Eleven students at Kyrene de la Estrella Elementary in Ahwatukee Foothills threw around a Frisbee on the school’s practice field tucked under South Mountain earlier this week.
But these kids weren’t just playing catch during recess, they practice twice a week as Estrella’s intramural team for this quarter’s new sport: Ultimate.
With rules and a structure similar to football, Ultimate is essentially Ultimate Frisbee, played between two teams who try to get the Frisbee to their side of the field.
Though a rare sport for fourth- and fifth-graders, the team’s coach, Ruth McLennan, said the sport has a saying called, “The spirit of the game,” teaching kids about cooperating and making everyone feel like they are contributing.
“What’s really cool to see at this age is watching them learn to cooperate and encourage each other,” said McLennan, who is also a gifted teacher at Estrella and Kyrene Monte Vista. “(Those values) definitely extend onto the playground and to other sports.”
In its second quarter, the new Kyrene Intramural Program began this school year with kickball, now followed by Ultimate.
About 13 schools in Kyrene are participating in Ultimate this quarter, which includes about 140 players. All teams will compete in a district-wide tournament at Aprende Middle School on Dec. 8.
Athletic director and manager of intramurals Gavin Martin mentioned the goal of programs like these also instill “a love of physical fitness and activity in our students.”
During practice, the kids split up into two teams to practice throws and conduct a quick game. Each team lines up in a horizontal formation on each end of the field, facing each other, before the Frisbee is thrown and the plays begin.
The group of 9 and 10 year olds, though highly competitive, were quick to encourage each other between throws and catches.
“It’s all about fun,” said player Kat Chmielarski, who is one of two girls on the Estrella team.
When asked about what it’s like to be one of the only girls playing at her school, she responded confidently about her advantage.
“It basically just gives me the opportunity to show that being a girl is awesome, and girls can be just as good as the boys.”
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