Photo by Paul Andris – Ultiphotos.com
In case you missed the news, USA Ultimate (USAU) announced last week that it is partnering with Boy Scouts of America (BSA) to bring ultimate to young scouts as part of the SCOUTStrong® Healthy Living Initiative. BSA will feature ultimate as one of the sports available to scouts in its program, and USAU will provide its Learn to Play kits (which include discs, cones and a rulebook) to BSA Leaders who want to teach ultimate to scouts. As a member of the ultimate community and a former Boy Scout, I’d like to share with you why this is such great news.
According to the official Boy Scouts website, the BSA aims to provide “a program for young people that builds character, trains them in the responsibilities of participating citizenship, and develops personal fitness”. Scouting starts as young as six or seven years old with the Cub Scouts, and continues for some people the rest of their lives as they earn the rank of Eagle Scout and eventually transition to leaders within the organization. Throughout their scouting careers, the boys learn a variety of skills including knot tying, fire building, cooking and leadership techniques. Scouts earn merit badges, with a minimum of 21 required to earn Eagle Scout. Each badge “gives Scouts the opportunity to participate in activities and study subjects that prepare them for life” (Merit Badges). Some boys work their way up to the prestigious rank of Eagle Scout, which only 2% of all Boy Scouts earn. Notable recipients of the award include President Gerald Ford, Neil Armstrong and Steven Spielberg.
I would argue that a large part of who I am stems from my experience as a Boy Scout. Some of my best friends grew up with me in scouts. For my best friend’s bachelor party we all went hiking together. My only tattoo, which my mom hates, is a play on a patch from my old uniform. I earned the rank of Eagle Scout while receiving several merit badges along the way, including the Athletics badge and the Sports badge. And, perhaps most importantly, I was introduced to ultimate in boy scouts.
Some of my best memories from my years in BSA are simply playing games with my buddies. Sometimes it was football, sometimes it was capture the flag, and sometimes it was ultimate. We never had anything organized the way USAU has it planned now, but those days playing ultimate introduced me to a sport I didn’t get a chance to play anywhere else. From there, it was a simple step to start playing officially in college, and then with the Philadelphia Area Disc Alliance (PADA), where I’ve met friends I know I’ll have the rest of my life. Now here I am working for a professional ultimate league. You don’t always know where life will take you, but a 16 year old version of myself probably would have scoffed at the idea I would be so involved with a sport I only played casually in Boy Scouts.
It’s a proven fact that youth ultimate participation has grown significantly in recent years. While the NFL and NCAA deal with concussion issues, more parents are deciding the risks are too great for their kids to play football. I, along with other people across the sport, believe ultimate is in a prime position to dominate youth sports, and eventually, gain a larger following in spectator sports in America as a whole. USAU has done a nice job prioritizing a focus on growing youth ultimate. The MLU has also taken part in youth outreach programs, partnering in clinics across the country. From my personal experience growing up playing ultimate, as well as watching some of the clinics players have run before MLU games, I know that young kids from all walks of life will eat up the sport. It is easily accessible, easy to learn, a safer alternative than football and most importantly fun!
This latest venture with BSA is a great step forward for ultimate across America. It’s great to see that USAU has already received over 250 requests for kits since the announcement. I hope ultimate organizations everywhere, not just USAU and the MLU, continue to connect with youth organizations like BSA and encourage youth ultimate. I am excited to reach out to my old Boy Scout troop and see if I can volunteer as a coach for them. Maybe then I can give back to the organization that gave me so much, and instill the same sort of passion in ultimate that I found when I was growing up.