Our Mission

Eastside Ultimate all began as an idea to play with my friends, outside of my local area. From all of my experience playing Youth Club Championships and attending ultimate summer camps, I’ve been blessed to be able to make countless friends and memories with people I would’ve never met otherwise. However after every summer, I’d yearn to continue playing with these amazing people, however realistically it was almost impossible.
My sophomore year of high school, I had played on a prestigious club team along with some other local teammates. We had zero practices, and before the tournament, most of us had never met the other players or coaches. It was an opportunity to play among other high level athletes and compete in a tournament, that we would’ve otherwise not been able to attend, being that it’s in Chicago. The experience was great, however it came at a steep cost. After the weekend, the total amount for the entire trip, including airplane tickets, food, and the program fee, was around $1,000. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the trip and recommended it to many of my friends.
In the winter of junior year, I had been invited to play the same club team again, however this time I urged a lot of my friends from out of town to play with me. The overwhelming response from the majority of my friends was that it was too expensive, and for teenagers, the majority of people aren’t as spoiled as I am, and don’t have the same opportunities to spend that much money for a single weekend. I truly believe $1,000 for a weekend for kids is unethical, and extremely frustrating for most people, and I don’t think people should have to miss out on these opportunities because they can’t afford the cost. I was annoyed, and so I decided to act on it.
I began researching the costs for the different elements of the trip, including van rentals, hotel prices, airplane tickets, jerseys, etc, and couldn’t comprehend how the total could come anywhere near $1,000, and that’s when it hit me. I should start my own team. I refused to just sit back while my friends couldn’t afford the experience. I began marking down dates, prices, contacts, and eventually I had gained support from my friends, enough to commit to the idea of this team.
The most difficult part of this entire project, was definitely the recruiting process. Nobody is going to trust a 17 year old kid with their own son, and understandably so. My mission for about a whole month, was going around and asking people on different social media platforms to come join my brand new team, fly out to Chicago with me, and compete in a tournament in Chicago. It was an arduous process, and one by one, I was able to settle with a 14 person roster, and hire two alums from the University of Pittsburgh to coach us.
The rest of the planning was relatively tedious but significantly less stressful than recruiting. Booking an AirBnB, renting a van, creating the USAUltimate profile for the team, submitting a bid, paying the tournament bid fee, collecting medical information, sorting flights, designing jerseys, and setting up a GoFundMe. I was able to lower the price of the entire trip, from around $1,000 to $600, almost splitting the fee in half. A week before the tournament, everything was set up and things were perfect.
Unfortunately, nothing in this life is too good to be true. Out of nowhere, a snowstorm hit Chicago and the tournament directors decided to fully cancel the first day as six inches of snow accumulated, and the fields were covered. Optimistic, we headed over towards a local high school, and contacted the top seeded team at the tournament, Edina, and we had a “private” full game to 15, on a nice turf field, before the snow started. We finally got some touches in, and after a tough game of back and fourth action, we came out victorious, toppling the best team in the tournament. Without any previous practice and no team chemistry, this was surely a surprise, but a welcomed one.
Looking back in hindsight, there were a few things that I could’ve planned out better, but nonetheless it was a great experience, and I’ve made numerous close friends. If there was something I would change about it, it would be the creation of a girls team. I completely believe in equal opportunity for genders, and programs like NUTC and GUM, have taught me the importance of creating chances for both boys and girls to enjoy. I was naive and inexperienced, and in complete honesty, extremely scared. I lacked confidence in my abilities, and was not sure that I would be able to even send a boys team. By the time I was certain of the boys, I began making plans for a girls team, however I didn’t have enough time to recruit enough people for a full girls team. I regret that I didn’t plan ahead, however I can’t blame myself too hard, as the first year is always the most difficult.
I want to thank everybody, from all the players, parents, coaches, and chaperones, for believing in me and taking a chance with my organization. Like I mentioned before, the first year is always the hardest. Not a lot of people believed in me, in my plans, or in my vision. I understand if people were hesitant in investing all that money in me, and even more their child with me, but we prevailed, and every year after will be smooth sailing. Once again, I absolutely couldn’t have done it without the support from everyone, so I want to thank all the participants for helping me make my hopes and dreams into a reality.
This year, I am looking to expand the brand. I am aiming to recruit around 20 players on the boys team, as well as create a girls team. I want to connect more people, and share my experiences with others. I want to get the word out as much as possible, and make sure kids get the opportunity to play at higher levels of competition, for a more affordable price. Finally, I want to inspire kids around the country to be more proactive about their situations, and act for the changes they want to see. Together, we can change the flawed, preexisting cultures, and set new precedents for future generations.
Jae Lee