Former school soccer DB Ryan Smith is now the ripped star of Cornhole

As a James Madison University defender, Ryan Smith focused on becoming the best player he could every time he stepped on the field. He couldn't imagine that with the same level of competition he would become one of the top stars in the American Cornhole League.

Growing up in Ashland, VA, Smith didn't grow up with bags, but he did toss horseshoes, which has some similarities to the fast-growing niche sport. Introduced to Cornhole by his brother in 2015, he quickly became addicted. When he started attending local events, he was surprised not only by the turnout, but also by the intensity of the game.

When Smith found out about the American Cornhole League, his interests were piqued. He would turn pro in 2019.

What exactly does it mean to become a pro in a sport that is considered more of a backyard activity?

With the business sponsorship the league won, the presence on ESPN, the current pot distributed among winners in pro qualifying competitions is six figures. The league's current focus is on increasing the prize pool to $ 5 million, which means there will be a day when a professional cornhole player can become a career for some.

"When the American Cornhole League came along, I just knew big things were coming," said Smith. "w it's just amazing and overwhelming how (the sport) has developed."

He added, "Once I start cornhole I will keep playing and practicing until I can master the techniques so I can compete with some of the well-known guys who are winning many of these events at the time." I definitely saw how I reached this level. "

We spoke to Ryan Smith about how he became one of the best in the sport, how he is now training to land airmail rather than defending screen passes, and why you should start adjusting to the ACL.

Misunderstandings About Cornhole

Most people say it's just a tailgating game. Maybe it was just that a few years ago. Well, it's a lot more than that. There are huge prize pools and many of us make a living from Cornhole. It's definitely different from just your standard tailgating / backyard game.

Ryan Smith pocketed the work

They say you really don't have to train with cornhole, but I would disagree. Of course, I don't do soccer training so I don't do hang cleans and the like, but I still do heavy lifting because the gym I go to is a powerlifting gym. There are a lot of people in there who compete, that just gives me that drive. Things I do that I would transfer to cornhole are shoulder workouts, bench press, military press, triceps, biceps, and things that help with cornhole underhand movement. I have built these muscles over and over and that helps me to endure a whole tournament. Sometimes you throw up to a thousand bags a day, especially when a tournament lasts two or three days.

I use vice handles that work the wrists, hands, and forearms – I find this to be most beneficial for the wrist movements required for the cornhole. Obviously, the way you loosen the bag and how much force you use will make it stronger. Some players have a much harder release that has more impact on the wrist. Some players have a softer and higher clearance. I kind of use both. I use the vice handles so I won't experience fatigue during a tournament.

During the week I try and practice throwing three to four times. The workout lasts between 30 and 45 minutes and 500 to 1,000 bags per session. That's 1,500 to 2.50 bags a week. To be honest, I train as much as I practice, around three to four times a week. I usually go to the gym and after that I go to my company's warehouse and work out there.

Courtesy Ryan Smith

Pursuit and responsibility

It's definitely a lot of time management. Fortunately, I can practice in my company building, which is about five minutes from where I live. My routine is to get off work, go home and change, go to the gym, do my workout, and go to the work facility to practice for 30 to 90 minutes. Then I go home, eat and party the night away. As for our actual tournaments, most of them take place on weekends. I've been with my company for a while now and they are pretty flexible with me there. If I have to take a Friday off here and there to travel, it's usually not a big problem.

Let's say we play Friday morning. Usually this is a start at 9 o'clock. I like to get up early because I'm an early riser and I'm paranoid that I'll miss my alarm clock and miss the event. I usually get up at 6:30 a.m. The first thing I do is take a shower. I will listen to music there to get my opinion right. I usually eat lightly before the tournament, so I grab some fruit or a granola bar and a powerade to get me through the morning. Once I get to the facility about an hour before playing, it's time to warm up. I'm trying to find a board that I can just throw myself on and dial in. I throw as many bags as possible to warm up. After I get into a groove with that, I start working on different recordings and when it's near start time I take a little break and put together a playlist before I play.

When I'm not playing, I take a lot of mental pictures. I'm trying to play through the tournament, to play against my next opponent or match. I just imagine myself shooting and using certain tactics that I need to win the game. During the game, I usually have music in my headphones to minimize distractions when I'm not in a broadcast, to immerse myself in my own world and focus on myself and the boards.

Cornhole requires cardio (believe it or not)

In these tournaments, which can last three to four days in a row, not only are bags thrown the whole day, but there is also a lot of walking around in these buildings. You can get tired and then your legs can start to hurt. Along with my lift, I run a mile or two on the treadmill. I do a lot of leg workouts, squats, and calf raises to strengthen everything so that fatigue is not a factor during tournaments and I focus solely on my corn hole game.

Why the American Cornhole League?

I think people should be careful because it's a lot more than just your backyard game. There is so much strategy and things that go with it besides throwing the bag down the hole over and over again. There are many other mental aspects to the game. Once you have learned the score and the rhythm it is very interesting to watch and play. It's a great game and it only goes up.

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