FEATURE SERIES: Snapshots from San Jose: Turning Points


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 teach at a Title I Middle School with a diverse student body in San Jose, California.  For the past two years, I’ve coached a weekly Ultimate Frisbee after-school program for twenty-five students with the help of dedicated volunteers who join us after full days of work.  This year, I’ve encouraged students to share their newfound affinity for Ultimate, in writing.  This week, they reflected on a turning point in the season: their first tournament.


I do my best to imbue practices with Ultimate spirit and style, but a first tournament will always be the immersive experience when players are finally surrounded by Ultimate culture.  Players are united in uniform, coming to the realization that other people in the world play Ultimate too.  They see silliness alongside high-level play and Spirit Circles following serious competition. It is transformative.


On April 24th, my students geared up for the annual Spaghetti Western Tournament in Modesto, California. For the past two years Bay Area Disc Association has given our school full financial aid so we can attend.   The day was bright and blustery and thrilling.  Parents filled our sidelines, shared food with one another, jumped up to help me organize the drills, shouting ‘Run!” and “Go!” in whatever language came most naturally.  Two players proudly wore the first pair of cleats they’d ever owned.  After our last game, all the players peppered me with the question, “So, we can come next year, right?”


The day is celebratory. It’s affirming. They’re Ultimate players now.


Tell me about yoursel.

I’m a good kid?…. that’s all.


How was tournament day?

I’m pretty sure I woked up at six. I was the first one up.  I said to my mom to make me breakfast...I said to my dad to drive me at seven.  Later we were at the tournament.  We played until our shoes came off. We had a very  fun time and played well; collaboration is the key of having fun.  I didn’t catch the frisbee and throw it a lot but I defended a lot.  I kept defending this guy, he kept juking me, but I kept defending him.  People on the other teams - they were really good.

I’m pretty sure they make plans.  

What surprised you about Tournament Day?

The fields.  But there were actually like 10, like 20 fields there. There was a lot.  A lot of old people were there too.


What was the best part of the day?

When we we left in the van and when we came back we actually talked a lot.  Before I didn’t really know the people in my car, but everyone is basically friends now.

Also the first time drinking Powerade - very sour.


Tell us about yourself.

My name is Alex.  I was born in Hayward, California.  I live with my mom, dad, and brother.  My mom and dad are immigrants from Fiji.  They came here when they were a little older than me.  They came to America to have a better life.  I am eleven and on June 1st I will be twelve. In my free time I like to hang out, read, and play frisbee.  My mom is pretty good at throwing - I guess she just knew.


What did you think of the tournament?

It was fun!  It was a good experience playing with other teams and seeing how much practice they have compared to us and how much more practice I need.  Now I know the skills I need to improve on...so that was good.  I liked playing with other teams, using the skills I’ve learned, and just having fun spending time with other Ultimate Frisbee players.

I liked the moment when Alexis just fired the frisbee and Israel just caught it right in the endzone.  Also Spirit Circles make you feel good about yourself and make the other team feel good - that’s nice.  I liked seeing the high schoolers playing on the other fields too - that was pretty cool to know that eventually I’ll be at their level if I practice.


What do you like about Ultimate as a sport in comparison to other sports?

I like it more than other sports because other sports you might also need a lot more gear but with this you pretty much need frisbee, field, people and um, you just need time to play.

Also friends...I made a lot.  Almost I’m friends with everybody.


What do you think about the volunteer coaches who have helped you prepare for the tournament?

They’re really cool. I try to practice and I’d like to get to their level almost one day and play on a team like them.  I can imagine myself just coming to some school and doing what they’re doing.


Tell us about you.

I am Vietnamese, I like to play basketball, frisbee and I like to swim.  I love my family, I have a dog and three siblings, two sisters and a brother, I go to Sheppard Middle School, and I think frisbee is a really great activity to play with other people so you can meet new friends.


What was the best part of the tournament?  

The best part was when I caught the frisbee in the endzone at the end of the game and everyone was cheering. I was very happy and I was proud of myself because I never knew that I would actually score.

The cool part was that we were so happy even when either team won.  Because what is important is trying your best, not winning.  The Spirit Circles were pretty great because other people were saying nice things even if we lost or won.

How do you like Ultimate frisbee in comparison to other sports?  

I think it’s better - some people are nicer in frisbee.   In frisbee we say good things about others and there are some special awards - like for Good Spirit -  that make you feel better.

I learned that no matter what you do or whether you win or lose, it’s always better to try.

Because if you win every game, you won’t learn anything.  If you lose, you can learn from that.

This is the finale in Giulia's three part series, Snapshots from San Jose, which explores what life is like for middle school ultimate players in Basile's after-school program.

Check out the previous two additions: Returning Perspectives, and 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. 


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