As we reach the end of February, our final featured Black athlete this month is pro ultimate player James Pollard!
Tell us about how you initially got into ultimate. What drew you to the sport?
I was introduced to the sport my sophomore year of high school, in gym class. We only played it for like 2 weeks, but learned some of the rules as we went along. I don’t know what about the sport stuck out to me, but when I was looking at schools I remember looking to see if they had club ultimate teams. I wanted to play it to stay in shape for tennis.
So, when I got to school, I joined the team that fall at Philadelphia University in 2014. I was only able to make a 1-day tournament in the fall and the second day of sectionals that season. Since I was on a scholarship to play tennis, most of my tennis matches conflicted with ultimate tournaments.
What was your most satisfying win?
I think my most satisfying win would have to be from 2018 club regionals. I was playing with Philadelphia Citywide Special against Richmond Floodwall for a spot in Select Flight. Ever since the team was founded, Citywide had never qualified for Select Flight and the year before we lost in this same round and didn’t qualify. Conditions were less than ideal on this Sunday; it was windy, cold, and raining. The game was not going our way by halftime. Floodwall was in firm control of the game up 5-9…or so they thought. Our coaches started calling super tight lines. We went on a 9-2 run to win the game 14-11 and make select flight for the first time. I was on for 7 of those points, all d points, and threw the game winning hockey assist.
What's it like being a Black pro ultimate player? What do you love about it, and what do you wish was different?
I love it. I get to play the sport I love without having to pay money to do so. I get to share my love of the game and put on a show each game for the fans in the stands. I could be the reason that young kids that look like me want to learn how to play the sport. With that though, I wish there were more of us in the league. Kids gravitate towards places and sports that look like them. If they see more Black ultimate players, they would be more likely to join the sport.
You're a member of the AUDL Inclusion Initiative. What's that experience been like for you?
It’s been great. I love having a say in how the league wants to highlight the current POCs that are in the league. We are also working on ways to grow the sport within the POC communities.
Any tips for aspiring players?
If you have great throws and solid footwork fundamentals that can take you pretty far. Just be you! Do let others tell you how you have to be.
What are your plans for 2022?
For 2022, I am the current head coach for the men’s team at the University of Pennsylvania, Void Ultimate. I have re-signed to play my 4th year with the Philadelphia Phoenix and will be also running most of our youth camps and clinics. For club, my goal is to finally make and play with Philadelphia Amp. I’ve been trying out for them since 2015.
*NSFW* This song just gets me in the killer mindset.