BC’s Elevate brings the Ultimate spirit to Ottawa

Ultimate changed my life many times over. I only began to grow as a person because I was playing ultimate. And while my journey with it has had ups and downs, I'm only the person I am now, because of it.” — Clayton Cheung

ABOVE: Clayton Cheung is a coach, player, and a regional manager of Elevate Ultimate.

Clayton’s is just one of the many stories BC’s Elevate Ultimate has inspired.

Elevate Ultimate is a Vancouver-based disc sports academy that provides professional coaching to young ultimate frisbee players. Its mission is to grow the sport, one disc at a time. Founded in 2016 by Team Canada players Danie Proby and Ari Nitikman, Elevate Ultimate is a company that specializes in creating training programs for the popular disc sports. It has grown in leaps and bounds in recent months; from signing up 10,000+ athletes through their various programs to winning the BC Small Business Award. But more than these accolades, what defines Elevate is their purpose to impart values to kids that they can carry off the field.

Good entrepreneurs align themselves with visions that are born out of their own stories. Their personal life journeys are what give Danie and Ari a purpose.

Ari used to be overly competitive, coming from a hardcore soccer background. He used to yell at his teammates for making mistakes because that’s what occurred in other sports. When he first played ultimate, the self-refereed, spirited nature of the game softened him as a competitor and person. Danie came from a background of competitive volleyball and basketball, and was used to always “hating” the opponent. When she discovered ultimate, she joined a community that was the perfect balance of competitive and friendly play.

In her words – “you can play for fun and it's not always hyper-competitive but that's why I love it: you can find whatever level you need from ultimate, whether it's barefoot on the beach with your homies or at world championships with people training day in and day out working towards winning.

Fuelled by the founders’ drive and the support of the team, Elevate aims to improve kids’ lives physically, mentally and spiritually, every single time they step onto the field. Elevate’s core values are Fun, Respect, Accountability, Purpose-Driven, and Inclusive (Yes, it’s a FRAPI-ccino).

But the team has their work cut out for them, even without the all-pervading gloom and hardships of the pandemic. Niche sports like ultimate frisbee and disc golf face other challenges, especially the need to educate people. Ultimate, especially, has been one-too-many times called a “not a sport.”

The Elevate team continues to combat this notion, both through anecdotes and work. While they could make arguments about how ultimate frisbee does fit into the definition of sports, they prefer to devote themselves and their energies to make a difference.

ABOVE: Jeremy Hill is the Ottawa regional manager of Elevate Ultimate.

Ottawa Regional Manager and Team Canada player Jeremy Hill says – “ultimate provided a passion to dedicate my time to. Allowed me to meet so many amazing people and become part of the ultimate community. Also allowed me to find a love for coaching and inspiring the next generation.

Their hard work paid off, even last year. Between last June and November of 2020, when most sports organizations closed, Elevate served over 1,000 kids and families with disc golf and an adapted ultimate curriculum. The programs pivoted to a 6-to-1 student-to-coach ratio for physical distancing, apart from the usual sanitization measures. Elevate employed over 40 young adults to serve as leaders and mentors for the young kids in the community.

“Our programs are for beginners all the way to elite athletes. We provide ultimate frisbee training for anyone who wants to gain confidence in their throws, cuts, and defence,” says the team. “Our elite coaching staff want to help improve athletes’ fundamentals, fitness, and overall strategy to get them ready to compete at their best.”

The team truly believes that the world needs the sport right now. As the world deals with this dreadful disease, we need sports that allow us to get outside with minimal equipment and have fun in a safe environment.

ABOVE: Elevate Ultimate was founded in 2016 by Team Canada players Ari Nitikman and Danie Proby.

Co-founder Danie sums it up perfectly – “People are disconnected and lonely, now more than ever. Ultimate can be such a powerful tool to bring people together and to make people feel welcome. The sport itself teaches so many important life skills and with this tool, we can do incredible things. Ultimate makes people feel that they belong to something bigger than themselves, it's pretty special.”

Here in Ottawa, Elevate has partnered with the Ottawa-Carleton Ultimate Association (OCUA) to increase youth participation in ultimate frisbee and disc golf.

Summer camps in Ottawa are now open. For more information, visit elevateultimate.com or email ottawa@elevateultimate to sign-up for summer camps.

Photos: Courtesy Elevate Ultimate