Every Sunday morning, you will find a group of youngsters out on a field dedicatedly improving their backhands and overhands – skills that you need to play Ultimate Frisbee. They do this while juggling part-time jobs to supplement their family’s income and attending second-shift schools during the week.
The Awadh-KHELadis, a team of 20 boys and girls who come from shelter homes, slums and urban ghettos in Lucknow, have been practising hard because they are going to represent their city at the Ahmedabad Ultimate Open at the end of the month.
For the KHELadis, Ultimate Frisbee is not just a game but a means of self-empowerment and building their self-worth. This is thanks to Project KHEL – a local NGO who believe in using the power of play and sports for development.
Here’s why the sport is more than just throwing a disc around on a lazy Sunday morning. Ultimate Frisbee is a self-officiating sport. That means there’s no referee taking calls and authorising what’s allowed, and what is considered a foul in the game. The decision lies with the players and encourages them to analyse situations fairly and come to a collective resolution. This helps players cultivate important life skills such as conflict management and negotiation.
It is also one of the few games where female and male players are members of the same team and compete together. For children growing up in Uttar Pradesh, a state with less than impressive gender indicators, having the chance to play alongside peers of the opposite sex has the potential to break gender misconceptions they may have of each other, and see each other as equally valuable members of the team.
As 15-year-old Sanju says about the sport: “Here we play together in mixed groups, there is no gender bias. Frisbee teaches us discipline and how to speak to everyone around us.”
The Awadh KHELadis take this sport and the lessons they have learned from it, very seriously. In 2016, they played their first official tournament at the Ashoka University. This year, they are upping their game and have registered at the Ahmedabad Ultimate Open 2018, a national level tournament taking place January 26-28 where 40 teams from colleges and corporates across India will be participating.
This is a huge achievement for the KHELadis – a group of children who often go unnoticed and are limited by their life’s circumstances – to be able to use their skills and expertise and climb their way to a national level sporting event and be the Ultimate Frisbee face of Lucknow.
As Project KHEL founder Akshai Abraham says: “For this team of youngsters to travel and participate in one of the biggest tournaments of the country – with about 35 teams participating – is huge! The team comprises adolescents who are all going to school, doing some sort of work to contribute to family income and also participating in Ultimate practice as well as other co-curricular activities at school. Being Uttar Pradesh’s only professional team, they are actually representing the state at this tournament!”
Not only will this be an amazing boost to their growth and personal ambitions, but will also present them with the opportunity to meet and interact with professional teams from all over the country.
Although 20 KHELadis will be travelling and directly participating in the Ultimate Open, they will bring back their experiences and overall knowledge to 300 of their peers who are also aspiring Ultimate Frisbee players – increasing the impact of their experience in multiple ways.