A day of disc golf
The students held their discs in the air, aimed at the baskets about 15 feet away, set to launch.
“Alright, everybody ready?” Nikko Locastro asked the group. “On the count of three, let’s get it started. One, two, three!”
All at once, the gym at Lyman Gilmore Middle School echoed with the sound of clinking metal as some of the discs traveled safely into the chained basket — and, maybe slightly louder, the sound of many of the discs sailing past their targets and slapping down on the gym floor.
On Tuesday, students at Lyman Gilmore got a crash course in disc golf from Locastro, one of the sport’s professionals. He spent the day teaching most of the school’s physical education classes the basics of the sport — and then engaging them in competitions to perfect their disc-tossing skills.
Locastro, 27, spends about nine months of the year competing in disc golf competitions sanctioned by the Professional Disc Golf Association, as well as other tournaments. But for the past several years, as his schedule allows, the Grass Valley resident has made it a point to volunteer his time for clinics in schools across the country in an effort to get younger students engaged in the sport.
“It’s just something that makes me feel good,” Locastro said. “It’s good to see other people be thrilled about disc golf.”
Locastro, a native of St. Louis, Mo., was first introduced to the sport at the age of 15 by his uncle, who was a professional disc golfer in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Locastro was instantly hooked, and quickly transitioned from an avid skateboarder to an avid disc golfer.
“It was that feeling of being able to push myself to do new things and use my creativity for disc golf,” Locastro said. “I kept feeling myself evolve and get better and I liked to see that progression.”
He decided to pursue the sport professionally after playing in the junior division of the 2004 PDGA World Championships.
“Seeing other kids my age started pushing me at a young age to get into it and stay involved,” Locastro said.
Since turning pro, Locastro has competed in events across the country and the globe, including 33 competitions last year. He’s also started his own business — Fly Life Disc Golf, which produces apparel and custom-designed discs for the sport.
He moved to Grass Valley about two and a half years ago; his girlfriend, Jessica Weese, also a professional disc golf player, is from the area, and attended Lyman Gilmore.
Locastro and Weese were hanging out at the disc golf course at Condon Park recently when they met two other disc golfers — Barry Kyle, one of Weiss’ former teachers at Lyman Gilmore, and Ben Mills, another teacher at the school. The group began talking about having Locastro put on a clinic at the middle school.
Kyle and Mills have been introducing the school’s students to the sport for years; they started an after-school disc golf club that meets on Fridays.
The sport is great for middle school students because it’s so accessible, Mills said. It’s free to play, and the course at Condon Park is, for many of Lyman Gilmore’s students, right in their neighborhood.
Having Locastro volunteer his time at the school will help spread the sport to even more students, Mills said.
“This is going to build enthusiasm for the sport, and our club, and get them involved in what we’re doing,” he said.
And there was no shortage of enthusiasm in the school’s gym on Tuesday. Sixth-grader Quinn Schug, a member of the after-school disc golf club, said she enjoyed the opportunity to play the sport during her P.E. class.
She originally got into the sport because she needed something to do after school.
“I like that you can just go out and don’t have to pay anything and you can just do it with a bunch of your friends and it’s not that hard,” Schug said.
Fellow sixth-grader Brandon Weaver is also an avid disc golfer; he’s been playing for five years. He said it was fun to have his entire class take part in the sport and learn from Locastro.
“I thought it was cool that we could have this experience and not have to learn it from a book or a video,” Weaver said.
Locastro said he hopes to continue being an ambassador for the sport in schools. He’s considering hiring a team member to help him organize and manage clinics and other events, and he’s been making connections with local organizations and nonprofits that have a similar goal; on Tuesday, he partnered with Sacramento-based nonprofit Impact Disc Golf, which donated a couple of disc golf baskets as prizes for the students.
For Locastro, teaching disc golf is a way for him to give back to the sport he loves.
“As a kid, those small experiences, those are lifelong memories,” Locastro said. “Being able to create those experiences for other people is just a very rewarding feeling.”
To contact Staff Writer Emily Lavin, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4230.
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