USA Ultimate recently announced the winner of the 2018 Women's Callahan Award: Jackelyne “Kobe” Nguyen. A member of UC-Berkeley's Pie Queens, Kobe quickly went from being a completely inexperienced rookie to being one of the leaders in the sport of ultimate. Thanks for answering our questions, Kobe!
Savage: How did you get into playing Ultimate?
Kobe: Ultimate was an unexpected treasure that made its way into my life. Before ultimate, I played basketball competitively throughout high school, even reaching the state championship finals one year. After getting into Cal I immediately looked into joining the club basketball team, but it didn't exist. I knew I still wanted to play a team sport so I looked into rugby and ultimate: the 2 sports known as things to try in college. Logistically, Pie Queens had their first practice before rugby's, and after that practice I had never felt more supported by any group of women who barely knew me. They took the time to teach me how to throw, catch, and constantly high five after I did anything, good or bad. Their warm spirit and community is what kept me in this program and what has led me to love each and every aspect of this sport.
Savage: What do you love about the sport?
Kobe: Definitely the community. I've made all of my close friends through ultimate regardless of the division I'm playing in. The great spirit that holds as the foundation of this sport is what drives my excitement and passion to be a part of the ultimate community. Not only is the spirit amazing, but also ultimate itself is a unique sport where success comes from an entire team rather than an individual. That feeling of crushing a defense with all seven people touching the disc to score is one of my favorite feelings. Plus, ultimate is thrilling because of its balance of calm and collected play and athletic and hype plays that can happen within a single point.
Savage: How do you train?
Kobe: Nothing too fancy here. I do track, lifting, and field workouts outlined from each team I've been a part of. Whenever we would have tourney week I'd make sure I can get some extra pulling or throwing reps before practice. Something that my roommate and I would do during track workouts is role play our last sprint as a universe point scenario. "Pie Queens with the D, she picks it up, hucks it to space. Will she make it to score and win the game?!" This last sprint typically ends with us pretending to sky each other and crashing on the nearby grass.
Savage: Any tips for young girls just starting out in the sport?
Kobe: As cliche as it sounds, don't give up. Whether you're starting in mixed or women's, as much frustration you may get whether it's not getting thrown to or not feeling like you can throw, keep trying! Never feel like asking a vet to throw is bothersome because they are just waiting for you to ask. And if you feel like some of your throws aren't game ready, make 100 percent cuts or play out of your mind defense, these pieces are just as important. Women in ultimate is a growing movement, so you have a whole community of women to back you up if you ever feel down.
Savage: What's your ultimate Ultimate memory?Kobe: So many memories to choose from! I would say a collection of events that happened my sophomore year on Pie Queens. After graduating, a ton of seniors the year prior that expected to make Nationals, our program figured that the next year would be a rebuilding year. Tournament after tournament we started winning big games and playing well, which ended up with us earning a bid for the Southwest. Our team was ecstatic and didn't know what to do as none of us had gone to Nationals ever before. Going to Nationals that year felt like a dream as the success of our team came from everyone on our roster. To top it off, Marisa won the Callahan and as a mentor, teammate, and best friend to me, I have never felt so happy for someone who I knew deserved it so much. That entire year set the Pie Queens program on great footing to continuously be a program that strives on building its players and providing an environment for people to love the sport as much as we love each other.