York House has its Tigers. St. George’s its Saints. When the all-girls and all-boys private schools hit the turf together to play ultimate, they’re Tight.
“The kids like the slang,” said head coach Jon Hayduk. “And it’s how we play.”
Tight means running smart patterns, quick throws and relentless defense. They will be tested this weekend in Montreal at the second annual Canadian high school ultimate championships. They are the only team to represent B.C.
One of the sport’s most-involved builders in B.C., Hayduk also plays for renowned Vancouver team and the winningest in Canadian history, Furious George. He helps run the provincial championship as well as the national tournament staged this weekend.
Hayduk—who the kids call by his last name so it sounds almost like, “Hey dude!”—is one reason ultimate is attracting hundreds of Vancouver teens to high school programs.
Like winning teams at Point Grey, Prince of Wales, Kitsilano and elsewhere in the city’s past and present, Hayduk and other community coaches seeped in ultimate culture bring expertise to developing athletes. Vancouver’s public and private schools play in separate leagues but meet in tournaments. Club teams also build skill and help foster loyalty, sportsmanship and healthy rivalries. Teammates at school may be opponents on club teams. The camaraderie is a defining feature of the game.
“It’s really social,” said York’s Natalie Wallace.
“Ultimate is really team-focused,” added Laura Baker. “If you have just one good player on a team, you’re never going to win.”
Tight has won three of the past four B.C. championships, losing last year to Point Grey. At the world’s largest youth tournament in Washington State a year ago, Tight came out on top. They’re gunning for a top-three finish in Montreal.
Tight got its start in 1993 when St. George’s teacher Stephen Ziff introduced the emerging sport to the school. The roster includes provincial team members and athletes who will travel to Ireland this fall for the Ultimate World Championships.
The sport is played without referees, testing a young athlete’s sense of fair play.
“Players need to understand the rules and play within them,” said Hayduk. “You have to manage yourself. It provides a lot of good character building. They’re forced to balance their competitive desire to win versus playing within the rules and doing what’s right.”
The classroom of ultimate is casual but formative. “I don’t think the kids realize they’re leaning a life lesson, it just happens,” he said.
Tight is a hybrid senior team drawn from two rosters. They lost four national team players last year when students graduated. Three girls, Christina Douglas, Helen Thompson and Mira Donaldson, all in Grade 12, play for the national junior team.
“They’re all incredibly athletic,” said Hayduk. “Mira stands out. She seems to learn things innately. I’ll give her a little piece of advice and a week later she’s taking that four steps further. I really try to give her free reign and lead the team. Her leadership and her compete factor are pretty unparalleled.”
From St. George’s, Matt Cruikshank has stepped up, Hayduk said. “He’s one of the players who is brand new to the sport. He’s one of the leaders who leads by example and people want to do better because they see how hard he’s working.”
Braydn Smith brings his own unique attributes. “He’s incredibly athletic. I’m fairly sure he has hollow bones because when he jumps, he just seems to float,” said Hayduk.
Vince Wang is new to ultimate but has filled the void of departed players, said the coach. “He’s always been a very strong technical player but the consistency he’s demonstrated this year has been amazing. We were sort of leaderless and I didn’t know who was going to step up.” Hayduk said Wang is one who did.
Playing since Grade 9, Wang said the self-officiating nature of ultimate is one of its virtues. So is its physicality. “I like the intensity,” he said.