Rajal ainult naised - a springboard for our future

Rajal ainult naised - a springboard for our future

Maria Liivamägi, a member of the Latitude 64 Baltic team and a discgolf.ee marketing queen, is starting her third season of organizing a tournament series exclusively for women this year. What's behind this decision and how is it going? Maria will tell!

What is "Rajal ainult naised"?

"Rajal ainult naised" is Estonian for "Only Women on the Course" and it's a disc golf tournament aimed at women, with the goal of popularizing the sport among women and encouraging them to participate more in competitions. Throughout the season, we see so many 'new' female players on the courses who have never made it to competitions, whether it's a regular weekly game or even a larger tournament, for various reasons.

There are several reasons for this, one of the most common being the belief that "I'm not good enough, and I don't really know how to play this game." Another common reason is that many female players start playing disc golf with their boyfriends, partners, or male friends, which creates a comparison with men.

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Picture: Markus Mangusson

Why should women attend?

To step out of the comfort zone to test your skills against other women. And the fact is that the competitors in the series are all very supportive, and many women have played their first competition at our event.

"Rajal ainult naised" tournament is also an ideal opportunity to find new disc golf friends who are also women! The game becomes much more enjoyable when you have a girlfriend to enjoy disc golf with, talk about disc golf, share your progress with, and why not even compete together. I have numerous examples of how some have found good disc golf friends at our events.

What motivated you to organize a tournament series targeted only at women?

Here we must send all thanks to the Discgolf.ee team, led by Silver Leetma, who has generously shared his motivating words, helping hand, and contacts on this path. The year I joined the Discgolf.ee team, Silver began to plant ideas in my head about the need to start organizing tournaments for women. At that time, tournaments targeted exclusively at women hadn't been organized for years, and that part of the market stood empty. Many people probably don't even know, but years before that, there were disc golf tournaments targeted at women called "La Femme," organized by none other than Kristin Tattar.

Was it related to your own journey in disc golf?

Interestingly, I never had any problems participating in tournaments; I started attending weekly games quite quickly. I remember very well that my first competition was in Pirgu, I even bought a small shoulder bag to look cooler. I was immediately placed in the first pool, where I had to play with completely unfamiliar people. One of them was Alar Lepik, the organizer of the Rapla County weekly games. Soon after, you could also find me playing at PDGA tournaments, such as the Estonian Amateur Championships.

However, at that time, there wasn't a single female player in my circle, except for me, so I was in a similar situation to most of our starting female players. I started playing only with men, trying to be better than them. I only met female players at larger tournaments and looked up to them with certainty!

Why is a women's series important to the Estonian disc golf community?

Well, to encourage the next Kristin Tattars.

Actually, I think there are two aspects to this answer. From the perspective of amateurs, first and foremost, it's about popularizing the sport. You don't always have to have big ambitions to play disc golf; for most people, it's still an opportunity to spend leisure time with family or friends.

Next, there are those who want to challenge themselves at various smaller and larger tournaments, and then there's the smallest part - those who want to reach the wider world. In this regard, I think events aimed only at women could be the best springboard for our next generation, the youngest talents, so that we can discover them as early as possible. If you look at the current list of top players in Estonia, the average age is quite high from a sports perspective, so recognizing the next generation should be important. Therefore, this year we have announced the junior division. Now we need everyone's help to show the way to the youngest girls in our community.

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Picture 1: Greete Raudsepp Picture 2: Markus Mangusson

How has the series been received? By the broader community, women themselves, and sponsors?

I would dare to say that the series has been very well received; we have had the highest participation numbers in a women's tournament ever held in Estonia and certainly one of the largest in Europe. Every year, I see more and more new names among the participants, but also some 'old-timers.'

Here, I think it's important to mention that although we have always focused more on new players in our tournament promotion, experienced players and the top players in Estonia are still welcome. As Silver Leetma once said, it's much easier to win a tournament with 5-10 women, but come and try to win a tournament with 90 or more women. So far, the largest women's field has been won by Kersti Miller.

When it comes to sponsors, it's never easy these days. As in many other areas of life, contacts are important; someone who knows someone who knows someone. And so it is with sponsoring events. But there are certainly companies that are easier to approach precisely because it's an event aimed specifically at women and promoting women's sports.

How the community perceives our women's tournament, I can't say. In this regard, we need ask from our male counterparts!

Have you had to 'fight' with angry men about why they can't come and play?

Actually, I've never received such comments. I would like to hope that men are happy when their partners can compete in a tournament aimed only at them and test themselves against other women.

This year, we've actually added a small additional solution for those who want to challenge themselves with their better half. More information about this will come a little later. By the way, men are always welcome to cheer on - women can't do without men, just as men can't do without women!

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Picture 1: Markus Mangusson Picture 2: Anar Sillakivi

What has been your favorite experience with the women's series so far?

It might be difficult to choose a favorite experience, but the favorite moments are definitely when the tournament is over and I receive kind words from the players. These are the moments when your efforts are noticed. There are always things that can be done better at every stage, mistakes are learned from, but it's always good to continue working on the basis of good emotions.

What is the most challenging part?

The hardest part is finding a date! Since our disc golf calendar is very carefully filled with various tournaments, finding a suitable date is very difficult. You also have to consider other tournaments taking place in the same month and even the same week, and also who the tournaments are intended for. Generally, there are only 1-2 dates left, of which there is definitely something else happening at the same time.

The second difficult decision is choosing the course. Yes, it's easy to say, let's go play on different exciting courses, but in the big picture, you also have to consider where the players are willing to travel and what conditions we are expected to face on the course. A big bonus is a certain complex where the simplest things like a toilet or handwashing facility are available. We find very few such courses, but still, it's a very important element for women, believe it or not.

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Pictures: Markus Mangusson

What's next, where to go from here?

There are several ideas, one bigger than the other. For example, to put a mark down, what if, in addition to Estonian players, we also involve neighboring countries and why not guests from even farther countries? A women's disc golf festival in Europe sounds great! But to reach larger-scale competitions like PDGA tournaments, for example, we should first create a stronger and more active community of women and in this regard, everyone can help.

How can the disc golf community help you in promoting women's and youth disc golf?

As mentioned before, the greatest help for now is spreading the word in your own community and increasing the number of female players. Encourage and show the way - it's easier together!

Here's a call to all players and players who are parents, notice your female disc golf acquaintances and your talented offspring, encourage them to try disc golf, play, and participate in events, whether it's "Rajal ainult naised" or another.

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