Daniel Boyle has interviewed Evan Gatesman. We are proud to bring the interview here for the first time.
1. For those who don’t know you, tell us a little bit about yourself and your time in footbag?
I started from the bottom; now I’m here. In the beginning, I was obsessed with getting better. My mentor had given me some simple drills, and I would try to do them by that night by practicing for six or more hours at a time trying to do basics. I remember waking up with terrible back soreness one day that I accredited to playing hard, but the next time I played, I realized that my back pain was caused by bending over to pick up the bag so many times. We are surely a product of our failures. It reminds me of the Michael Jordan quote, “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career, I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
2. You are one of the more recent members of BAP what does that mean to you, and who are some players you think will join you in the next few years?
It boils down to this: I don’t play to be in the cool kids club. I play for fun; I play to inspire; I play for my comrades, but the cool kids club is a nice side effect. Of course BAP is always a big topic of conversation in footbag, so I had to go to the one guy that rejected the concept, Ken Somolinos, and ask him why he did it. I would recommend asking him about it for a quick life lesson.
When I felt that I was going to be inducted at worlds 2010, I thought of rejecting it as Ken did, because I would be the second ever to reject it but about the fiftieth to accept it. There would be a certain amount of prestige that would go with the rejection, but I chose to accept it because I felt like it was an honor that I should allow myself to have for putting the work into the game to achieve some level of greatness.
I feel that there are many players in the scope of BAP right now from all over the world. It just depends who is willing to make themselves the chosen ones. Overall, I believe that BAP is some sort of valuable milestone and can be used as a tool to reach further goals.
3. You went to Worlds in Finland in 2011 was that your first time in Europe? How was your experience?
Yes, it was my first time in Europe. I was traveling with one of my best comrades, Mathieu GiardMontpetit and staying with him and his girlfriend at the time, Mak, in a small dorm type room. It was an invaluable experience since it opened my eyes to how large the world truly is. We shared tasty meals and great times, and to this day, I still refer to some of our inside jokes with other friends. #celery
For my trip I was primarily roaming around to some 810 towns in Germany, but as said, I did go to Helsinki for worlds. Helsinki seemed a bit pricey, but it was worth it to me. I ended up coming in fourth place in circle contest, which was last place in the Final Circle. I was sponsored by Dragonfly Footbags at the time, and they said that for every event that I would podium in, I would receive an additional 250 USD. Falling to fourth place was more than disappointing to me, but since money was not my true goal in the first place, I think the failure helped me to build character.
4. You live in Las Vegas what’s it like to live there and how has living there affected your Footbag game?
I don’t mind Vegas, but the footbag playing seasons are unique there. It’s in a desert, so the winters are much more playable than most other places, and the summers are anything but playable. Since it’s a city of roughly two million it helped me to socialize a bit and find other people that are interested in the game. It has led to a bit of street performing experience for me as well.
5. Have you ever funded a footbag trip though one of the many casinos in Vegas?
6. What else are you into outside of Footbag?
My other hobbies include frisbee, laser tag, beer, soccer, and I’m reasonably good at some video games. I love most sports, and I even play racquetball and basketball when the opportunities present themselves. Fire pits, liquor, and long walks on the beach are okay too. I’ve probably spent nearly the same time I’ve spent playing footbag, playing pool. I even beat Pete Bowler in a game once. Pretty epic. Beating Aleksi Airinen at eating contests is also a favorite pastime of mine… Don’t worry, Aleksi, you will prove yourself one day.
7. What do you think of the Footbag world at the moment, and where would you like to see it going?
I’ve heard a few people talking about how the footbag community is going to hell recently, but I don’t agree. Footbag is like an onion. With each layer we peel back, a new set of opportunities arises. I am in Poland right now, and I have met many new generation footbag players that are not getting in touch with the more experienced players because of the lack of consistent playing patterns in the footbag community. There should be some type of responsibility to encourage the newer generation and a stable place and time that clubs play.
We require more teamwork in the sport to reach for higher goals. We should support each other by giving more props and more encouragement. Margaret Meade wrote, “Never underestimate the power of a few committed people to change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” She did not write, “Never underestimate the power of doing everything yourself.”
The community is composed of new players mixed in with seasoned veterans. The problem is that the medium level players keep quitting when they realize the obstacles in front of them. We need to help support the middle class of players to bridge the gap between skill levels. If we stop letting the passion of new players go to waste, then we can grow as a community, but we have to keep overcoming obstacles and stop making so many excuses not to play and not to go to events. When we begin to build structure for the future players by maintaining or creating clubs and organizations, then we can work as a team to accrue funds and reputation.
8. What first got you into the game, and what keeps you going now?
The passion in my early life was soccer. Cliché, I know. It led me to start kicking around age twelve when my older brother, Jonathon, introduced me to typical hacky sack. I started playing on breaks before and after school, and after a couple years I was able to do fifty rightfoot- only consecutive outside kicks. I believed I was one of the best kickers around. When I got to high school I saw my first real freestyle. The quad had a large group of people watching and applauding a two man circle. I had to work my way to the front to see what exactly was going on. I couldn’t believe my eyes… I had no idea what was going on, but I knew it was ultracool. I have always been an athlete, so when my opportunity came to play with the dictators of the sport in my area, I gladly took it. I was able to land a flapper stall in front of Loren Baum, who appeared to be mind blown after seeing some random kid hit a real footbag trick. He then gave me a business card from the local club that played every Saturday at the university, and told me that, although he was finished training people, I had potential and he would teach me. A few months later I had landed my first double around the world, and my supportive mentor once again expressed pride in his new ‘prodigy’. He convinced me to accompany him to Worlds in Montreal in 2004 after 8 months of playing, but that’s a story for another time. Other than that, I started going to many Colorado Shred Symposiums, Seattle Juggling and Footbag Festivals, US Open, Worlds, and I even continued to host Las Vegas Jam.
Vegas Jam 2011 – Photo by Caroline Birch
As far as motivation, comradery is one of the most important things to me. I would group it with the fact that I haven’t won worlds yet, although I doubt that I will quit when I reach that point. Once a player shreds for a few years, the shred is in their bones, and it can be reawakened.
9. What parts of your game are you working on at the moment?
I think what my game is lacking aside from deeper technical merit lies mainly in showmanship and presentation. Most people do not understand the tricks, so they are just as impressed with the pirate walking by them on the street as they are at my game. It’s a bit sad since I’m sitting here pouring my soul into a sport, and I could have drawn just as much attention by dressing like an ass and parading around.
10. Will you be going to Worlds this year in Paris?
Hell yeah! I hope to see my old comrades there as well as make new ones.
11. Anyone to thank or anything else to mention?
I just wanted to thank all of the supporters of footbag in the past, present, and future. From the stitchers, to the players, to the players parents, there has been a lot more teamwork than we realize to create this sport. We all play a valuable role in this game, and though not everyone will win Worlds, it doesn’t mean that they don’t have an impact on the community. I am currently staying at Happy Seven, Caroline Birch’s hostel in Gdansk, Poland. I will be in Europe for a few more months hopefully, so I hope to see more footbag players come by and kick with me while I’m here.
Special thanks to Steve Goldberg!
Answers by: Evan Gatesman
Questions by: Daniel Boyle
Photos: Caroline Birch
Media: Jay Boychuk
Compilation: Asmus Helms