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Stewart disc-overs his ultimate passion

Joe Stewart, an Advanced Placement Environmental Science (APES) teacher, not only excels in the classroom but is also a second-world champion in ultimate frisbee (ultimate). While he is deeply passionate about science, he also aims to do something that keeps him active. Stewart has known ultimate frisbee for a while now and loves recalling the story of how he first learned

Cheering with his team, Mr. Stewart celebrates after placing 2nd place in the beach championship. (Photo courtesy of Joe Stewart)

something that keeps him active. Stewart has known ultimate frisbee for a while now and loves recalling the story of how he first learned of the sport.

“I was exposed to ultimate a bit in college, but I didn’t think of it as a real sport. I had a friend who was on the team, and he brought me out to play,” Stewart said. “ I thought it was just going to be running around barefoot throwing the frisbee, as you might do at the beach, but they were wearing cleats.”

When Stewart first began teaching, he taught in Oakland. Coincidentally, one of his roommates had been a devoted ultimate frisbee player in college. 

Because of this close connection, Stewart decided to give the sport a try, and to his surprise, he found a love for it. There were striking similarities between ultimate and the sports he had played prior, making the transition easy. Despite not being very skilled at throwing the frisbee initially, Stewart had good field awareness and was in good shape, which made his experience enjoyable from the start.

Junior Alex Zach has Stewart as his APES teacher and has enjoyed learning about Stewart’s ultimate career.

Diving through the air, Mr. Stewart saves the frisbee from touching the ground. (Photo courtesy of Focus Ultimate)

“I think it’s really cool that he [plays] ultimate frisbee. As a student-athlete, it’s nice to have a teacher who also plays a sport outside of work,” Zach said.

Over time, Stewart began participating in tournaments with a mixed club team of men and women. The team humorously went by the name “That’s what she said” and played together for over two decades. Today, they still occasionally enjoy a game together, but now, Stewart primarily competes at the master’s level, which is mostly men’s play.

“[It] depends on the time of year, but there’s usually two pick-up games a week year-round. [During] the competitive season, I usually have team practices as well. Our team is from all over the Bay Area, so there are pods of us who play and work 

out together. Then I’ll do individual training a couple days a week, so I’ll be doing something related to ultimate during [my free] time,” Stewart said.

The organization Stewart is affiliated with is the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and they are actively working towards getting ultimate frisbee recognized as an Olympic sport. This organization is known as USA Ultimate, serving as the governing body for the sport and an international governing body specifically focused on beach ultimate frisbee. There is also the World Flying Disc Federation, which directly collaborates with the IOC. Most of the tournaments Stewart’s team participates in fall under the jurisdiction of these governing organizations.

Smiling for the photo, Mr. Stewart is content to be a teacher and play a sport that keeps him active.

Junior Zach Davis, a student in APES, shares his thoughts about his playing of the sport.

“I remember him wearing his jersey before he went to his tournament. I thought it was pretty interesting that we have a teacher who can be [both] athletic and academic,” Davis said.

Ultimate frisbee is integrated into Stewart’s daily routine, with one of his primary goals being physical fitness while enjoying the company of like-minded individuals. Through the sport, he has forged lasting friendships and regularly makes new acquaintances. The ultimate frisbee community is known for its welcoming nature, providing ample opportunities for social interaction. Furthermore, it serves as a means to stay physically active, encouraging engagement in activities such as biking or running, which align perfectly with Stewart’s personal fitness aspirations.

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About the Contributor
Maggie Walsh, Business Manager
Maggie Walsh is a junior and a business manager for the Bark. She enjoys playing soccer and spending time with her family and friends.