FEATURE SERIES: Snapshots from San Jose: Gender Lines


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 I have the privilege of teaching at an incredibly diverse Title I middle school in San Jose, California.  During the past two years here, I have had the opportunity to create and coach an Ultimate Frisbee class during the after-school program.  Students’ commitment to Ultimate has skyrocketed.  Not too long ago students did not consider it a legitimate sport, but now students and parents will travel up to two hours to attend a tournament.


Working with the incredibly diverse students at my school has given me many opportunities to to learn about how to be a better teacher and coach.  After attending the March 2016 Youth Ultimate Coaching Conference on Gender Equity and Girls Ultimate in San Jose, I’ve tried to shift and refine the way that I approach my team in order to offer a more welcoming, open Ultimate playing field. Girls’ involvement in sports here is limited for a variety of reasons (cultural, socio-economic,etc.), but hearing these young ladies’ opinions has motivated me to keep fighting to do my job better. They’ve got tenacity and they’ve got confidence. They have a lot to say about how Ultimate has affected their self-perception as athletes, and how playing mixed is a unique, enjoyable opportunity.


This is the second piece within a three part series about Ultimate’s profound effect on one group of middle school students, reporting from their Title I public school in San Jose.  The first interviews covered three ‘veteran’ players and their decisions to stick with Ultimate for a second year. This time around, I talked with three girl players who shared what it means to be female athletes within their Ultimate Community.


Tell us about yourself.

I came from Texas this year and I’ve played Frisbee since I came here…Usually I play frisbee with my brothers. At the park they say, “Jackie, how do you play Frisbee? When I catch it, it hurts my hand.”  I say, “Get used to it because when you play it’s always gonna happen.  And when you practice it gets better.”


Do you think of yourself as athletic?  

Yeah, yeah, all my friends say that about me. In PE they always say I was beating up the boys. It makes me feel pretty good to say I’m athletic - that I am healthy, and that I am in good shape.


I’ve been showing my mom what Frisbee is.  She’s seemed really excited about it and she is very happy for me. When my Frisbee coach said I was athletic, she was shocked… she was like, “Oh, I didn’t know that about you.” Probably because before I played Frisbee I played on technology a lot, just inside my room, just doing nothing.


How do you like playing on a Mixed Ultimate team?

I like how we’re not separated from each other…it gives us options to make friends with boys, and the opportunity to get along very well.  Having boys on the team is good because sometimes they get really competitive and I get competitive too.   Sometimes in sports women get mistreated and the boys, they have all the glory.  And for Frisbee I really like how men and women get to play together and the women get as much glory as the men.


Kelly Lin

Tell us about yourself:

I like to describe myself and my family as following really good traditions.  For Chinese New Year we like to make a lot of food for people…we make fried sesame dumplings and hang up decorations – they’re red because the Chinese like red.  


How do you feel as a female athlete in Ultimate?

Ultimate shows girls who are shy that they can actually go out and play and that they can be better than boys. Some people don’t have the self-confidence to go out and grab a Frisbee and throw it somewhere.  If they actually try, after a few tries they could throw it good.  If I pick up something that’s the shape of a Frisbee I could probably throw it.


How does your family feel about you playing sports?

My mom wasn’t really athletic so she really didn’t consider me as playing sports, but I showed her flyers that allowed me to get into it. Now she asks me questions like, “Are you ready?.” And when I say “yes,” she goes like, “Well, if there are sports that I could do, teach me.”


Do you hope to keep playing sports later in your life?

If I could be on a frisbee team later in my life, I would.  School is like a sit, you’re not really moving a lot. It feels good to move – if you’re running, you might get tired out, but once you catch a Frisbee, you’re like, “Oh, I caught it, and I want to throw it again,” and you just keep on moving.


Tell us about yourself.

I have a great family, great brother, but sometimes my brother and I don’t get along that much.

In school I have really great friends that support me and I support them back…Math is my favorite class; I mostly have really good grades in math.  I’m mostly proud of that I have a wonderful life and great friends.


Who is your biggest role model?

Mostly soccer players: Chicharito and Messi, Ronaldinho and Neymar.  Soccer is one of my favorite sports. Since I was eight years old, I started to play on a team called Portugal, and after that I went to Deportivo Guerrero, and after that I went to Atlas, and after right now I went to PAC. Mostly I watch soccer with my dad, and mostly there are just boys players.


What do you think of yourself as an athlete?

I think of myself as a really great professional at soccer and Frisbee. It makes me feel energetic, strong, smart.  I want to keep on playing sports my whole entire life so I can be strong and fast.   Ultimate is new for me –  you can do a lot of stuff with a Frisbee.  My team helps me a lot because this is my first time playing.


How does it feel playing on a mixed Ultimate team?

I can keep up with everyone.  I’ve spent most of my entire life playing on a team with boys. Since second grade, I mostly hanged out with boys.  Some boys think that girls are not strong enough, but they are strong, they have the rights to do anything – any type of sports. I’m being a really good role model because I really want to help other girls go to their favorite sports. I want to support them.

Check out the first article in Giulia's series, Returning Perspectives!


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.