When I grow up I want to be Hana Kawai. Me, along with hundreds of others who have met or heard of her, I am sure. Hana is an inspiration. Her incredible accomplishments in the ultimate community aside, she comes off as an approachable, passionate, educated, if not quirky woman. She has biked across the country to raise money and attention for affordable housing, co-started a non-profit to expand access in sport of ultimate and has been known to throw a killer lefty IO flick (this one's up for debate). She is a beautiful example of how individuals with inspiration, dedication and creativity can work to change the inequalities in society, and use ultimate to do it!
Hana believes that building youth ultimate is the best way to grow the sport and that using ultimate as a tool for social change can help reconcile the socioeconomic, racial and gender inequalities in our society. Co-founder of AGE UP, a grassroots ultimate organization that gives middle and high school girls from diverse backgrounds an opportunity to build confidence, grow as leaders, and learn about social justice as they teach elementary-aged kids how to play ultimate, Hana is passionate about increasing access to the sport. The organization connects the girls with elite female athletes, who become role-models for the youth who take part in the program. For her work to with AGE UP, Kawai received the Without Limits Creativity Grassroots Organizing Award, which honors people working to get more female athletes involved in ultimate.
Hana also has been coaching youth ultimate since 2010. She heads the girl’s ultimate team at Franklin High School, a school where 70% of students qualify for free or reduced lunch, 95% are students of color and more than half speak English as their second language. Hana holds fundraisers so that anyone who wants to can have the opportunity to play and even holds off-season practices that include rival team members. All in the name of access in ultimate.
Ultimate is a sport born under the ideals of inclusiveness and sportsmanship. Hana embodies all of that and more. An incredible presence in the ultimate community, she is also a fantastic athlete. She grew up playing the sport in the Seattle area and is now a captain for Seattle Riot. Hana helped Riot win the World ultimate Club Championships in 2014 and make it to the final at the beginning of this month and has risen from All Club Second Team in 2014 to First Team for 2015.
Basically, she’s all-sorts-of-awesome.
It is athletes like Hana, who through their passion and dedication to ultimate and its growing community, that are making a name for, and difference with our sport. Aspiring to that is way cooler than my previous childhood dream: to become a pro macaroni jeweler.
My trucker hat is off to you, Hana. Enjoy your off-season.