• Morgan Fielder

How I Fell in Love with Cornhole

Updated: Aug 28, 2019

The game with endless innuendo that is surprisingly good



I get shushed all the time living in Germany. The hair salon, the gym, even at work! I find American exuberance to be a thing and I have it.


In efforts not to be so “ugly”, I’m working on it. However, it didn’t matter how quiet and polite the German Cornhole crowd was at the elementary gymnasium, I jumped for pure joy! The players and teams were packed into a space so tight that you had to wait until the opponents stopped throwing their bags on the other end to pass behind their court. Even though there were 8 teams playing at once on a court that was 30 feet long, it didn’t stop me from running to the center of the cornhole court to jump into my husbands broad arms. My feet came up and I squealed a bit in joy as he spun me around like I was a Wheaties champion. My back arched and feet kicked up as I kissed him and I couldn’t help but smile so big I could feel the redness in my cheeks.


I finally did it! In official tournament play, I threw a “four bagger”, “12er” as my Greman friends like to say , or “glory hole” (my clubs’ official term for 4 in the hole)— and even better, all delivered via “air mail”.


“Air mail “— when you throw a 1 pound (or 400 gram in Europe) bag filled with cornfeed that leaves your hand and lands directly into a 9 inch diameter hole inside a 4 foot piece of plywood 30 feet away from where you stand.

Never before had I done this even in practice. My throws prior to this were mostly not even on the board, landing off to the side or short. Once or twice I had gotten three bags out of four that you throw in one round of play into the hole. They usually slid or got knocked in, and definitely I didn’t deliver much “air mail”.


And these cornhole boards! The nascent cornhole clubs in far western Germany created some challenging boards. They were slick and slippery (rutschig in German) and nobody liked them. Even the seasoned champions were complaining auf Deutsch, one didn’t need to even speak German to know that the boards in this tournament were difficult. The cornhole bags slid, bounced, and generally missed their mark that day.


Experienced players like the steely Silke, guiding Gunni, or smiling Isabelle modified their throwing technique to improve their scores. 4 baggers aren’t unknown to them, but even they found that their strategy had to change a bit. For players like me, I didn’t have a modification, I normally am elated to hit the board, but a 4 bagger (gloryhole)! Delivered via Airmail! It was so easy to feel fully absorbed in the moment over something so silly as tossing bean bags.


We walked across the court to the opposite side to start the next game and the bright Saarlandisch sun shone in from the windows and hit my eyes on the next round after my glorious 4 bagger.


Never complain about a sunny day in Germany

It was so bright in the school hall that I had to borrow my husbands baseball hat to shade my eyes. We went to the tournament in Germany’s second smallest state on the border with France in a tree filled village called Quidersheid. This state has flipped back and forth between Germany and France for hundreds of years, just like the bags flipped back and forth between boards during the game of cornhole. It’s not uncommon for German people to say Bonjour instead of Tschuss at the shops and bakeries after selling you a pretzel.


How valuable are Expectations anyways in physical performance?


Don’t get me wrong, sun in Germany is always a good thing and welcome. It’s welcome even during a cornhole tournament when it’s shining directly into your eyes. But the good luck, happy vibes, and powerful placebo of my first 4 bagger continued as I airmailed the very next 3 bags into the hole. Barely missing the fourth and final toss that round, I felt like I lost the spark of flow precision and accuracy. Not unhappy or sad, but observant of that state of mind (and body) and how easily it can dissolve.


So fascinating, fun, and curious. A simple game of cornhole, played enough to be semi-proficient and the conditions of competition elicited a rare respite from the mind numbing busyness of my typical type A lifestyle. I stepped outside the box of my daily grind and experienced something different.


Not quite as consciousness shifting as acid but actually much more satisfying than meditation. And I get it, meditation is good, but it’s so serious. So much cultural baggage. Same with yoga and tai-chi and all these other wonderful mind-body pursuits. They lack…fun. And when something isn’t fun it’s quite a chore. There’s only so much self-help one can take before it back fires. I mean, scheduled mindfulness? Doesn’t that take away from the point of living an easy life?



But this idea of pursuing a craft, not for the end product, but for the process itself is intriguing for wellness.

The problem is that I’m not a craftsman, I mean, craftswoman. I detest baking and painting and any other “hobbies” where I have to sit still and obsess over details.


Why?


I’m a cook, not a baker.I hate sitting.

I’ll go to some nice people like this for my bakery products, I’m sure they do it better!


It’s just so boring (not in the long summer day as a child good boring) to sit and practice 10,000 hours to get good at something to reach a state where you are fully absorbed in the present.


Professionally I counsel people and coax them to move and feel better as a physical therapist. That’s as non-crafts person as it gets. If you don’t go with the flow of your patients’ human messy ingredients, you’d be nothing more than a technician or you would be peddling snake oil on how to deal with chronic pain. In this profession, it’s always “depends”. Right answers don’t come around very often, in fact, I doubt there are ANY right answers. Only varying adaptive paths towards recovery.


I love it and I get to help people everyday. But there’s a part of my being that is neglected. That attention to detail, methodical practice, make something with my hands, hard tangible result at the end kind of thing. It’s so clear and defined. It’s not nebulous. It doesn’t “depend”.


A round complete, a game complete, your craft demonstrated and hopefully the pursuit enjoyed and cheered on by competitors and friends.


And in the striving, you can lose track of time and feel something different, maybe due to that laser focus on something that has an actual answer.


As a non-sitting, gross motor lover, seeking a movement based craft — cornhole presents an intriguing choice for now. I’ve tried to reach flow state with music, writing, and meditation prior but it’s way too much sitting for me.


Managing to use my beautiful bodies’ gross motor movement to throw 4 one pound corn bags into a hole 8 meters away is bliss. It’s in the hole or not. So satisfying to my type A elephant mind.


It’s just you, your focus, training history, and the hole. You’re unlikely to get hurt or fall into overuse like so many other physical endeavors that provide the same benefit.


Will physical-social hobbies like this help us avoid burnout and grow communities?


With Love,

Beyond Exercises

P.S. I love those slick “rutschig” boards! My first glory hole will always have a place in my heart.

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