Ultimate Spirit, a branch of BC Ultimate, is a movement that works to introduce Ultimate to Indigenous communities in British Columbia (BC). Inspired by the work of Ultimate Peace, and recognizing the opportunity for something similar in BC, Jimmy Roney and Mike Grant initiated the movement in September 2017, and it remains a collective effort of multiple organizations and people.
Ultimate Spirit began in Stz’uminus, BC, an Indigenous community on Vancouver Island and will soon be throughout the province in five different communities, three of which are on Vancouver Island. The program is composed of 20 sessions and targets youth ages 12-18 years old. The movement’s mission statement is to “unify connection, healing, and wellness in community through the culture, spirit, and sport of ultimate.” Through the movement, they are creating space to listen, learn, and share with the Indigenous community. “We share our sport and its culture, they share their cultures, identities, philosophies, and their spirit,” explains Roney. “We are two communities mutually benefiting from an experience with each other.”
Connection through sport can be a powerful thing, and the commonalities between the Indigenous culture and Ultimate’s notion of Spirit of the Game are incredible. “It’s almost as if Spirit of the Game and Ultimate [were] created with some of the Indigenous culture in mind”, says Roney. Within the Aboriginal Coaching Training, the Holistic Approach to Training module focuses on physical, mental, emotional, intellectual, cultural, and spiritual aspects. Many of these aspects are found within the Spirit of the Game philosophy: social-emotional learning, perspective taking, friendship building.
One significant commonality between the two cultures when looking at the individual level is that both involve listening to the perspective of others. There is so much that Ultimate players, leaders, and mentors can learn from the Indigenous community. The learning that takes place is symbiotic and ongoing, with the Ultimate community learning from the Indigenous community, and the Indigenous community learning from the Ultimate community.
The practice of spirit circles takes place in both cultures. Taking part in a spirit circle is an opportunity to come together, look at each other, and understand that despite differences, each person is connected through culture. Ultimate Spirit uses spirit circles to begin and end each session. A check-in circle is formed at the beginning to give each participant the opportunity to use their voice and talk about how they are doing, and it provides mentors the opportunity to listen.
In March 2019, players from the University of Victoria and the Victoria Ultimate community went to Stz’uminus to play an exhibition game and to run an introductory clinic. Nathan Kolakovic captured the day perfectly in this video.
Below is a testimonial from a community event in Stz’uminus.
“Today I had the honour and privilege to see an idea, derived from passion and executed by perseverance come to fruition. The honour: a lot of phone calls, coffee sessions and floating ideas to facilitate some serious good brainstorming to fill the gaps. The privilege: spending the day witnessing something profound!! A Band school (Stz’uminus), a public high school (Chemainus), and an exclusive private school (St. Andrews) come together in the spirit of the game and make connections to land, to the sport and best of all… to each other. Elders, Coaches, Teachers, Athletes – leaving it all on the field! Discs flew, friendships forged and even some costumes worn!! We shared food! We shared space – and I will remember this day forever! The ending spirit circle was warm and we presented everyone with a disc of their own – which holds the awesome art that has the beautiful power to bring our kids together. Thank you to EVERYONE who made this possible!! Full bucket, cup runneth, however you describe it – I am full of love for this team of people who genuinely care about the future of kids” – Lise Gillies
Since the launch of Ultimate Spirit, the demand for programming has grown and is stemming from the youth. This demand is a reminder to the adults of the power of play. Looking ahead at the future of the program, the most important thing for the mentors of Ultimate Spirit is to build in long-term sustainability within the Indigenous community. The mentors are currently developing resources to help with sustainability, including a mentorship guide, and lesson plans. This work would not be possible without the ongoing support of BC Ultimate, the Indigenous Sport, Physical Activity & Recreation Council (ISPARC), and Ultimate Canada’s Art Hawkins Fund.