When Cooper Barnett heard that Wylie was starting a disc golf team, he hoped it would be similar to Ultimate Frisbee, his favorite pastime when he lived in Costa Rica.
Cooper moved to Wylie from Costa Rica during his sophomore year, and he missed competing in Ultimate Frisbee.
Turns out the two sports are completely different.
“The 1st day of practice, I brought my Frisbee,” Cooper said. “ I saw they had all these weird heavy disks, and I like put it back in my bag.”
Nevertheless, he stayed to give disc golf a try, and this year he was the lone senior on a Wylie varsity team that went undefeated.
“The mechanics of it are really similar to regular golf,” Cooper said. “I was pretty terrible when I first started.”
But Cooper worked at it, practicing every day and even putting in a basket in his back yard. He earned the nickname “The Pro” from his coach.
“He’s mechanically perfect,” Coach John Ruzinsky said of his star student. “His form is always perfect.”
Ruzinsky is the inspiration behind Wylie’s disc golf team. He began playing the game in adult leagues at Will Hair Park and learned to love it. Ruzinsky is a Wylie bus driver and behavioral aide at Wylie High School, and he wanted to share the sport with students.
“I wanted to teach kids how to play,” he said. “It really is a lifetime sport. We have people who are 70 playing.”
So he went through the process of getting administration and school board approval, and last spring he made an announcement to solicit team members. He had 40 students sign up.
That dwindled to about 20 who were truly dedicated, and this year, Wylie has had six students on Varsity and eight on the Junior Varsity. Other members of the varsity are Levi Barnett, Nick Saenz and Nic Beagle.
Not only is Ruzinsky teaching a lifetime sport, but he is involving many students in activity who would not be otherwise be involved in sports.
Aaron Ramos is one of them.
“I was chilling in geometry, and people were talking about who was playing,” Aaron said. “I thought, ‘Those are some cool people. I should go play disc golf.’ ”
He had never played, unless you count playing on a video game.
He talked his friend Justin Calamlam into playing with him.
“He was like, ‘You want to go play disk golf with me?’ ” Justin said. “I was like, ‘If it will get you to do a sport, I will go play disk golf.’ It was kind of a joke at first, but it’s really fun. I’m loving it.”
One of the fun things about disc golf is all the different discs and cool nicknames, Aaron said.
Aaron got the nickname “Trick Shot” because of his ability to do tricks. Justin has the nickname The Enforcer.”
“I’m pretty sure it’s just because I throw far,” Justin said. “I got the disc called “The Enforcer,” and the name just stuck.”
The students have different discs for different situations, including drivers, wedges and putters. This spring the team has gone to tournaments in Lubbock, Azle, Stephenville and Denton, and at the end of April, Wylie hosted the Wylie Open at Will Hair Park.
Since starting the Wylie team, Ruzinsky has also helped Clyde start a team, and he has received some interest from six boys who attend Abilene High.
He hopes to have a disc golf course built behind the Doghouse by August so the team can practice on campus.
The disc golf team includes boys and girls.
Women can play as well as men,” Cooper said. “It’s completely equal. A lot of the girls are better than the guys.”
Another benefit of disc golf is that the courses are often in beautiful locations.
“I like the nature of it,” Justin said. “The scenery is really fun, and it’s good for the environment. It’s not too intense on your body.”
The downside is that the weather in Abilene can be difficult. In fact, the morning of the Wylie Open a cold front blew in with high, very cold winds and drizzling rain.
“This is hard to play in,” Aaron said. “Being in West Texas, you have to adapt. Playing in rain is absolutely the worst.”
Ruzinsky is planning to take the team to the Texas State Junior Championships in the fall.
Cooper will get to join them at that tournament, even though next fall he plans to be playing disc golf at Sam Houston State University.
He said practice, practice, practice is how the team has been able to go undefeated in its first full year of existence.