Petersburg 8th grader, Elias Ward throws a disc towards a goal during frisbee golf practice for Mitkof Middle School. His teammate, Thomas Olsen-Phillips looks on. (Photo Angela Denning/KFSK)

Exercising close to others indoors is considered high risk for spreading COVID and that’s affected school sports all over Alaska. In Petersburg, the local middle school has recreated its activities year, switching out the usual after school sports for some that can be played in smaller groups outdoors. KFSK’s Angela Denning reports from frisbee golf practice.

It’s a crisp fall afternoon outside of the Mitkof Middle School but it’s not raining so that’s makes throwing frisbees a little bit easier. Thomas Olsen-Phillips is standing with his toe pointed forward, elbow out, ready to fling a red frisbee towards a goal, an upside down cone several feet away.

He throws.

“Oooh, nice!” yells another kid nearby.

It’s only the second week of frisbee golf practice but Olsen-Phillips says he’s catching on quick.

“I have played this before but it was on a Wii. There is a Wii one of this,” said Olsen-Phillips. “So, I knew the basics, I just never actually played it physically.”

In a normal year, Mitkof Middle School has sports like basketball, wrestling, volleyball, and track for students to participate in. This year all of that’s been canceled besides cross country. Instead, the school is offering month-long activities like corn hole, badminton, and pickle ball. The students are separated into small pods that meet once a week for practice.

Olsen-Phillips who is in 8th grade tells me frisbee golf is a lot like regular golf except instead of putting golf balls at holes you’re throwing discs. Like a variety of clubs, you have discs that are different weights.

“The red one is a little bit more weighted than the blue and white one,” said Olsen-Phillips. “So, you would want to use the red one for close range to the goals.”

And then there’s the way you throw it, said Elias Ward, another 8th grader, and Olsen Phillips’ teammate.

“You have to sort of find the throw that suits you and implement it into every course you’re doing,” Ward said.

Ward likes to use the forehand method, keeping his elbow in and holding the disc out.

“Sometimes you might need to alter how you’re throwing if the hole is in a weird position but pretty much the hardest thing is finding what kind of throw you’ll use and basically once you get that, you’re good,” Ward said.

Frisbee golf has a lot of walking. And, occasionally, some cheering.

“Oh, no way! That was awesome!” yelled the coach, Jaime Cabral. “You got the curve on that one!”

Cabral is also the Activities Director for the Petersburg School District. He’s teamed up with Ward’s 6th grade brother, Tyler, playing doubles against Ward and Olsen-Phillips. Cabral says the after school activities are attracting different types of kids from the usual athletes. He says some of the activities, like frisbee golf, seem like they’re not very physical but they are.

“Surprisingly enough, they don’t realize they’re getting about 3,000 steps in about 45 minutes,” Cabral said, laughing. “It’s just good for them to get out, do some different things, just to keep them involved.”

Like in school, the after school sports require social distancing and mask wearing. The monthly activities will last through the school year.

“It’s going good and it’ll catch on,” Cabral said. “We’re going to move into cornhole next, which is a little bit different but gaining ground as far as the popularity in the US.”

In the spring there will be orienteering, archery, and Native Youth Olympics.