitalizing the sport!!!!

  8. It’s not really about whether the sport should have younger superstars.
    That’s an obvious yes. It’s about making that happen. My article asks
    whether the FPA can be more effective by helping others build the sport
    rather than trying to do everything internally. There are a lot of people
    around the world who could make great things happen on a small budget,
    and the FPA can make their programs happen.
    College age players are great, especially the idea of broadening the skills of
    Ultimate players with freestyle, and vice versa. But for a player to be a top
    competitor by the time he turns 20, he really has to start around age 13
    (that’s when I started). For all but the rarest prodigies, it takes a few years to
    master advanced skills then a few more to learn how to hit them all when it
    counts. If they start in college, they’re 25-30 before they hit their peak. If
    they start in middle school, they hit their peak during college years. I have
    found that kids as young as 8 are really into it and can learn very fast.

  9. Yeah, more Hot women do the thing for sure. But it’s best that frisbee becomes more popular as not only an freetime sport, but as a real sport. And if you begin at an early age the more serious it can get. Ok, the college age is best for learning fast, but they have more on there mind’s.;)
    But the most important thing is that;
    No matter what your skills are. Fun, thats what’s counts.

  10. I’m not sure I agree with you about it taking 7 years to become great at this sport. Shit, it only took me about two years during college to become fairly Hein-like. And frankly I don’t think 8 year old kids have a strong enough snap on the disc to throw the right zzzzz’s. The bottom line is that this sport needs hotter women and more of them. When we had babes like Sue Strait, Judy Horowitz, etc., that’s when the sport was growing.

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