While the majority of our GUM blogs feature voices and perspectives of girls and women in the ultimate community empowering and connecting each other through shared experiences, this month’s blog features a man from the ultimate community, George Li, who has dedicated over 20 years to uplifting girls and youth ultimate in the Atlanta area.
We at the Atlanta Flying Disc Club (AFDC) want to take this opportunity to express how incredibly grateful we are to George for the 20+ years of dedicated leadership and hands-on effort he has given to Atlanta Youth Ultimate. As a constant in the AFDC juniors’ community, George has acted as Juniors Director, volunteer extraordinaire, coach, mentor and friend. Much of ultimate’s growth among the youth in Atlanta can be attributed to the hard work of George. From elementary and middle school programs to AFDC juniors’ YCC groups, George has been involved in expanding the reach of the Atlanta ultimate community among the youth for all levels of play.
At the middle school level, George has been an advocate for establishing successful girls’ teams. During his time volunteering with AFDC juniors, he helped expand the league, with the most recent win resulting in an official end of season (EOS) tournament for five out of seven girls’ teams. At Inman Middle School, George engineered the program to give girls the opportunity both to play as competitively as possible and to play in an all-girls’ setting whenever possible, a rarity among ultimate communities. He always focused on teaching new and returning players the fundamentals of ultimate as a competitive sport, emphasizing fair play and Spirit of the Game as the most important values.
George was a constant and approachable presence at both Inman Middle School and Grady High School. Interest at the middle school level influenced the pipeline for Grady High School, which had a savage girls’ JV squad four years ago and this year has 25 players apiece on both the JV and varsity teams. Some of the most talented players are those whom George has coached since they were in sixth grade. “George has been so thoughtful about how to create an inclusive setting, and I really love that he has been the entry point at which many of my players came to ultimate,” said Evelina Pierce, the girls’ ultimate coach at Grady.
Players like Izzy Pitman [AFDC Juniors outreach volunteer coach, Paideia High School Class of 2018, cATlanta, Ultimate Peace Coach In Training (CIT)], who grew up with George’s mentorship and friendship, were impacted by him on many levels as he helped build the structure that is reflected in our community today. “I’ve known George since seventh grade, and every time I see him, regardless of whether I’m on the field or not, he always comes up to me and gives me a high-five. I’ll always be grateful for his compassion and awareness for those around him. He is a friendly face on any sideline!” said Izzy Pitman.
Like many in our community, George believed that cost should not be a barrier to getting into the sport, as it is one of the most accessible games to play. He prioritized outreach to girls’ programs and to underserved communities. George was tireless in his promotion of AFDC Grants so kids could play ultimate at any level regardless of their ability to pay.
“During George’s years in service, AFDC Juniors was recognized several times by USA Ultimate for its growth and volunteer impact. George supports coaches, has the “cred” as a former player and has the outlook of a parent, a professional and a volunteer – valuing safety, program sustainability and fun. He would be the first to credit the dedication of coaches and volunteers for AFDC Juniors’ success, yet George’s generosity over these years has been immeasurable” said Helen Laseter, a Paideia parent, volunteer and former AFDC Juniors board member.
If you’ve been a volunteer at any of the middle school, high school, YCC or general AFDC juniors’ events, you were most likely recruited by George. Miranda Knowles said, “When I first moved to Atlanta, George invited me to help steer the direction of youth ultimate in Atlanta from my Seattle-developed perspective. He has always had a good sense for what is best and what would work in our community.”
Most recently, George has been coaching and recruiting for the rATLers, Atlanta’s first-ever U-17 girls’ team to compete at the YCC tournament in Blaine, Minn. The rATLers finished second in the Team Spirit Award rankings and fifth in the overall tournament after initially being seeded last. “George does a great job balancing the desire to win with Spirit of the Game. All of the girls had an amazing experience and look forward to going back to Blaine this year,” commented volunteer and parent John Blackmon. George will not disappear from the youth ultimate scene, as he is continuing to coach the rATLers in the 2019 season. The team has started playing together already this year, competing at the University of Tennessee in February and holding tryouts earlier this month.
George, the AFDC juniors’ community has been privileged to have you among us and will be forever grateful for the impact you’ve had upon us. We all look forward to seeing your smiling face on the sidelines from time to time and thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your time, commitment and tenacity in building this community.