Pitman High School student Chuc Luu isn’t your average three-sport athlete. The senior is an accomplished tennis player, excels on the track and, most recently, was named to the U.S. junior women’s national team for ultimate frisbee.
Luu is the only girl from California to be selected for USA Ultimate’s Under 20 National Team, which will compete in Malmö, Sweden, this July during the World Junior Ultimate Championship. Luu was selected for a tryout in Norco, California, from a pool of 400 applicants and made the team as one of 24 women on the roster. When she heard the news, she was stunned.
“It was so crazy,” she said. “I’ve been playing this sport for eight years and being selected to go to this tournament was my goal. To be selected was definitely a surprise and such an honor.”
So, what exactly is ultimate frisbee? The sport was developed in 1968 and combines the non-stop movement and athletic endurance of soccer with the aerial passing skills of football. A game of ultimate frisbee is played by two teams with a flying disc on the field and end zones, with the object being to catch a pass in the opponent’s end zone. Players can’t run while they’re holding the disc, but can pivot and pass to their other receivers.
“It’s a bit of a hard sport to describe…It’s unique in a lot of ways,” Luu said. “The culture of the sport is what really sets it apart from the others. The ultimate frisbee community is always very welcoming, and I think because it’s such a new sport, we want people to stick around and we want to develop it.”
Ultimate frisbee is unlike other sports due to its focus on self-officiating, even at the highest levels of competition. This concept is known among players as “Spirit of the Game,” and is integrated into the basic philosophy of the sport, written into the rules and practiced at all levels of the game.
Luu first began playing ultimate frisbee about eight years ago when former Turlock resident and ultimate frisbee youth coach Geoff Rexroth moved to the area from East Bay, bringing his program with him. Though he’s since moved back to the Bay Area, Luu’s love for the sport remains. She now plays on teams for two different Bay Area high schools during the school year, and plays competitively in the same area during the summer.
“Even when Geoff moved on, a few of the people I played with stuck with it because it just impacted our lives so positively,” Luu said.
Luu plays the position of handler, meaning she’s the one that handles the disc. In theory, ultimate frisbee is a non-contact sport, but she said things can get physical on the field.
“Skill wise, the most fun thing for me is breaking through marks and throwing my defender around,” she laughed. “Contact definitely happens.”
Luu said it’s an honor to represent PHS, Turlock, California and the United States on the national ultimate frisbee stage. The world championship is an excellent opportunity for a spotlight to shine on the sport, she added — an important chance for a sport that doesn’t yet have an Olympic team.
“That’s why we put so much emphasis on the world games…it will be quite the experience, and this is definitely a high honor in the ultimate frisbee community,” Luu said. “It brings a lot of validation to all the work I’ve put in over the past eight years and it’s such an honor to be wearing a jersey that says ‘USA’ on it. It brings a sense of legitimacy to the sport to people who don’t necessarily know about it.”
The Unites States has earned 23 WJUC medals since it first began competing in 1988: 12 gold, five silver and six bronze.
Luu is hoping to add to that list, and wants people to know that ultimate frisbee is a sport worth taking seriously.
“As much fun as we do have while playing, it doesn’t take away from the physicality, intensity or legitimacy of the sport.”