Chasing the Dream: Building a High School Ultimate Program

by | June 10, 2011, 12:53pm 0

Despite the doubt shadowing Ultimate’s success at Aviation High School, students have shown incredible determination and resolve to never let something stand in their way. I am an AHS student who, although not on the team, discovered a love for Ultimate Frisbee because of this newly established program. Every Tuesday and Thursday, rain or shine, I see my fellow classmates hustling and working hard out on the field, following all of head coach Paul Illian’s instructions. Due to this dedication to practicing and organization, the AHS Ultimate Frisbee team has clinched the playoffs in the High School Coed Spring league that spans across the Puget Sound and fueled a curiosity in the sport in me and many other students.

The team has shocked the rest of the league with its success since this is only our first year in existence. Many students, including myself, have been pushing for more athletics at AHS since our school has no sports team, and in result a lack of an identity. My friends and I have started intramural leagues of all kinds, but we felt that AHS needed something legitimate, a team that competes with other high schools. After talking about many possible sports such as golf, tennis, and bowling, my fellow classmates Banks Hunter and Matt Iverson decided Ultimate Frisbee was the best option for AHS and created the school’s first athletic team.

When our school agreed to create this program there was hopes of maybe succeeding after being established for a few years, but the players have sped up this process and are not only in the playoffs, but are fighting for a very high seeding. As an Aviation High School student, it brings great pride to finally see athletic success and I think it’s safe to say I’m not the only one in the school that feels this way.

Of course, there are many lessons AHS players had to learn in order to start a team from scratch and get to the level of success there are at. One of the biggest lessons as a player is to have the confidence and the patience in what the team is doing, since it is starting at ground zero and drills can sometimes feel pointless. Even though it can sometimes be frustrating it is essential to give up all control and trust in others. “I think one of the big lessons you have to learn when you are new to a sport is you have to trust your coach because he knows what he is doing and you don’t,” said AHS Ultimate player Chris Lu, “Even though what your doing doesn’t always seem to make sense at the time, it will eventually. Trust the drills your running, and the plays your practicing and then it will all come together.”

However, it is equally important to have trust in yourselves, especially when starting from scratch. “Sometimes you need to have more confidence,” said Lu, “I was really nervous for our first game, I thought we were going to get destroyed cause we were new and we were missing a lot of our starting players. We only had two or three girls for that first game so we had to ask them to play a 5-2 and that just felt uncomfortable. I thought we would lose. But we ended up beating them 15 to 9 so I realized I should give ourselves more credit, we are pretty athletic.”

Not only is the program new, but many players themselves had never played Ultimate before joining the team. “A lot of people had experience playing other sports like Lacrosse, soccer, and football,” said AHS freshmen and a captain of the team Sasha Friedrich, “but they did not know how to play Ultimate Frisbee and were new to it.”

However, one of the lessons the team learned, and one of their reasons for success, is having a laid back personality. Even the hard core disc players on the team are always inviting people like me who have very little experience with Ultimate to practice. Anyone can join or stop by to play at any time. This positive vibe gets many students excited about the team and eager to play as soon as they can since they know they will not get harassed or judged by the better players. I greatly enjoy spending time with the players and throwing around the Frisbee; they have helped me discover a love for Ultimate Frisbee I didn’t know existed, and I plan on joining the team as soon as I can.

Some of the challenges the students had to face came from an unlikely source, within the team. Due to the low number of Ultimate teams in the area, students from other schools in the district have joined the team. Instead of creating hostility and separation, it seemed to bring them together. “The transition was not hard,” said Friedrich, “we are all playing a sport together we love and so, we get to know each other pretty quickly. It has been cool to meet other people.”

Students have been able to develop friendships and connections around the district. Many outside students come through our campus after school and in turn interact with us; I have talked with some of these students and always got along with them. Perhaps this is teaching us one of the most important lessons, accept everyone for who they are even if they are from rival high schools, or a part of town you are unfamiliar with.

The team looks much different from what I saw in the beginning of the year. They are now running organized plays and are able to recognize what is happening on the field. “Out of our first two practices, we only scored one point,” said Friedrich, “yesterday we had a practice and we scored 20 points. We are definitely progressing as a team and getting better. We are building trust.”

All the credit can not be given solely to the students however, a large part of the success has come from the great knowledge and coaching techniques of Coach Illian. I have had the pleasure of talking with coach Illian and enjoy his welcoming kindness and intelligent theories on Ultimate Frisbee. Along with his many years of experience in the sport, his success has come from setting clear goals and then doing everything he can to reach those goals. “I’ve got three goals for the team,” said Illian, “the first and most pressing one is to get the seniors prepared for when they go to college and face a higher caliber of play. The second is to set up a winning tradition at the school, and then the third is to make it a sustainable process so it can continue.”

Coach Illian is pleased with the team’s progress so far. “They’re making tremendous strides,” said Illian, “and getting a firm understanding of how to cooperate as a team and be successful.” In fact, Illian plans on documenting the steps and progress of the team so he can write articles on how to start an Ultimate Frisbee team from scratch.

Since many students find it hard to associate AHS with athletics including my old self, the team has been passed off as a rumor or another intramural sport. However, they fail to understand that the Ultimate Frisbee team does play against other high schools all around the Puget Sound. I still see students shocked when they hear it is an actual legitimate team. In result, not that much changes for the players on the Ultimate Frisbee team even though it is our only sports team; they are not the jocks roaming around the school hallways flirting with cheerleaders like we might imagine, they are just normal kids. “Its fun to represent the school but there isn’t that much school spirit right now,” said Lu, “but I’m alright with that cause we are all having fun.” Personally I believe this is one of the best lessons the team has learned this year, to bring in a wide variety of people. The team isn’t just filled with jocks, but also with nerds and other groups you wouldn’t associate with sports. Nevertheless, the team has learned how to not only enjoy playing with everyone on the team but also win while doing it.

Considering this is the only athletic team to represent AHS, we feel that the team deserves more recognition. “We’re a stem school and we are all about robotics, and science Olympiad, and we are a new team so we don’t get that much recognition yet,” said Friedrich, “but now we are a legitimate team with 20 plus people who go to practice three days a week and are actually winning games. So we deserve recognition for that.”

Just because the team has had some success it doesn’t mean the team isn’t constantly striving to set a legacy and keep improving. “My goal for next year is to have a better team overall because right now we have been winning on athleticism and you can’t do that for long,” said Lu, “If we can get up to A league, we will need to improve on our technique. As for a legacy, I want to see this team last. After ten years, I want to come back and see the team going even stronger than when I played and kicking butt.”

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