My name is Chris Dinh and I proudly serve as an AmeriCorps member at Aki Kurose Middle School with City Year Seattle/King County.
Recently, the Aki Kurose Ultimate Frisbee ‘A’ team finished its season undefeated, winning its fourth consecutive Fall Seattle Public Middle School League championship in the process.
Despite the success, coach Mike Kaiser considers his greatest success to be the number of students who come out to play and the close-knit community that has formed around them. With over 100 students and multiple teams that vary with skill, age, and desired competitiveness, there is truly a spot for every student.
As I sat down with coach Mike Kaiser and observed an impromptu practice, I began to realize that many of City Year’s core values – excellence, teamwork, inclusivity, and belief in the power of young people – are the same values that have made the frisbee team so successful in recent years.
Aki Ultimate Frisbee players look on and cheer for their team during a recent game.
Put simply, these players expect excellence and have the work ethic to reach it. Despite joining with little-to-no formal experience, they practice year-round, become highly skilled at frisbee, and often continue playing in high school. This excellence mindset, which has brought the school multiple championships in recent years, also translates to the academic classroom. As Coach Kaiser notes, these students know how to work really hard and it shows: the ‘A’ team has a 3.8 average GPA.
Frisbee is played with seven players on each side. In the co-ed middle school league that means three of one gender and four of the other. Once a player catches the Frisbee, they cannot run with it, and must pass to each other. Therefore, teamwork is absolutely essential in order to be successful. According to Coach Kaiser, the group’s cohesiveness and unity as one team is what has put them ahead of the competition.
Additionally, experienced eighth graders and former players (now in high school) return to help coach the team. The coaching offered by these experienced players has been instrumental in both developing leadership skills and creating success at all levels of the team.
With Coach Mike Kaiser, Aki Ultimate Frisbee players prepare for their game.
Despite the large number of students on the team, players and coaches ensure that every player feels a sense of belonging. Both on and off the field, the team works together, cares for each other, and treats each other like a family. For many players, their closest friendships have developed through the sport and players see each other like a second family within the greater Aki community.
Belief in the power of young people
Years ago, Aki Kurose had a negative name within the Seattle community. However, the Frisbee team has done their part to change that reputation. At Frisbee games and out in the community, Aki players are constantly the first ones to offer help, clean up, and lead by example. In doing so, they have changed many perceptions of who Aki students are and how they really behave. After their positive interactions with the team, community members have often approached coaches and staff to mention how kind, helpful, and amazing these players truly are.
The Aki Ultimate Frisbee team dresses up for their game on Halloween weekend, as the Lego Team! Aki players played a couple points in these lego heads with a high level of spirit and laughter.
There is no question that the Frisbee team at Aki Kurose has been extremely successful in the past few years. The secret to their success lies not with their skill on the field, but rather with the values that they embody each and every day. We are glad to see that the values City Year holds as an organization already play a lasting role in our schools and future generations to come.