Jedediah Heal is not only an enthusiastic fan of the sport of Ultimate – he is spearheading a movement to see the sport played at his high school after he’s gone.
“I really want this team to become more popular at the school,” said the Grade 12 student at Cochrane High. “I have this vision of everyone at the school walking around with their Ultimate T-shirts and discs and tossing around at lunch and coming to games.”
A couple of years ago, Heal discovered during a physics class that he shared a passion for the sport with his teacher Tara Cunningham who has been playing for about a decade.
Ultimate is a non-contact, self-refereed co-ed sport played with a flying disc and marker cones. The object is similar to football, with seven players on the field required to pass the disc down the line to the endzone to score.
The sport is played in more than 30 countries, at the world competitive level and on the campuses of many universities around the world … but it’s not played at Cochrane High School.
So Heal decided to follow in the footsteps of one of the creators of the sport, Joel Silver – who, before he went on to produce some of the most successful films of the century, like The Matrix trilogy, Predator, and Lethal Weapon, introduced ultimate to his own Columbia High School student council in Maplewood, New Jersey, in 1968.
“He’s been pivotal in organizing the high school team,” said Cunningham, who worked alongside Heal to set up the first Cochrane High team last season with about 14 players.
At the first practice, Heal knew he had some work to do.
“I was the only person who played,” he said.
But he persevered, teaching his classmates about zonal defense and the finesse of the disc.
This year, Heal again led the charge as captain, and now the Cochrane High squad has about 18 to 20 players consistently coming out to practice.
Heal even designed custom discs with the signature Cobras camo and logo, and approached principal Eddie Polhill with the idea of making enough for the players. Polhill did one better, fully supporting the student-led initiative and ordering a bigger batch of 55 discs to be sold through the school.
“It’s really awesome – just to be able to start up a team and get all the support from the school,” said Heal.
Cunningham said Ultimate offers an environment a bit different than other high school sports, since people with diverse experience, abilities, and athleticism all participate on the same co-ed team.
“I love the culture of the sport, really and truly,” she said. “It’s very inclusive. Everybody can play together – it makes it really welcoming.”
Currently, there is no Ultimate league through Rocky View Sports Association, the school division’s umbrella organization for intramural sports activities.
The Cochrane Cobras instead play as part of the Calgary Ultimate Association’s junior division, which is small but gives players an opportunity to play.
Next month, members of the Cochrane High School team will play a game set at McMahon Stadium – a treat organized by a fellow enthusiast and one of Heal’s coaches in Calgary.
“This will be the first time on the turf,” said Cunningham. “It’s kind of impressive.”
Heal is thrilled to have the chance to play with his team at McMahon, and said he’d love to eventually see enough schools in the division with Ultimate squads to warrant inclusion under the RSVA banner.
While Silver went on to be inducted in to the Ultimate Hall of Fame for his work to build the sport into the juggernaut it is today, Heal said he’ll be satisfied if the Cochrane High School team continues to grow and flourish after he heads to University of Calgary in the fall for engineering.
“That would be awesome.”