Sarah Jacobsohn is the Ultimate Canada 2018 Junior Female Athlete of the Year. (photo from Sarah Jacobsohn)
Last month, Ultimate Canada named Sarah Jacobsohn the 2018 Junior Female Athlete of the Year.
“I was in the middle of biology class, looked at my phone, and saw that one of my teammates had texted me saying congratulations and a long paragraph,” recalled Jacobsohn about hearing of the award. “And I was like, what’s going on? I had no idea.
“Then, I saw the article that was written about me and I got the notification that they had selected me for the award … and I started crying in the middle of class and I called my mom. It was so surreal and just amazing.”
Jacobsohn was born in St. Louis, Mo., in 2000, and moved with her parents and older sister to Winnipeg in 2006. She has been attending Gray Academy of Jewish Education since then, and will be graduating this year.
Athleticism runs in the family. Both of Jacobsohn’s parents played sports into adulthood. She also gets her height from her parents: her mom is 5’11” and her dad is just over six feet.
Jacobsohn has played sports for as long as she can remember. “I played Timbits soccer since I was in Grade 1, then I continued playing competitive tennis and soccer. Once I found ultimate, I quit all those other sports to play ultimate,” she told the Independent. “For my high school, I still play volleyball, basketball and ultimate but, on a competitive level, I gave the others up for ultimate.” (That said, she remains a competitive player at the other sports. For example, on the school’s varsity basketball team, she has been averaging 37 points per game.)
Ultimate was designed to be played without referees. “The spirit of the game is heavily emphasized, which is something you don’t find a lot in competitive sports in this day and age,” said Jacobsohn. “Essentially, it’s about maintaining a level of sportsmanship and integrity while playing the sport. You have to make the calls yourself and communicate with other players on the other team. And, it’s always maintained, that sportsmanship and respect for other players. Even at the highest level, ultimate is still heavily dependent on player communication, which I think is amazing.”
At the higher levels, there are “observers,” who help the players regulate the game, but they only intervene when asked by the players to do so. And, even after having been asked for their opinion, it is still up to the players to accept or disregard an observer’s call.
“I think that’s what a lot of sports have lost in the past few decades,” said Jacobsohn. “That competitive atmosphere takes away from the sportsmanship, and it shouldn’t. There should be a balance.”
In ultimate, she said, “people understand that, to keep that respect of the game, they have to be honest. It’s really amazing to see that, even at the highest level.”
Jacobsohn started playing ultimate in Grade 6 and, at 14 years old, her coach convinced her to try out for the provincial junior team. She made the team, as one of the youngest in the group. It was there that a national coach spotted her and, at age 15, she traveled to Vancouver for the national tryouts and made the team.
Jacobsohn participated in her first world championship in Poland in 2016, and Canada took home the gold. Last summer, Jacobsohn, as captain, led the provincial team to a gold medal. She went on to captain Team Canada to a bronze medal at the world championship in Waterloo, Ont.
All of these feats, as well as her extensive involvement in the ultimate and broader communities, contributed to Jacobsohn being chosen for the athlete-of-the-year award.
“The award is strictly based on achievements from the past year,” said Jacobsohn. “So, last year, I was captain of my provincial team and we won gold at nationals for the first time ever. Then, as captain of Team Canada, we won bronze at the worlds. And, I’ve done a lot of community stuff locally.
“I’ve been involved in the Winnipeg ultimate community for six or seven years, which is a lot, when I’m only 18 years old. I’ve gotten to know essentially the entire ultimate community. I’ve literally grown up in this community – finding a lot of leadership opportunities in it and chances to voice my opinion. I fight a lot for gender equity and voice that opinion a lot in the Winnipeg ultimate community.”
Jacobsohn serves on the Manitoba Disk Sports board, offering suggestions, as a high school student, about tournament arrangements and how the province runs the sport. She also has been very involved in the Winnipeg Ultimate Women’s Competitive League, helping to get a lot of juniors involved.
“As a very competitive female athlete, I understand my responsibility growing up as a female athlete in today’s world,” she said. “I have an immense responsibility to stand up and role model for other female athletes, and I’m not scared to do that.
“And, going to school where I’m one of six girls in my grade, I’ve been able to gain respect from a lot of boys and change perspectives on what being a female athlete means.”
Now, Jacobsohn is busy training for the under-24 national team tryouts. And, while her main aspiration is to become a doctor, like her dad, she is hoping to continue playing ultimate competitively for many years to come.
Rebeca Kuropatwa is a Winnipeg freelance writer.