Find Your Passion
Everyone needs an escape, now more than ever. Here's how five Coloradans found their passions—and how you can find yours.
John Bird, 58
John Bird doesn't look much like a professional athlete—the thinning gray hair and soft-spoken voice hide the competitive spirit of one of the pioneers of disc golf. "Back in the mid-1960s in California I decided I was disenchanted with organized sports," he says with a grin, "and I ended up playing throw-and-catch Frisbee—which eventually became disc golf." What started out as an alternative to group sports in college morphed into a lifelong infatuation—one that he now spends much of his "semi-retirement" relishing.
The Appeal The thrill of competition. Although Bird spends much of his time being an ambassador for the game, he still simply loves to compete. He waxes poetic about the challenge of playing at altitude, where the disc flies differently than at sea level. He has an obvious affection for the tension of competition. Of course, Bird also digs the unconventional, laid-back style of the sport he helped forge. "There's not a lot of money in this sport yet. It's not too cutthroat, so we can all still compete for fame and glory—and the trophy."
The Commitment Bird has had a 30-year love affair with disc golf, setting up tournaments, working with local cities to build courses (thanks in part to Bird, Colorado boasts more than 80 courses—placing it in the top 12 states for number of courses—including the eponymous Bird's Nest in Arvada), and acting as the state coordinator for the Professional Disc Golf Association. He did this all for the love of the game—until May 2007, when he ended his 25-year career working for the Aurora and Boulder water departments to open Birdie Disc Golf (www.birdiediscgolf.com), a course-design and installation company.
Do It Yourself Disc golf is one of the most accessible sports out there. "For about $100 you can buy a [nice set of discs and a bag]," Bird says, "and most courses in Colorado are free to the public." He suggests taking a lesson from a professional before heading to the course—you can find pros through local disc golf clubs, such as the Mile High Disc Golf Club, Badco Disc Golf Club, the Northern Colorado Disc Golf Club, and the Grand Valley Disc Golf Club. For more information, check out the Colorado Disc Sports Association.