By: Valerio Iani, Bay Area Disc Youth Director, and Laura Cincotta
You may have caught a game of Ultimate Frisbee on ESPN, or heard that the sport boasts over 5 million participants in the United States alone (2013 SFIA report). But Ultimate is not just a fun team sport that is growing fast – there’s a lot more to it. As one recent Bay Area high school grad put it, “Ultimate…beyond being [an] amazing experience that defined my high school years, really helped to cultivate confidence in me and encourage me to challenge myself.” And when a dad writes: “We are so glad he found this sport; I love watching him grow and flourish. Please know our gratitude is deep” – you realize that this sport is providing kids a fundamental piece of their personal growth. Every day, I see how this sport is transforming young people in a vital way.
We often take for granted that youth sports build character and create leaders but that is not always true in today’s hyper competitive environment. In a recent NY Times article, Jim Thompson, Founder of Positive Coaching Alliance, says, “Sports provide an endless procession of teachable moments, which can be obscured by a win-at-all-cost mentality.” Whether or not a sport can have a positive impact on character-building in an individual is highly dependent on the values the sport and its culture promote and develop. One of Ultimate’s unique features is that it is self-officiated, placing on kids the responsibility for their conduct and decision-making without delegating this to referees.
The resulting emphasis on personal accountability, empathy and communication makes Ultimate a powerful learning tool by which youth develop important social emotional skills that are critical for all aspects of their lives. According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), “Social emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults develop skills needed to effectively manage themselves and their relationships with others.” All five SEL competencies – self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, relationship skills, and social awareness – are in action in the sport of Ultimate.
Consider the words of Lauren Casey, a Stanford grad who won two world Ultimate championships and six national championships, regarding the experience of playing the sport: “You have to learn to calm your temper. You have to learn to communicate. You have to learn to empathize. You are expected to self regulate. You are expected not to cheat. You are expected to respect your opponent in that they are not cheating.” These elements of the game embody the values we are teaching young kids every time they step on the Ultimate field.
At Bay Area Disc Association, we see how Ultimate, with its foundation on social emotional learning, is uniquely suited to building and shaping young characters. We are working to highlight SEL in our curricula as well as create and support programs in Bay Area schools that teach SEL through Ultimate. We are thrilled that one of these initiatives has already seen national recognition through the efforts of Ashley Black, a middle school teacher and elite club player, whose proposal made it to the final stage of a competition held by Character Labs. Ashley’s innovative project will teach students “positive ways to use integrity to resolve real life conflicts that arise on and off the field.” You can make a difference too, by taking just two seconds to vote for her project and help it win the grant.
Here is Ashley’s message to you:
“To All Who Support Educators Who Make a Difference,
My name is Ashley Black. I am a middle school physical education teacher at a charter school in the Bay Area and I also play for Nightlock Ultimate. Through the continued support of Bay Area Disc Association, I am currently in the third and final round of a national competition to earn a $10,000 grant to support character education in the classroom. My project topic is: “Taking Character Education to the ‘Ultimate’ Level.” The focus is on improving integrity and fairness through playing ultimate in the classroom and after school programs.
In this final round, online voting determines the projects that will receive the Character Lab grant. Please support my proposal and vote by March 31st!
Voters may only vote once. Click here to vote for my project: “Taking character education to the ‘Ultimate’ level”.
Thank you for your help! Please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions. And please feel free to forward on to other colleagues, friends and family!
HUGE thanks to Valerio and BAY AREA DISC ASSOCIATION for all of your support!!”
We call on our community to support her project by voting by March 31 and making it happen. All it takes is one click – no registration required! Thanks to all!