By Giulia Basile
“A mind stretched by new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes
Last month, I watched my students lay out and shout-out at Bay Area Disc’s Fog Five Cup Tournament at Ocean Beach. Any onlooker could sense the positivity in the air; the scene was one of collaboration, mutual respect, kindness and sheer enjoyment. From where I stood, however, I could also appreciate that this event, like most Bay Area Disc events, was – quietly – one of equity and inclusion too, an event that did its part to foster a more diverse Ultimate community.
My students hail from a San Jose public school with a population of approximately 40% Vietnamese and 60% Hispanic students, where 100% of students qualify for free and reduced lunch. I work for Citizen Schools, a Nonprofit that pairs with low-income, underperforming public middle schools around the Bay Area. Last spring I organized an Ultimate team with the help of a few dedicated volunteers and the support of Bay Area Disc Association. Since then, Bay Area Disc has welcomed us, giving our team full Financial Aid for two tournaments and one clinic, and sending two especially eager middle schoolers to Ultimate summer camp at no cost.
Bay Area Disc’s generosity has had a huge impact. Most of my students have never been to summer camp. The tournament at Ocean Beach was their first time in San Francisco. Only a handful have had the opportunity to play extracurricular sports at all – cost and transportation limitations render the option next to impossible. The school does what it can to increase sports participation – a few dedicated teachers volunteer their time to put together short seasons of cross-country, soccer and basketball – but the programs lack the resources that are commonplace in districts of more affluent communities. For our school, there is a dearth of feasible sports options despite overwhelming interest and the abundance of untapped potential.
So Ultimate has been special. Nonexistent on our campus before last spring, discs now fly with the seagulls over the black top during lunch Monday through Friday. Over just the past few weeks, I’ve seen the effect of Ultimate in many meaningful ways:
- Two students wrote in their English class that learning Ultimate was their greatest accomplishment of 2014-2015.
- My student Angel asked for his one birthday present to be a Frisbee.
- My seventh graders watched the most recent international Ultimate games on YouTube before I did.
- Last week, my seventh-grade student Enrique threw a perfect huck to a teammate in the endzone. He played it cool, looked at me, and said nonchalantly, “Ultimate has always been my sport; I just didn’t know it until now.”
Like Enrique, many students at my school self-identify as Ultimate players now, and with that comes confidence and a sense of camaraderie. If there is one thing I take from all this, it’s how quickly a well-organized Ultimate Association can generate spirit and pride, teach sportsmanship and build community. Over the course of a year, Bay Area Disc has changed the culture of my school.
So thank you, Bay Area Disc for responding to our school’s need, and enriching our students’ middle school experience. Thank you to all of the Bay Area Disc players and parents that help my San Jose crew and others participate in something so meaningful.
The truth is we all benefit – the field is more diverse, and kids from San Jose to Marin get the rare chance to connect around shared passions, to play.
Giulia Basile works with middle school students in San Jose through Citizen Schools, a national nonprofit.