By Coach George Cameli and Coach Chad Borer
This year was incredibly successful for Grady High School’s Ultimate Gauntlet’s JV Boys. It included two undefeated round robin tournaments, strong showings at two full 2-day tournaments, an overall record of 23-8-1, going undefeated in the State tournament, and winning a Division II State Championship!
The toughest adversity our JV team overcame was an absence of a returning player coupled with two new, first time JV coaches. Most programs have “cores” of returning players that provide a strong foundation for their teams, but we did not have that luxury. Our feeder program, Inman Middle School, provided us with players with a year or two of formal experience in middle school as well as 8th grade players. As a result, our team was very young compared to our competition: one 10th grader (new to the sport), nine 9th graders (2 new to the sport) and 12 eighth graders.
Aidan Downey, who already has experience playing with some of the best youth players around the country, incredibly has yet to be a high school freshmen! This year, he adapted well to the more formal style of play that can be expected as you work your way up through the levels of Ultimate and became a team leader in more ways than one. Jacob Dillard, co-MVP this season, was also an incredible stand-out. Following in the footsteps of his older brother, Grady 9th grader Jacob was a workhorse on the field in every sense. He used his incredible speed and endurance to out-run his opponents time and time again. At this level, teams are more comfortable with zone defenses, but once Jacob reaches higher levels where man-to-man defense is more common, his talents will really pay off.
After laying out and catching the Finals-winning goal and after the celebratory pile of players finally recovered, Jaden Medley-Fowlkes could sum up his emotions only by saying, “I’m just glad I caught it.” His statement reflects the humility and appreciation for the sport common of Ultimate players. Adam Miller, who spends his time playing high-level youth soccer, expressed his appreciation of the sport at the beginning of the season, “Ultimate is so much more fun than soccer, because you use your whole body”. The sport physically tests each player, and allows players of all sizes to specialize in different roles. “And Ultimate is by far the most inclusive sport you could ever participate in,” stated Coach Chad Borer.
As with most youth team sports, lessons learned while playing Ultimate are applicable off the field as well. One aspect unique to Ultimate is that games are self-officiated even at the highest levels of the sport. Players take responsibility for their actions and develop the ability to engage in mutually respectful dialogue even while disagreeing. They learn to appreciate other points of view, a skill that becomes useful in school and life. Spirit of the Game is a tradition of sportsmanship that is integral to Ultimate and sets it apart from other competitive team sports. Participation in the sport develops character, self-reliance, conflict resolution skills, and leadership qualities.
Bolstered by the Grady Ultimate Gauntlet’s Layout Club, a collection of parents, faculty, sponsors and more, Grady’s Ultimate teams have more support now than ever before. Grady Ultimate is growing at an amazing pace and it doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. Due to a huge interest in the Girls Varsity team, a Girls JV (Div II) squad is being planned for next year, making Grady only one of two schools in Georgia to have enough players for two Girls teams.
For additional information, posts about Grady Ultimate events, pictures, events, etc, please head on over to gradyultimate.org. Be sure to check out tournament recaps including pictures and a write-up of the best JV State Championship game we’ve ever seen!
Many thanks to all of the players, parents, supporters, the Layout Club, and everyone else who have made this season so enjoyable.