Photo by Rodney Chen – UltiPhotos.com
Jackson Stearns was first introduced to ultimate in high school. At the time he wasn’t aware of the spirit of the game or the ins and outs of playing, but was certain he wanted to try it in the future and perfect his skills.
Not long after, Stearns found himself playing for San Diego State and for various club teams, including teams on the East Coast and in Italy. Stearns thought the best way to meet Italians and get a different perspective of their culture was through ultimate.
“Tournaments were not as organized, but the players were probably more committed than most of the players I knew at the time in the U.S.,” he said.”That made it fun, and it was nice having a community of ultimate players. Even though I didn’t speak much Italian and I didn’t know anyone, ultimate was a way to kind of bridge the gap, which was awesome.”
Stearns joined the San Francisco Dogfish last year and was elected captain of the team for the 2015 season. With 21 points, 7 blocks and a consistently strong onfield presence, leading by example is his idea of captainship.
“I just want to make sure that the guys can feel my passion for the team and for the game,” Stearns said. “The players should feel supported and know that they can talk to me if they have issues. I want to win just as much, if not more, than they do,” he adds.
His time playing ultimate professionally has provided Stearns with lessons both on and off the field.
“The 7-second stall makes you play a little bit faster, lets you make decisions a little bit quicker and I have enjoyed that–it feels a little more competitive. I have also learnt more about what it takes to built a fan base and to connect with the communities,” said Stearns. “We have a great internal community, and players get along with each other very well, but sometimes they have a harder time meeting people outside the community. It’s been nice to work on that through the MLU.”
Something else the team has been working on is their performance. The Dogfish struggled last season and into this year. Having gone through some good wins and tough losses, the team has really started to bond and it is a much more cohesive group than they were his first season. Stearns credits Dogfish General Manager Rusty May with helping turn things around.
“He really focused on team unity while we were making roster decisions early on in this season, and those are just starting to kind of pay dividends now,” he said. “All the guys on the team are more bought into the Dogfish than they were last year, and win or lose they really care about each other and playing together.”
In that same spirit of community and love of the game, Stearns has been an active proponent of the clinics the Dogfish held before each home game this season. His advice to young kids?
“Stick with it. Persevere. It’s going to be challenging at times–you are going to have to push yourself a little harder than you thought you could,” Stearns said. “Whether it’s learning how to throw or doing the track workout when you really don’t want to, enjoy it because once you do that, you will become a stronger person.”