As we walked into the auditorium and helped our campers get situated, a fellow coach turned to me and said, “What are the odds we cry?” Without skipping a beat, I turned back to him. “100%. No doubt.”
Sure enough, just a few minutes later, my eyes began to fill as I watched this year’s 14 LIT graduates take the stage and tell us about their experiences. They were charismatic, compelling, funny, confident, and articulate in their ceremony – among so many other exceptional qualities. Hearing them speak, one would never know they are teenagers as young as 15. It is clear that this group has become remarkably close throughout the past three years in the program. They interact with one another like family; they joke and tease, they reminisce, they put their arms around one another and make it impossible not to see the love that binds them together. Many factors play into this closeness; first and foremost, they are each, individually, brilliant young adults who believe in communication over ignorance, in togetherness over separation, and in love over hate. They each have their individual skill sets and strengths; some lead quietly and behind the scenes while others are more outgoing. Some lead more heavily in Ultimate and others through conversation, media, or in their larger communities. What they all share, however, is the same desire: the desire to be agents of change, models for understanding, and purveyors of peace. Each one brings something unique to the table, and together they create a gourmet meal.
It’s an honor to have watched these amazing young adults grow from (relatively) shy kids to confident young adults. It’s no wonder we coaches tear up the moment they take the stage: they have made us prouder than we could have ever expected. Most of these 14 graduates have been at camp for years now, beginning as campers new to Ultimate, new to Spirit of the Game, and new to each other. We saw them when they were just finding their footing in a place like UP, and now they help lead it. What an incredible transformation it is to witness.
And what’s more – that transformation is far from over. It is only a part of a cycle so much larger than those 14 seats up on the stage. Watching over this graduation were past graduates: members of the first, second, and third classes of LITs. This is a program built from the ground up, and as it has grown it has formed a cycle: past graduates helped present graduates on their journey to the stage. These graduates will lead future members of the program, and so on, and so on. The smiles, from all of them, were radiant. They take pride, as they should, in what they have accomplished and what we all know they will continue to accomplish. We have proof that they will continue to succeed, because they have a history of it. As more and more LITs leave that graduation stage, certificates in hand, the leadership from within the program becomes stronger. And because they know it best, they will continue to improve upon it. They have taken the tools from people both outside and inside and built something beautiful. It’s an honor to be a part of the process, and there’s no way around the proud tears that come with it.