My name is Derrick Pugh – I own and [85% of the time] fully operate derricksmash.com. I’m here to talk about my evolved perception of the Sport of Cornhole and provide my simple idea of what will ‘save’ the sport.
When I accidentally got into this industry of Cornhole building about 6 years ago, I had one mission: to build so many cornhole sets that no other builder in the country was able to compete. Big dreaming, huh? No, that isn’t feasible – with my resources anyways…nor would it be good for the Sport. Spreading the name of derricksmash.com isn’t nearly as effective for business as it would be to simply spread the name of Cornhole first!
Then I started to know the community a lot better. Spent last summer playing in tons of tournaments, met a lot of fellow players, many big names in the game (Randy, Matt, Vanderver, etc) and took an entirely different approach to derricksmash.com’s perception of “self”. A lot of these big players would reminisce of the game, as if it were an ancient sport or something. These people spoke with phrases such as, “remember the good ole’ days of cornhole?”, “…it used to be”, “…the game needs to come back”, etc, etc. All of these people saw something that I didn’t because they were part of it this whole time – you can go so far as to say they triggered the cornhole revolution in the first place.
After having some talks, chats and emails with enough people, I eventually got a mentality of “Wow, I had this all wrong. It’s not all about competition, It’s about community…and sharing moments within said community!”. This one really hit it on the spot:
“…the sport is in a critical stage right now in my opinion…it could blow up and become a staple sport like softball, or it could fizzle out and 10yrs from now we’ll be saying, ‘remember bags?’ (aka cornhole)”
All I was doing this whole time was selling derricksmash.com products with all intents of saying “F you” to the competition – what I should have been doing was realizing that the products I was selling, like every other builder, was part of a bigger picture – that’s spreading the name of Cornhole. Don’t worry, I now see it that way.
Cornhole’s dieing in the Midwest. That’s the reality right now. Perhaps if I had spent the last 6 years spreading the name of Cornhole instead of hocking off my products, maybe I could have prevented the state we’re in now…maybe if only a tiny bit.
I met some of my competitors, Clinton from Ripped Boards and Chris from Naperville Bags. They are stand-up guys and their companies offer something another doesn’t. I respected Chris when I met him for many reasons. For one, he wasn’t the douche I was expecting him to be with his massive inventory and huge sales reports. I figured he was all about that and nothing more – almost envious of him because I thought he became what I used to want to be. He became that “big boy” in the Cornhole Building industry but he also had something else: being well-known by in the Tournament Side of the Sport – the real community of the sport. I was WOW’d. As for Clinton, I personally feel he used to be the same way I was (screw everyone – my company or no one), but is now on the same side of the field that I am…and I’m glad.
Then I talked to Steve Vanderver on the phone for what seemed to be a few hours! He had just recently created the Cornhole Players Association to help fight the foreseen drop in Cornhole’s Reputation. He was upset, emotional and confused about what happened to his beloved sport in the last couple years. “…annual tournaments that used to draw 90+ teams are now barely able to get enough for a 20 team mini tournament”. He talked to me about how he saw this a long time ago (due to a bigger organization) and when he left that organization, he realized that he had to go back because he was classified as “too good” or “pro” to play in many of the smaller, private [and in my opinion, more fun] tournaments.
I also feel [and hope] I gave him some insight, too – I am not speaking for him in any way. He’s out in the East Midwest, and what he sees is totally different than what I see, being here in Chicago. In Chicago, the sport is still waiting for it’s initial BOOM. We got a little one last summer, but this summer should be bigger. If not, next summer will. And out West, not many people are playing this game at all. I told Steve, “Let’s not only worry about reigniting the spark in the over saturated area of the Midwest you reside in, but remember that out West and probably 80% of the country has probably still never seen the Sport!”.
My buddy’s parents in Surprise, AZ have one of my sets and they say people are going APESH*T over it! I got a few orders out that way because of this and I pretty much shipped them for free just to get some Cornhole boards out that way. Also, there is a cornhole tournament taking place next weekend on USC Campus (University of Southern California) to benefit Relay for Life – they are expecting a huge turnout! Out there, it’s something new and exciting. derricksmash.com has donated $200 in product to this event. USC is way out of the cornhole’s heartland and they are just now starting to see the excitement of cornhole and tournaments like this are sprouting everywhere out there. If you look at the customer map on my website, you’ll see the major lack of my company’s cornhole products East of the Mississippi River. The “centralization” of cornhole is probably why the Midwest is losing it’s flare. A lot of the areas of our country that haven’t yet been exposed to cornhole have one advantage when it comes to the introduction of a new sport – they don’t have a winter. Growth and reputation of cornhole will spread year round – not like the Midwest…where the sport finally gets its spotlight of growth, then is abruptly shot down and throw into hibernation after out our first November snowfall forcing us to start all over again this time each year. Florida, Texas, Mississippi, SoCal, Arizona, New Mexico, etc are all places that haven’t yet been properly introduced to cornhole – but once they are, people will be hooked year round – no downtime. These states occasionally get snow, but it is melted within a day due to 65+ degree days. Once the name of cornhole is spread, the sport won’t die. We need to make sure we prioritize spreading the Sport’s name before it loses it’s name in the small region it exists now – the Midwest.
Basically what I’m saying is don’t give up hope on the sport of cornhole just because your town or state seems to have lost it’s flare – the sport needs to be known nationwide – worldwide – to get a real effect. Trust me, if the sport is dieing in Kentucky, but these same Kentuckians hear that people in San Francisco are now hot on the game, a rivalry will form and those cornhole boards will get dusted off. Rivalry = Sport = Addiction = Awesome. All the places in the country that are “cornhole’d out” are basically ticking time bombs for exploding once again and I think that will come with the increase of Cornhole’s footprint as a nation, not cornhole’s local reputation as it is now. Keep playing folks! Keep your city, state, town or whatever at least a bit involved…because when there are enough little seeds from coast to coast, rivalry forms and everything in the middle will fill itself in. It’s sport – it’s how every sport still exists and survives. It’s how any brand becomes a “brand”.
If there were only four MLB teams in the league, and all of them were in the same geographic region, I assure you MLB would be as cornhole is now…only known locally. MLB and all other “leagues” and “associations” survive because they have a “representative” team in pretty much every major city. If one team is doing bad, so does their representing region’s morale, but the sport in a whole doesn’t struggle to thrive because of all the other teams in the country (ie: Chicago Cubs…haha). Right now the sport of cornhole fills the geographic triangle created by Western Chicago, Nashville and Eastern Ohio – that’s not big enough…especially because “Chicago” was probably pushing it…I really don’t think the spread truly this far yet.
The popularity epicenters of the Sport of Cornhole need to look like this:
Cornhole needs enough branding throughout the country’s population spikes. This is the next step and is the only way to ensure the future of cornhole.
So, players, keep playing – Builders, keep building and if someone out West contacts you and wants a cornhole set, make it happen. If you can’t make it happen, refer them to someone who can, instead of just telling the client, “sorry, can’t help you”.
Cliffnotes: Spread the game enough, and it won’t die.