“This season has been fantastic, and I have gained so much from my experience playing ultimate Frisbee. The opportunity to learn ultimate with a group of girls, almost entirely new to the sport, has inspired me.”

The ultimate community witnessed the birth of a new high school girls team at The Blake School in Hopkins, Minn. Blake has had a successful boys’ team for years, but with support from Minnesota Ultimate and USA Ultimate, 2019 saw the formation of the school’s first-ever girls’ ultimate team.

“They [the girls] are hooked!” described Tanya Natwick, the head coach for the new girls’ team. “It was a phenomenal experience for all the girls on the team, and our two graduating seniors are looking forward to continuing in college.”

The new squad got their first taste of ultimate competition competing in the 2019 High School Spring League in Minnesota. As typical for a first-year team, the young group struggled in their first few games, as some of these girls were just learning how to throw the disc let alone compete. However, the early struggles did not deter anyone; it only made the girls stronger and grow closer.

“A first-year team came with obvious challenges; however, my experience on this team was nothing but amazing,” expressed Jing Jing, a captain on the team. “Not having super high standards for ourselves as a first-year team, we were able to set other goals besides winning. Setting these goals allowed us to always continue learning, continuously keep high spirits and bond as a team.”

And keep high spirits they did. The Blake girls’ team received higher spirit scores than their opponents in all but one of their matches during the spring league. They performed even better at the 2019 Hopkins Hustle annual tournament, the team’s first tournament competition, where they secured their first victory of the season and finished the tournament with an overall record of 3-2, winning the consolation bracket with a resounding 10-0 shutout in the final match!

“As I reflect on the season, my favorite moment was when my teammate scored a winning point,” recalled Shira. “This has been my highlight of the season not because it helped us win, but rather because it happened after a long point in which all of our improvements made throughout the season came together successfully.”

As the season ended, the new girls’ team competed in the coveted Minnesota High School State Championships. The team finished the tournament with a 2-3 record, very respectable for a first-year team, but they gained much more than a trophy could ever give them.

“As an athlete, ultimate has pushed me to be more athletic and fair-minded,” explained Caroline when describing how ultimate has impacted her. “The game’s commitment to spirit and camaraderie has encouraged, and at times forced, me to be a better player and a better person than I have perhaps wanted to be in the moment.”

She later added: “From my very first captains’ practice, I felt that this sport and this community both were a place where I could grow, learn, make mistakes and succeed. I am incredibly grateful for this grant and this team.”

The New Girls Team affiliate grant was available for first-year girls’ teams that competed in a USA Ultimate affiliate’s owned and operated sanctioned event, or that represented the affiliate’s community at a USA Ultimate championship event. However, the grant has now been rolled into the very successful Girls’ Team Startup Project (GTSP), a GUM program funded by the Ultimate Foundation. Modeled after the College Women’s Startup Project, the GTSP provides support for participating schools for three years to help them develop into competitive and self-sustaining teams.

“Thank you SO much for helping us out with the grant process,” acknowledged Tanya. “It really helped make this first season possible for the girls, and they won’t soon forget it.”

After a successful first season where some girls initially feel unsure about trying a new sport, the Blake girls’ team is filled with excitement for what next year has in store for, as Tanya calls them, the “future ambassadors to the sport.”

“This experience was unique, and I strongly believe that it was the jumpstart to an ongoing girls’ ultimate program here at Blake,” described Jing Jing.

“From doing this sport and interacting with my team, I gained so many new friendships,” added Nya. “I learned so much from playing ultimate Frisbee this year, and I know that next year I’ll be able to do so much more.”