About Abe

Showing up for the largest ever UP hat tournament.

It’s strange to think that I’ve been doing anything for longer than just 3 or 4 years. Nothing ever seems to last more than 4 years, whether it be school, or work. Life just seems to come and go in that kind of time frame, and thought I can’t say I’m old, these chunks of time keep adding up without me trying. It was 7 years ago when I first heard of Ultimate Peace, and about 6 and a half years since I organised my first tournament for them. Still living in DC, the huge ultimate community was eager to come to a round-robin tournament to support a non-profit kid’s based ultimate group. They came, they played, a team won, I don’t even remember which one, but what was important, was they came. Showing up isn’t just half the battle, it’s the reason we exist.

Showing up is what I always try to do. As I’m starting my 4th year as a Year Round Mentor Coach for Ultimate Peace, the inevitable, “is this the end?” question is popping up. I first started coaching the same time I started working full time, on a schedule that didn’t include public transportation on the weekends, made it hard to always show up, but I tried, every Friday. There were even times when I got half way there, only to find out there wasn’t room in the car to practice, so I went back home, but I really always tried. Having a time and a place to be helps me find order and meaning in my life. I thrive on patterns and consistency, but that’s just me. It might just be my 4th year hump, but this year has been challenging for me to get to all the practices I’d like to. My constantly shifting schedule, not being able to consistently give a whole day, or even an afternoon, to something that means so much to me, had not only been frustrating, but I feel something is missing in my life.

Last Saturday, the first Hat Tournament of the year, held so many landmarks for everyone involved. Thanks to the newly organized L.I.T. program, Rageb and Matan (“Basha”), created the foundation for the day to come. It reminded me that things being well organised and planned out, really do make a difference for the better. That though change can be good, consistency is easier, (but that’s just the logisticalator in me talking), and because everyone showed up to play ultimate, it was AWESOME!

180 plus players. The largest ever UP hat tournament. I couldn’t even understand what that meant. I had my team of 11, the Maroon Dragons, and I unfortunately didn’t really stop to look around and see what 180 players looked like. I did hear it though. I saw it on the faces of the players as they ran hard knowing they had subs to take their place at the end of the point. I felt it in the excitement as they waited to hear which team ended up winning since they didn’t get to play everyone. But most of all, I feel it in my bones today when I see the Facebook messages and notes from the kids I haven’t seen since the summer, or even last year, thanking me, and UP for what a great time they had.

Getting back to my point though, it happened because they showed up. They showed up to play, to see their friends, to get out of their house, and be in the amazingly warm sun for the middle of December. When we all show up like this, we get to learn more, not just ultimate, but about each other as well.

In our team huddle at the end of the first game, I asked the players what they wanted to do better in the next game. (What happened next was more likely out of habit than a full understanding of my questions, but it was still fascinating none the less.) The first thing said was defense, I asked what that meant, and they said staying close to your person (YES! point for the ultimate team). The second thing said was integrity. Again, I asked what he meant, and they said being honest (YES AGAIN! point for the UP team).

We talked a little more about integrity on the field. I asked why they came, they said to play, and have fun. and of course, *SPIRIT* ! Against the other team in the first game, I didn’t have any real complaints about their spirit, but amongst themselves, they got frustrated and angry when the disc got dropped. I asked them how they felt when they got yelled at. No one liked it. I commented, you didn’t show up to get yelled at right? Of course not. So lets hold our own team to a higher level of integrity and say “it’s ok, you’ll get it next time.” And even for ourselves, by making sure it’s a good throw and at the right time.

The next game was like watching gear starting to turn for the first time after getting a good greasing. These players showed up! The level of play went beyond what I could have even hoped for. Once the team started working more as a whole, I could give individual players goals and tips for their play. One goal was to make sure a player threw to every player on the field before the end of the point. Another was to just run deep, while another’s was to just run. You can tell any athlete until you’re blue in the face how to play, but if they don’t show up, you’ll just be blue in the face.

How can you help? Show up to your local Ultimate community, share what you know about Ultimate Peace. Show up here, coach at camp, or better, volunteer for the year round program. Show up to your everyday life, and live the 5 values. Show up to yourself, be honest, and be true about who you are. Just show up, and you’ll get to experience it.

Lifting Up Optimism

More than 170 players from a dozen Arab and Jewish communities joined the Ultimate Peace Hat Tournament this Saturday, making it the largest such event in UP’s history!!!

It comes after waiting, planning, hoping, and much anticipation…

For the last several months, UP-Middle East staff and volunteers have been running weekly practices in more than 10 communities. Leaders-in-Training(LITs) met each other every few weeks to learn more about leadership, the sport we love, and each other. Throughout these smaller events, players and LITs continue to give us hope and optimism for change in this troubled region.

This Fall’s UP Hat Tournament, the major interaction event to start the program year, had to be postponed due to recent concerns about the worsened regional conflict. We have been looking forward to when players can meet each other en masse after months of waiting. And with Players’ and LITs’ excitement we were finally able to put the event on the calendar and pull it all together…

As this special event approached, news of overwhelming excitement started to come in… Teams informed us that they would be bringing double the number of players they brought to similar events last year; LITs were taking charge and able to organize sign-up information better than any past Hat Tournament.

All the growing excitement and optimism was well-founded: the day’s playing, coaching, and relating to each other was all immensely uplifting for participants!!!

From mid-morning to late afternoon, teams (mixed by gender and culture) played lots of games, split up by a lunch break – during which Mentor Coaches and Third-Year LITs had their chance to model the five values in their own game. Here are just a few of the measures of success from Saturday’s event:

  • 172 players from roughly a dozen Arab and Jewish communities, a UP record
  • 20 Mentor Coaches co-leading 16 mixed gender and culture teams, another UP Hat record
  • 12 Third-Year LITs co-leading teams AND running the day as tournament directors
  • More parents of players than ever before attending the awards ceremony as the day ended

UP-Middle East wants to thank our many supporting families and communities in the Middle East. At the same time, we are continuing our Generosity Fundraising Campaign and need your support to continue this crucial ongoing programming where players, families, and communities build bridges year-round.


Leadership, Fun, and Interaction

Most interaction between LITs and Coaches happens at one of these specific events: community practices, quarterly tournaments, and camp. We had a rare treat this past weekend when UP hosted a joint coaches meeting and LIT weekend with almost a dozen coaches and more than 40 LITs gathered in one place at the same time!

The coaches joined all three LIT years to develop a practice plan and run a drill on the field. Simple as it sounds, the effort required skilled facilitation from the coaches, practice management skills from the third years, understanding of a drill’s many components from second years, and active listening plus demonstration of first years.

Two third-year LITs then led everyone through a Hat Tournament! Spirits were high despite the cold temperatures. (These same LITs will also lead the UP-wide Hat Tournament at the end of this month!)

After a predictable dinner all together (pizza), long-time UP coach and local tour guide Jeremy led an indoor activity, again mixing LIT years with each other and mentor coaches. Our “Dream Machine” game engaged groups in high energy team-building exercises and discussion of the five values of Ultimate Peace. Participants built connections between the five values that we talk about in the context of Ultimate Peace and their lives outside of this unique environment.

As we are about a third of the way through our year, this event was an important milestone. LIT Program Director Rachel Winner says about the meeting, “It was really powerful, and I think we are getting better and stronger every meeting and every month.”

Welcome New LITs!

This past Friday and Saturday, Ultimate Peace gathered more than 50 diverse young people to spend time together and learn a lot about leadership. Arriving from more than 10 different Arab and Jewish communities by bus, car, and train, these spectacular teenagers began their year together.

The weekend started with a welcoming ceremony from Program Leader Rachel Winner about transitioning from what was the “Coaches-in-Training” Program to the “Leaders-in-Training” (LIT) Program.The change in name from CIT to LIT reflects the program design to learn both leadership for the sport of ultimate and in communities and beyond. LIT Program managers include four recent CIT graduates!

This LIT meeting was originally planned for earlier in October. Because of the escalating tensions around us, staff decided to change the date and the location. We instead hosted at a new facility called Givat Haviva, one of the oldest intentional communities in the region designed for coexistence and capacity building. Tensions have diffused somewhat, although not completely, and the enthusiasm and focus of our nearly 60 youth brought game-changing energy and hope to what had been a challenging start to the year.

Each of the three LIT groups spent time discussing group visions, goals, and activities for the year ahead. They introduced how to teach ultimate to beginners, coach drills, and draft a practice plan. Each group played ultimate and other games, ran team-building activities and individual skills like the active listening workshops David Barkan ran for camp coaches this past summer. For the first time, the second year cohort started discussing together what peace looks like – it was an inspiring and respectful conversation.

Overall, the meeting’s emphasis was on building new relationships and reuniting with old friends. The LIT Program’s theme for the year is “Focus on the Future” and LITs will be encouraged to realize their individual visions while supporting each others’, too. This wonderful group of young leaders gives us hope by persevering through challenging times to continue developing themselves and their peers as leaders in working towards a brighter vision than our current reality.

Please join us in congratulating all the LITs on their successful meeting, especially the First-Years for whom this weekend was their first foray in Youth Leadership with Ultimate Peace. Good luck to UP’s first-ever “Leaders-in-Training” throughout the year and three-year program!