Written by: Giulia Basile, teaching fellow for a Citizen School and ultimate organizer in San Jose, CA.
This article was written by a guest writer. The opinions expressed in the post belong to the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Ultimate Project.
My name is Giulia Basile, and over the past two years I have been lucky enough to work at an incredibly diverse Title I middle school in San Jose, California through a nonprofit called Citizen Schools. In addition to my teaching responsibilities here, I’ve had the chance to create an Ultimate Frisbee after-school elective, and it’s been a privilege to coach a growing number of students. In two-years time, the sport has gone from being virtually unknown to unbelievably popular on campus, all at an incredibly low startup cost. At the beginning of last year we struggled to get any students to commit to games; this year students and parents requested the tournament schedule months in advance.
While I can write endlessly about the deep physical and social-emotional impact that Ultimate has had on our school over a relatively brief time span, I find the students’ words to be far more motivating. Ultimate folds into their self-told life histories. It has broadened and strengthened their personal identities. Ultimate Frisbee has brought together a lovely group of students while providing each one of them the outlet they need, and - they are the first ones to voice that. I’ve had the opportunity to learn about their personalities and backgrounds through the lens of Ultimate, which is in itself, a singular joy.
This is the first piece of a three-part series that will share students’ perspectives on the way that Ultimate can affect middle school students, in any community, on a grand scale. In this first post, I interviewed three ‘veteran’ players who were excited to talk about why they decided to come back for a second season of Ultimate.
Do you play frisbee outside of school?
I actually inspired my sister to play frisbee so she likes it too, and she also likes to play baseball. We play catch and with our neighbors we play little games of frisbee at our home. I live in an apartment - I’ve been living there since I’ve been in kindergarten - and in our parking lot we make a little field - our neighbors are always knocking on our door, saying “let’s play frisbee, take out your frisbee!” We play cops and robbers a lot too. Like sometimes me and my neighbor - he has a truck and we will be playing frisbee and we’ll try to jump off the truck. I remember once it was my turn to try and catch it and it hit me in the face.
Why are you back for another year of Ultimate?
Now, it’s like the new sport. Everyone likes Ultimate now.
I love the tournaments - after every game it’s fun because we do a circle and we do different things. My favorite memory was when I made a diving catch in the tournament, and when we actually won a game. My dad, well, he’s always asking me when is there going to be another frisbee tournament and if I’m on the team. He’s always trying to be updated. He always wears his Ultimate Frisbee hat.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
In five years, I see myself in college playing baseball and hopefully frisbee. My brother is a freshman at UC Davis and he tells me that there’s an Ultimate team.
Tell us about yourself.
I am Vietnamese and Cambodian. I live with my mom, dad, brother, sister, me, my aunt, my uncle, my little cousin, and my grandpa and grandmother – that’s five…that’s ten people. They help me with homework, and they give me more confidence. They tell me I can do anything and they tell me it’s okay to do whatever you want as long as you learn how to do it. I want to do computer engineering.
What's one thing people might not know about you?
That I don’t like to wear dresses. Everybody says, “Oh, you look good in a dress,” and I want to say, “I want to take this off right now”. It’s all poofy, too poofy.
A lot of people also don’t know that I play Ultimate Frisbee. But more and more people do.
Why are you back for another year of Ultimate?
When I started playing Frisbee last year I didn’t even know that Frisbee was a sport. Frisbee is really fun to play - I like that I get to walk around and hold a Frisbee, and I like to practice my flick and my backhand. I can probably teach new people how to play now. Sometimes I play Ultimate at home – I play with my brother and sister, and my little cousin tries to steal the Frisbee. He does a really bad job - I hide it under the sofa.
What is one thing that people might not know about you?
They don’t know where I came from. I move here like a year and a half ago. I’m from Pakistan, I’m Pakistani, I’m Muslim, I came and I learned English. When I was in my country, I was worried because I thought English was so hard. I usually got first place in school competitions, my other brother gets second place, and the other brother gets third place. But my English was the scariest thing about coming - when we were in the airport, we had to stay two days in the airport because my parents couldn’t speak English, so the guys they couldn’t understand us. We slept in the airport and the second day they gave us our rooms. They didn’t know what we were saying because we couldn’t speak English. Here is much better because I actually learn something, not just wasting my life over there. When I went to the first school, it was good but the second one, no. Because they didn’t actually do anything - they just waste our time.
Here they teach me what I like - frisbee and English and other stuff. One day I want to be an engineer and I want to play frisbee.
Why are you back for a second year of Ultimate?
Frisbee is the first sport I like because in Pakistan there was not many sports, just cricket. I think I did get better this year and I want to learn more frisbee than I learned last year. Maybe I could be a captain. Last year I loved when we went to the tournament. There was a short team and they beat us because we didn’t have that much experience and know those kind of skills. But there was a tall team and we beat them because we were faster.
At practice I’ve made friends with the big people (the volunteer teachers) so I think frisbee is awesome now. One man said, “At your age, I couldn’t throw frisbee.”
Now when I’m bored outside because I can’t do anything, or when I’m at my home on Saturday and Sunday, I’m not going to be bored because I have my frisbee. At school when I’m bored or I don’t have any friends around, I can play frisbee. Frisbee is my friend.
Check out the second installment in Giulia's series, Snapshots from San Jose: Gender Lines!
Giulia Basile, teaching fellow at Citizen Schools and ultimate organizer in the Bay Area
Giulia majored in Hispanic Studies at Brown University, where she played ultimate for Disco Inferno. These days you'll find her playing, organizing and teaching ultimate in the Bay Area. Giulia's students are an example of how ultimate is more than just a game. It is a tool to impact lives on and off the field. Now, discs fly through the air at lunch and after school in San Jose, as parents and kids look forward to many seasons of ultimate to come.