The fields in Livermore, Calif., were teeming with talent that February weekend. It was the west coast tryout for the 2018 U.S. U-20 National Teams, with an opportunity to compete at the 2018 World Junior Ultimate Championships (WJUC) on the line. The field was 10 people strong, thanks to the Play It Forward program and the Ultimate Foundation. After pushed limits, exhausted limbs and bruised purple toenails, when the dust settled, four athletes remained with their eyes set on Waterloo.
Although only four individuals were chosen from the Play It Forward program to join the teams competing in Ontario, Canada, a family and community was forever established between the 10 players and their coaches on the ultimate fields of Livermore. “I play ultimate because it is the one sport that seems so family-based,” 2018 WJUC Women’s National Team member Amy Nguyen said. “Everyone is so welcoming and loving. No one ever feels like they are left out or less of a player than anyone.”
Another player, Amanze Oleru mentioned that, although she didn’t make the team this year, she will continue to play ultimate because of the amazing community built within the sport. “I have been playing for now nine years and honestly didn’t think I still would be. But I am, because of the community I have met through playing.”
The positive spirit and sense of family felt by the players is what the Ultimate Foundation is all about, and the Play It Forward program is an amazing way to provide every kid the opportunity to learn and play ultimate. One of the participants, Nikka Ibale, found herself conflicted as she found solace in her ultimate family after her parents initially didn’t support her passion for ultimate. Nikka’s parents initially pushed her to play more traditional sports, like soccer and basketball, but Nikka didn’t have good experiences with those sports and couldn’t deny her love for ultimate. “Being able to tryout for the U20 USAU National Team means a lot to me because my parents don’t usually support me in Frisbee, but having this tryout made them realize that Frisbee, to me, is really important.”
The Play It Forward program provides membership and financial assistance for youth from under-served and underrepresented communities to learn about and play ultimate. This program is designed to ensure that every youth is given an opportunity to learn and develop the values of USA Ultimate and the Ultimate Foundation regarding Spirit of the Game, building character, and strengthening community. These values are taught to all of our members to give them the tools to make the world a better place.
If you would like to read more about these players’ stories of fulfilling their dream of representing USA in international competition, please visit their individual GoFundMe pages listed below: