GUM Blog

Revival: My Journey From the Sidelines to the Opening Pull

Before becoming an ultimate coach, I couldn’t tell you the difference between an open and a break, a zone from a cut, anything! I played a couple seasons of pick-up in college, but I barely knew how to throw. When I tore my ACL during summer tryouts for the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s team, Menace, that would be the last time I would see an ultimate Frisbee disc for years, living in France for two years before returning to Illinois just before 2015 to start a new job working at Neuqua Valley High School. It was there that my ultimate career would see its revival.

Frenzy (2017)

One afternoon I saw the high school team, eNVy, playing ultimate outside. I walked up to the team and introduced myself to Java, the head coach of the boys’ A team. We started chatting away and eventually the topic of discussion came around to ultimate. When I told him that I had played for a bit a couple years back and was interested in coaching the girls’ team, Java lit up at the opportunity of having a new coach. I’m all about learning new things which sometimes can be scary knowing I may fail before I succeed, but seeing his excitement and encouragement was a good omen for things to come.

eNVy Captains (2017)

Coming into the first day of practice, I knew I would have to adjust and figure things out along the way, but I had NO IDEA how much there was to know about the sport. One night all of the coaches convened to plan the curriculum for the year, where I learned more about the different aspects. When we got out on the field, I just remember being in awe of how absolutely talented these high schoolers were. It was nuts! Their team chemistry was unbreakable – all of them clicked on and off the field – and I loved how supportive the coaches were with them. They made sure to include the team captains in as many decisions as possible, which had a lasting effect on the leadership of the team. The environment was so comfortable and inspiring that I couldn’t stop raving to my bestie (my husband Joel) who could see the positive effect it was having on me.

Just as encouraging the coaches were with their players, they were extremely supportive and patient with me as a first-year ultimate coach. Working with Jamie Wolf, Sam Wolf and Andrew Baginski really helped make this sport come to life, and I knew after coaching the team’s first tournament that year that I wanted to continue coaching ultimate long-term. Before coaching with eNVy, I coached boys’ soccer at Neuqua alongside two amazing coaches, David Rosenburg and Joe Moreau. They were extremely supportive as colleagues, so it was great to have that aspect of coaching be sustained when switching from soccer to ultimate. The other ultimate coaches became my work family, and their hustle and compassion fueled my desire to be an amazing coach for these players.

Jamie Wolf (left) and Antonia

Eventually, I saw my coaching responsibilities gradually expand until I earned the opportunity to assist with leading our skill development drills. Almost immediately, the biggest challenge was matching the girls’ hustle! I’m naturally athletic and naturally inquisitive about the nuances of practicing drills to improve skills, so I loved working with and learning from the kids and the equally loved sharing tips! Jamie and Andrew also were very helpful in matching me with an appropriate skill to teach so I was never out of my comfort zone.

Getting to actively participate in the drills with the players not only boosted my confidence as a coach, but it also got me itching to return to the field as a player. One day, the other coaches invited some womxn players from various Chicagoland adult club teams to scrimmage against our high schoolers. It was awesome seeing folks from around the corner in my old neighborhood in Chicago drive 30+ miles to Naperville and dedicate their time to helping our girls improve their game! Inspired by what I was witnessing on the field, I decided to try out for one of the club teams, Frenzy, and ended up making the team! A little while later, I ended up relocating for my job and unfortunately couldn’t coach eNVy any longer, but I’ve still gotten a chance to see those amazing coaches and players at midnight, HAT or other themed tournaments!

Coming back to the sport simultaneously as a coach and a player nourished a fire within me to create new challenges for myself while also teaching me a sense of humility. Since becoming involved with Frenzy, I’ve become more cognizant of my health and physical fitness, slowly progressing towards the athlete I was before my injury. However, I could not have made it this far without my teammates who have been both my cheerleaders and teachers. I especially want to shout out my Dishies, Amelia Lentz and Wendy Rochon, who’ve tolerated all of my questions and have encouraged me to keep developing my skills and reaching new heights.

Chicago Dish Team (2019)