Orange High School junior makes USA Ultimate Frisbee team, helps coach middle schoolers

Emma Williamson helps a middle school Ultimate Frisbee player with his defense.

When she was in the seventh grade, Emma Williamson fell in love with the sport of Ultimate Frisbee. She absorbed it and became very good at the game. Unfortunately for Emma, the feeling was not mutual among many of her schoolmates. In her eighth grade year, there wasn’t enough interest in the sport. C.W. Stanford Middle School was unable to field a team.

In Hillsborough, neither of the high schools have Ultimate Frisbee programs. Williamson was able to continue to develop her skills in Ultimate Frisbee by playing for club teams in Chapel Hill. 

“During my freshman year in high school, I was playing almost every other day,” Williamson said. 

The more she played, the more her love of the game grew. Her skills have also become stronger.  And that has not gone unnoticed. Williamson was recently picked to play for the USA Ultimate Frisbee team for players 20 and under.

“I play clubs in Chapel Hill and in the Durham area,” Williamson said. “There are also a couple of players from Chapel Hill high schools who made the team. They knew about the USA team. My coaches also knew. I played for a team during the summer that went to the nationals and won. So, my name started getting out there. I had to apply to try out. I got accepted to try out and was selected to the team. 

“We’ll have a couple of training camps. We will then compete in the world championship. That’s in Sweden in July.”

Despite her achievements as a club-level player and making the USA team, the Orange High School junior still wanted to do something about the lack of interest in the sport at her former middle school. She and a handful of friends who also played Ultimate Frisbee hatched a plan to field and coach a team at C.W. Stanford Middle School. School policy requires adult supervision for team sports. 

But Williamson and her friends were undeterred. The group approached Lori Merritt, a sixth-grade math teacher at the middle school. Merritt was moved by the enthusiasm and commitment from Williamson and her friends. Even though she knew very little about the sport, she agreed to coach, thereby allowing Williamson and her friends to serve as assistant coaches.

That is, if they could drum up enough interest in the sport to have a team to coach. 

Again, Williamson and her friends were undeterred, and campaigned for the sport at the middle school. To say they were successful would be putting it mildly.

“Yeah, we’ve had tons of people come out,” Williamson said. “It’s kind of crazy. To go from the five of us in the 8th grade to nearly 60. It’s just crazy.”

Merritt has been impressed with Williamson’s devotion and passion for the sport. 

“She is an ambassador for Ultimate Frisbee,” Merritt said. “The players clearly enjoy her as a coach and respect her as a player. She makes it fun and knows when to press them to get serious. She offers lots of positive criticism. She encourages the players.”

Williamson, who also plays tennis, said her ability to make accurate throws is her best asset. She said usually plays defense. 

“There’s seven players on the field at all times,” she said. “Some teams choose to run an offensive line and a defensive line. Our team rotates players into different positions. When I play, we usually play an O-line and a D-line. In the past I’ve always played defense. This year is the first year I’ve played on the offensive line. I have no idea where I’ll play with the USA team. I prefer offense. I really love being in control of the disk. I also love playing defense. I just love everything about the sport.” 

Williamson said she hopes to continue playing the sport after high school.

“Ultimate is not in the NCAA,” she said. “There’s no scholarship money involved with playing. You just have to go out for the team and make it. But I definitely want to play in college. UNC-Chapel Hill does have an amazing team. I don’t know if that’s where I want to go. I’m still a junior and haven’t thought too much about it. I might try out for another elite team when I get older. For now, I’m at my limit. I don’t want to over-extend myself.