Surrounding the ruins of historic Candlestick Park lies San Francisco’s Bayview-Hunters Point District. Isolated from the rest of the city, Bayview-Hunters Point is the most southeastern district of San Francisco, hidden in the shadows of the high rises and exuberant attractions of neighboring areas.
This district has struggled to receive enough attention and resources, rendering it difficult to provide opportunities for success for its families, especially for the children that live there. However, while the city seemingly turns a blind eye to the needs of the community, one organization is bringing those needs front and center, giving hope and opportunity to the youth in Bayview-Hunters Point and other underserved Bay Area communities.
Founded in 2016, Ultimate Impact is an after-school nonprofit organization that uses the sport of ultimate to provide increased opportunities, confidence, communication abilities and conflict-resolution skills for boys and girls ages 6 to 18. The program stems from experiences the organization’s founder, Rocky Beach, had when he brought volunteers from his job at United Way to spend time with the kids of Hunters Point Family, a community-based organization that provides holistic programs supporting at-risk African American youth in the Hunters Point area.
“As a volunteer, I started coaching kids, basically 7 to 11 years old,” recalled Beach. “I raised a little bit of money to take the kids to a tournament, got them jerseys, and it became an incredibly important thing in my life.”
The kids Beach worked with endured challenging and traumatic home situations. Many of them came from single-parent households, and one even saw a family member get shot right in front of him. The incredible stories of perseverance these children shared moved Beach so much that he has dedicated his time to playing a more impactful role in their lives moving forward. Beach designed his program to be year-round, so he could maintain a consistent presence in the kids’ lives and always be there for anyone who wanted to show up.
“The reason why I think Ultimate Impact has been really successful is because of the idea of showing up every week. Being consistent really does make a difference,” explained Beach. “The key to what we do is we show up. Rain or shine, good days or bad days, we are there.”
Consistency and being truly present are ever so important in a child’s life. Beach’s experiences have shown him that all we want as humans is to consistently have people in our lives – people we can call friends and family. When those people are shuffled in and out of a child’s life at an early age, a welcoming, reliable community can provide them, for the first time, a sense of belonging. Community is extremely valuable to a child’s adolescent development, and Ultimate Impact prides itself on bringing a welcoming environment to kids who otherwise may find potentially dangerous outlets for community.
“If you have teachers that are cycling in and out, or your mom or dad is working really hard to put food on the table…this idea that there’s this community that you’re tapping into is really powerful.”
The primary development kids gain from the program is social-emotional: a child’s ability to understand the feelings of others, control his or her own feelings and behaviors, get along with other children and build relationships with adults. These interpersonal skills are so in tune with the framework and fundamentals of ultimate that learning how to throw and catch a disc isn’t the primary goal of the program, but rather one of the tools used to help kids feel empowered at a young age.
“I feel like ultimate is a good platform for that,” said Beach. “The way we try to teach it is, even at a young age, have kids speak up for themselves and find their voice.”
The social-emotional development the kids at Ultimate Impact experience focuses on reinforcing positive peer-to-peer interactions through conflict resolution and communication. Whenever there is a foul or dispute on the field, the kids discuss their positions and work together to reach an amicable conclusion. At the end of each game, they sit in a circle and take turns talking about what they learned and what went well. These moments are opportunities for kids to feel empowered to speak up. Honed at an early age, these positive communication skills can have a huge impact on a child’s future interactions with others, both on and off the playing field.
“From saying thank you when they leave the game to helping carry the gear to high-fiving each other and supporting each other after practice, those are all big, key components of what we’re doing,” explained Beach.
He continued: “We try to coach our young kids on when a new adult comes into their life, to walk up to them and say hello and introduce themselves, to know and have their voice. It’s not about being shy; it’s about realizing that you have a say so in this.”
Ultimate Impact’s influence on youth in the Bay Area hits home with the efforts and values of the Ultimate Foundation, a nonprofit that works to spread the joy of ultimate and ethos of Spirit of the Game to inspire and empower youth from underserved and underrepresented communities. Programs like the Girls’ Ultimate Movement (GUM) and Learn to Play host clinics and leagues in local communities that serve a purpose larger than simply teaching the fundamentals of the sport. They teach personal responsibility, respect for others, conflict resolution, leadership, communication and self-confidence to all kids who attend. Recently, GUM launched the Girls’ Team Startup Project which helps develop new girls’ ultimate teams and bring an empowering, welcoming environment to girls from underserved communities.
The Ultimate Foundation recently awarded Ultimate Impact a $10,000 grant to help them continue their work in creating a positive environment for the youth in their community through the sport of ultimate, with the hope of learning from Ultimate Impact’s successes.
Thanks to donor support, organizations like Ultimate Impact and the Ultimate Foundation are able to make a difference in the lives of underserved youth around the country. Your support of these organizations allows children to be part of communities they otherwise may not have known existed, communities that welcome and support them while providing them the opportunity to develop positive life skills they may not gain elsewhere.
“The [ultimate] community has been very good to me, and it’s been very good to many of us,” said Beach. “Continuing to invest in the community even when you’re done, whether it be with resources or time, I think is really important.”