Name: Claudia Tajima
Years on A-team: 4
Hometown: Amherst, MA
Major: International Relations and Environmental Studies
Graduating: Class of 2013
When and where did you start playing ultimate? Who recruited you?
In 7th grade at Amherst Regional Middle School I started playing summer league with SULA (summer ultimate league of amherst) and played in a hat tournament. I didn’t officially start playing on a school team until the spring of my freshman year in high school. Many of my friends who ran cross country also played frisbee. Older kids Amber Sinicrope [Editor’s Note: #3 Callahan finisher in 2012] and Andrew Hollingworth also reached out to me to start playing.
What does the Callahan award mean to you?
To me, the Callahan embodies the ideal opponent or teammate. Earning the Callahan award demonstrates remarkable talent, skill and fire on the field matched by outstanding spirit of the game that reminds others why our sport is unique. The Callahan award winner is an integral part of her team, on the field and off. She has worked to bring positivity and a highly competitive spirit to her team through leadership by example, speaking in the huddle and dedication to her teammates and team goals. She is a friend to her teammates and opponents, that lets them know when they make a sick bid. She challenges her teammates at practice and opponents on every cut during a game.
What does it mean to you to be nominated by your teammates?
Playing with such highly spirited and skilled teammates, I am really excited and honored to be Tufts’ nominee. My teammates, many of who play club and have brought their game to a new level, are really deserving of recognition in the Region and nationally and I am humbled to be nominated.
What are your goals for this season?
This season, I hope to be at peak fitness for nationals so that I can turn on defense on an offensive turn and get blocks for my team, and so that I keep the offensive moving quickly and resets easy. I hope to consistently deliver bread basket passes as unders, breaks or hucks to my teammates. I hope to bring positivity, energy and encouragement to my team. I hope to play to my teammates strengths so we work together powerfully.
How would you describe yourself as a player? What are your favorite plays to make?
Currently I am a O and D-line handler at Tufts, though I started playing competitively as a D-Line cutter on Jr Worlds and on Quiet Coyote. Every goal my team scores is exciting to me, no matter how beautiful the play was, and I have fun playing offense especially with fast, tall receivers ready to lay out downfield. I get really fired up for earning breaks. Some of my favorite plays to make are a fast break huck downfield for a score, a layout block, or a hammer for a goal.
What was your favorite moment of this season?
My favorite moment of the season was playing with the team on Saturday of Centex against Santa Barbara and Wisconsin. The weather was beautiful for once, and my team was really finding its rhythm on O and D for the first time this season. We broke seed and felt in our groove, and then proceeded to compete in the fierce dance competition and eat delicious Tex-Mex in Austin. Our host was so awesome and parents flew out to watch. It was a really sweet day.
What is your favorite part of being on your college team?
I love watching the team grow. Seeing players come from the B team and become top athletic play makers makes me so pumped I play for this team. As a senior, I am impressed by our younger players that play with confidence, solid mental game and sportsmanship. I love to see others achieve their personal goals and do something sick — a layout callahan or a sky over three defenders, for the first time when we need it.
The team’s success and competitiveness has increased exceptionally over the past four years. My freshman year, we narrowly lost a bid to Nationals against Middlebury and Harvard at Regionals. We played a very short rotation that year and were quickly gassed by the back door game. Sophomore year, with a fire to make it to Nationals, we took the one bid from the Region, but were unable to place top ten at Nationals. Last year, we took the sole bid from the Region, and with a deep, athletic roster and strong coaching we tied for 3rd place at Nationals. This year, with player development, strong rookies, and seasoned veterans the team is deeper, faster and more stoked than ever to earn a bid to Nationals and leave everything in Madison. It’s been so exciting playing for and leading the team during these four years of growth at Tufts, and I’m really happy I am a part of this team with such supportive alumni, family and friends cheering for us to break seed and represent the Northeast.
What’s your favorite in-season workout?
I’m a fan of the Snertz workout, through Tim Morrill and Josh McCarthy run some high energy, running workouts that are awesome. We’re really lucky to have these guys involved and helping with our training every week.
How has your college career been impacted by injury?
I’ve been through some tough injuries but I’ve always been able to cross train efficiently and come back in time for Regionals and Nationals, thankfully. My sophomore year, at Centex after a layout d, my opponent fell on top of my throwing hand and fractured it in several places. I was able to run but not throw for the next 6 weeks, so I ran as much as I could while supporting my team at practices. Other than that, I’ve had a stress fracture in my tibia and some ankle problems but luckily I’ve never done anything more serious that stopped my game significantly.
What’s your club experience? How is playing club different than college?
Throughout high school, we sent a team to club regionals. In 2007 or 2008, Amherst high placed 10th in the region, which is respectable for 16 year olds in cut-off tee shirts playing savage. In 2009 I played my first full club season with a Boston Mixed team Quiet Coyote. Seeded close to last at Nationals, we tied for third and earned a bid to Worlds in Prague. Definitely a crazy season and so happy I was on the team that year. Mixed is definitely much different than college womens, in the type of play, the strategy and the field awareness. Playing Brute Squad this past year was different because we had a more strict O/D line and I handled for the D line. I enjoyed playing club because I was able to learn from experienced teammates about footwork, throw placement, timing and worthwhile bids on D. Club is different because I’ve been the youngest person on the team and had a much different role as a rookie on these teams than my leadership role at Tufts.
Are you graduating after this season? What are your summer/career plans?
Yes, I’m graduating. Sadly. This summer I will be playing in Toronto at Worlds with the U23 Mixed Team, and I’m so excited to play with such a strong group of college and post grad players from across the country. Having played against and with them, I know the young women on this team are really badass. Plus the coaches are awesome. I’ve been applying and interviewing for positions so hopefully my career plans will fall in place any day now. I hope to utilize both my majors and to work towards social justice and sustainability on a global level. I love working with high school students, especially after teaching at several positions and then coaching the New England Girls team at YCCs in 2011. Those girls kick ass. Three of them are at Tufts currently!
Tajima’s teammates Mia Greenwald and Qxhna Titcomb have been hard at work on a video between final exams … here it is!