Breaking Borders Spreads Ultimate to Latin American Youth

by | March 19, 2013, 4:00am 0

The Breaking Borders coaches have a teaching moment with the kids. (Photo by Bobby Bishop)

Seven Americans—armed with over 80 discs—boarded a plane bound for Nicaragua last July. They headed towards their eventual destination of Los Cedros, a small, impoverished village outside of Managua, the country’s capital and most populous city. Under the moniker “Breaking Borders,” the team put on a four-day ultimate clinic for over sixty of the village children, teaching them the ins-and-outs of the sport, with a special emphasis on the Spirit of the Game. On day four, children who had never before heard of or played ultimate, participated in a village-wide hat tournament, competing against each other and receiving their very own jersey and disc.

Breaking Borders is the brainchild of Chasen Brokaw, and began as part of his honors thesis project while an undergraduate at the University of South Florida. Rather than writing a forty to fifty page paper, Brokaw wanted a more hands-on project. He proposed facilitating an overseas community development project, teaching local youth skills and values through ultimate. Having spent time over the past seven years working in Los Cedros teaching English, helping with construction, and aiding the various mission groups that would come through, the village seemed a no-brainer as the site of the project. Together with some of his USF teammates, a photographer, and translator, Brokaw journeyed to Los Cedros to turn his thesis into a reality, creating a short documentary of the experience and founding what was the become Breaking Borders.

Showin' off some ulti-swag. (Photo by Bobby Bishop)

Born out of a passion both to the sport of ultimate and to aiding marginalized communities worldwide, the name of “Breaking Borders” itself reflects this dual commitment. “Breaking Borders was a name brought up by the idea of breaking the mark in ultimate,” said Stephen “Styx” Ierardi, one of the organization’s coaches to make the Nicaragua trip. “To throw to the force side is easy, expected, and it’s exactly what the other team wants you to do. But to break the mark and change the flow of the game—that is really the type of people we want to be.” Ultimate, with its self-officiating and unique commitment to Spirit of the Game seems a particularly apt vehicle for inspiring leadership and teaching values such as humility, teamwork, and communication in a community plagued by poverty, a lack of male leadership, and rampant drug abuse.

In many ways, the ultimate community has as much to gain from the developing world as the developing world does from organizations such as Breaking Borders. As ultimate seeks more worldwide recognition, such as the WFDF’s recent bid to the International Olympic Committee, the developing world represents an overwhelming amount of hitherto untapped growth potential for the sport. Just as soccer became “the world’s game” in large part due to its lack of equipment cost, ultimate only requires one, relatively inexpensively priced disc to play—a fact that, if acted upon by the ultimate community, could lead to an explosion in the sport around the globe.

(Photo by Bobby Bishop)

This May, Breaking Borders hopes to put on a similar clinic in Colombia, and have found an all-star partnership in the Colombian National Team, after a Colombian teammate put Brokaw in contact with National Team president Mauro Otal. Because Colombia, unlike Nicaragua, already has an established ultimate community, Breaking Borders hopes to help create a relationship between the National Team and youth in the school and recreation systems. “It’s one thing for a group of foreigners to come in and teach a sport, give out some stuff, and leave,” said Brokaw. “It’s another thing for your own countrymen to invest in you and continue that relationship after the foreigners leave.”

While Breaking Borders remains a small-scale effort, some members of the organization have expressed a wish to see it become a full-time non-profit organization. “Our goal is for us to be an organization that spreads ultimate, and is funded by ultimate,” said Ierardi. “We feel as though the ultimate community, as a whole, has to be the ones to accept our efforts and help our cause if we are going to be able to achieve our aspirations for this.” In order to help raise the estimate $5200 needed for the Colombia trip, Breaking Borders is hosting  a cornhole tournament and a mini tournament in the Tampa area. Those interested in contacting Breaking Borders, or providing a donation via Paypal, may do so at

Feature photo by Bobby Bishop

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