Team USA: Sarah Edwards feels proud to be wearing the national jersey as she she prepares for the 2012 World Junior Ultimate Frisbee Championships held in Dublin, Ireland from August 12 through 18. CLICK ON IMAGE TO SEE ANOTHER PHOTO.
The Ultimate honor: Ballardite selected to the Junior National Ultimate team
It may not be the Olympics, but Sarah Edwards feels proud to be wearing the Team USA jersey as she prepares to take on Ultimate Frisbee teams from around the world come August.
After two sets of tryouts, Edwards, a Ballard High School Ultimate alum, was one of 18 girls nation-wide to be selected for the US National Junior Ultimate team. This team will represent the United States in the 2012 World Junior Ultimate Frisbee Championships held in Dublin, Ireland from August 12 through 18.
"I feel a sense of pride but also a lot of responsibility to be representing the US in an international tournament," Edwards said. "I have not played in an international tournament before and there will be lots of media coverage and more spectators than I am used to playing in front of."
Played by two seven-player teams with a high-tech plastic disc, Ultimate is a high-pace game that combines the non-stop movement and athletic endurance of soccer with the aerial passing skills of football. The object of the game is to score by catching a pass in the opponent’s end zone. A player cannot run while in possession of the disc, but may pivot and pass to any of the other receivers on the field. A spectator-friendly sport, it is not uncommon to witness some spectacular acrobatic dives and jumping catches as one team tries to outscore the other for the win.
The WFDF World Junior Ultimate Championships is a biennial event that brings together the best Ultimate players ages 20 and under from around the world. First held in Gothenberg, Sweden in 1983 with just three boys teams and 60 participants, the competition has experienced yearly growth and now includes girls and youth divisions and brings out thousands of players, coaches, and staff.
"It will be so great to meet people from other countries that play frisbee," said Edwards.
A student at the University of Washington, Edwards is coming off a great season with her UW club team, winning the USA Ultimate college championships in Colorado this spring.
"Winning college nationals as a freshman is definitely a highlight for me," Edwards said, smiling brightly. "We were really a team. We had no big playmaker. Everyone on our rooster is a great player."
With the UW club team Edwards trains four times a week doing drills and scrimmages as well as track practice and weight lifting.
"I love the athleticism of Ultimate," Edwards said. "But most of all I love the Spirit of the Game."
Ultimate is governed by Spirit of the Game, a tradition of sportsmanship that places the responsibility for fair play on the players rather than referees.
"Because it's self-refereed, the game resolves around integrity and respect for the other players," Edwards said.
Edwards started playing Ultimate at random in sixth grade.
"They needed some more girls for a co-ed team so I played," she recalled. "I continued to play in middle school and throughout high school."
Playing for Ballard High School, Edwards met coach Ben Goldfarb who she calls one of her Ultimate Frisbee heroes for helping her get really into the sport.
"I'm sure it was not a surprise to anyone familar with the Seattle Youth Ultimate scene that Sarah made the US National team," Goldfrab said. "My only regret is that I won't be in Ireland to see her and all the fabulous young players from Seattle compete in the World Championships. Hopefully the games will be broadcast on the internet (and I'm hoping for a souvenir)."
Goldfarb said that while playing for Ballard High School, Edwards became "a fantastic role model, not only as a competitor but as someone who embodies Ultimate's Spirit of the Game - which is all about respect for the game and for your opponents and teammates."
"Sarah was one of the busiest players I've ever had, but despite her academic work, community service and musical interests she has always found time to help coach and mentor the younger players in our program," Goldfarb said. "It's my hope that she'll come back to the high school level as a coach when her college career is over."
And that is exactly what Edwards hopes to do.
While one cannot (yet) make a living playing Ultimate, Edwards said she is interested in perhaps pursuing a coaching career or working with a program like All Girl Everything
Ultimate Program (AGE UP), a Seattle-wide leadership program that brings together middle school and high school girls with world-class female athletes and teaches them community building, peer leadership, and social justice through Ultimate Frisbee.
She also hopes to step into the footsteps of her other Ultimate hero, Miranda Roth, by playing for the Seattle Riot, an elite women's ultimate frisbee team that competes both nationally and internationally.
But first she has her international debut to worry about although Edwards said she's mostly excited instead of nervous.
Edwards said the team is filled with great player yet they only get only one week-long camp in Boston to learn to play together before heading out to the tournament in August.
"It's great to play with players from across the country. Everyone is really good," she said.
Her personal goals for the tournament are to play well, be extra spirited, and have most of all, have fun.
Photo gallery for this story