Ultimate Frisbee Unites South End Rivals

Two heartwarming stories about rivals, Aki Kurose and Mercer Middle Schools, and a meeting of the minds (and bodies) over Ultimate Frisbee.  I heard the the KUOW story myself and had to smile and a reader (thanks!) sent me the PI story.   From the PI:

Four years ago, the kids from Aki Kurose and Asa Mercer middle schools – both in Seattle's South End – were bitter rivals. Mercer students would bus to Aki on half days to jump those who lingered after school. Aki students threw rocks at Mercer school buses. Gangs grew out of each middle school, and violence gripped the area.

So Terry and Rex Gaoaen of the Union Gospel Mission decided to take over the fledging ultimate program (at Mercer). Ultimate, they reasoned, was a peaceful sport.

But the North End kids didn't bother them as much as a nearer opponent: Aki Kurose. Tugade said that after losing to Aki in seventh grade, the players wondered, "Why be mad at them? They made good throws and good points. These guys aren't that bad."

By the end of the year, Aki and Mercer students were making each other banners.

By the next year, in 2008, Mercer won the spring league tournament and qualified to play an exposition game at the ultimate world championships in Vancouver, B.C.

When Phan breathlessly recounts that game, play by play, it sounds as though he is describing the plot of a Disney movie. By the time he delivers the punch line – they won the world championship! – his words are tumbling over each other.

Today, about 80 students play for Mercer, and the team has won Seattle's fall league five years in a row. Martin Piccoli, an eighth-grade language arts and literature teacher said that ultimate has created a "momentum of positive energy" within the school. His conversations with ultimate players are productive, he said, because they're willing to take responsibility for their behavior.

From the KUOW story:

Henry and Christian say the whole experience has made them better people. Everything, from playing on a co–ed team with girls to developing confidence, and having friends at high schools all over town.
Henry and Christian are seniors at Franklin High where they co–captain the boys' Ultimate team, and they're assistant coaches at their middle school alma mater, Mercer.

It's a great story and a great sport.  


Anonymous said…
Go Ultimate!

I was introduced to ultimate last year when my child played for the first time last spring. It's self-reffed (the kids have to figure out how to work it out), co-ed, and a game that *requires* passing (i.e. a game that can't be played by someone who dominates the ball -- because you can't pass the frisbee to yourself, and the only way to move the frisbee is to pass it). I was impressed by the lessons it could teach and hope it remains and grows in the PNW.

Frank said…
I'm one of the coaches at Franklin HS and have had the pleasure of working with Henry and Tugade and the rest of the kids! The girls team will be playing this Spring so please feel free to come out and support!
Melissa, thank you! Isolde Raftery was doing this story for the PI and she very generously invited me to report it along with her. I would not have known about these great kids and coaches otherwise. I was happy to participate in something that "doubled the fun" and brought Isolde's story to more people. You've helped get it out there even more, so thanks again!
Anonymous said…
Would love to see Seattle HS students marching for more ed funding. Squeaky wheels get greased, so start squeakin' kids! You truly have the power. If there's a student strike, the governor WILL listen. Seattle has a great history of activism ; I don't know if it's taught in the district, but the kids should learn how tax breaks to the likes of Boeing are cutting into their educational needs.

Wise up and stand up, ye Students
Anonymous said…
oops. wrong thread. Ultimate rules, however.

Josh Hayes said…
That was a wonderful story - the Pinehurst (AS1) team also won their division this year in the fall season, as well as winning the "spirit" award. Every week I watched the Mercer and Aki teams playing and marveled at the skill, teamwork, and spirited play I saw out there (for those not familiar with the sport, playing with "spirit" means to be respectful of your opponents, call fouls on yourself without hesitation, and cheer good play on both sides: in short, good sportsmanship). Whatever they're doing in those programs, they should keep doing.

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