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Playing cornhole can now get you a college scholarship. A coach tells you how

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

There's a new kind of student athlete in the making. Winthrop University in South Carolina announced this week it's awarding two scholarships to a couple of Colorado teenagers to play cornhole for the next school year. Cornhole? Yeah, the beanbag-tossing game. It's a historic time for the sport and for Dusty Thompson, who coaches the Winthrop University Eagles cornhole team. He joins us now. Coach, thanks very much for being with us.

DUSTY THOMPSON: Thank you for having me.

SIMON: What makes a great cornhole player?

THOMPSON: Somebody who's been around the game a long time, knows the game, knows the mental side of it 'cause it's not just about putting every bag in the hole. There's a lot of players that make this a lot more difficult to do that. So it can be a mental game in the long run. Some games can go 20 or 30 minutes, and some games can go five minutes. So a 20 or 30-minute game can mentally exhaust you.

SIMON: Coach Thompson, I say this with respect, but there are people who don't understand why cornhole should be considered a sport, or even why somebody would get mentally exhausted after half an hour.

THOMPSON: I get it. I completely get it. I hear it all the time. But the same thing goes for when baseball started. I mean, somebody picked up a stick, probably a broomstick, I don't know, maybe hit a rock and look what they turned it into. And it's an amazing sport now. The same thing with basketball - I believe it started with a peach basket. It started somewhere. What's wrong with cornhole starting, you know? Why not get it in college? Give these kids a chance to get a college degree that might not have had a chance, or give them a little bit of help through college for being such a good player. I think it's great. I mean, it's a great way for these kids to really get some good education.

SIMON: What can you tell us about these two young athletes who have the scholarships?

THOMPSON: Gavin Hamann and Jaxson Remmick, and when they're a team together, somebody come up with Team Hammick (ph). Yes, sir. So I've been talking to a lot of kids, but these were my two kids, my main focus that I wanted to go after first. These are the top kids in high school and college at the moment. These kids are coachable, well-mannered, well-behaved, handled themself on and off the court in a very professional atmosphere the way they do.

SIMON: And has Winthrop somehow become the college cornhole capital?

THOMPSON: Yes, sir, in my personal opinion. There might be other schools out there that are doing this, but none of them are D1. I'm not even sure if there are any other schools, but if they are, we are the first D1 school to ever offer anything for this. So it makes sense to have Winthrop doing it because we are the home of the world headquarters for the ACL.

SIMON: For the AC - is that the American Cornhole League?

THOMPSON: Yes, sir. So Winthrop is within walking distance of the campus - is walking distance to the headquarters. So why not have it here in Rock Hill? It just it just all goes together.

SIMON: I'm going to try and become a more intelligent and sensitive cornhole fan.

THOMPSON: Yes, sir.

SIMON: So I have to ask - I kind of know what to shout when there's a home run, right?

THOMPSON: Yes, sir.

SIMON: Or a touchdown.

THOMPSON: Yes, sir.

SIMON: What do I say when there's a good - what do we call it? - a cornhole toss?

THOMPSON: So what I'm going to say that you are relating to is if the bag goes straight in the hole, no slide, no nothing. That is considered an airmail.

SIMON: So do I go, hey, hey, an airmail?

THOMPSON: Yes, sir. Some of the greats do that. Some of them have their own slogan if - there's a guy, a professional player named Adam Hissner. If he hits an airmail and it's a big shot like that, he's got a fist pump he does every single time, and he yells out, boom, boom. It's a little on the crazy side, but that's what he does, and it's - he's stuck with it throughout all these years that he's been professional.

SIMON: You know, I'm going to be an Eagles fan, Winthrop Eagles.

THOMPSON: Yes, sir, I appreciate it. Come on, man. We'll take you any day.

SIMON: All right. Dusty Thompson, coach of the Winthrop University Eagles cornhole team. Thanks so much, coach.

THOMPSON: Yes, sir. You have a good day.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.

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