VUL Community Spotlight: Monica Lee

On the first Sunday of each month we feature a VUL community member who is contributing to ultimate in awesome ways.

Monica Lee

Monica has been sharing her love of the game with young players as a VUL instructor for nearly four years! The NCCP-trained Community Coach also volunteers as a coach with the Burnaby school district, leading the 2017 junior team to defend the Burnaby/New West District banner, and lends her videography skills to film high school matches. You’ll want to read Monica’s story of overcoming her fear of laying out to catch the disc at a key moment in a national-level game, what she has learned from positive coaching role models, and her personal goal to make sure everyone on a team has a chance to be involved in a game.

How many years have you been involved with ultimate? 


Past teams:

Vortex (club team), Burnaby North Vikings (Grade 9-12), Stratford Hall Sabres (Grade 7-8)

What role(s) do you have in the VUL/ultimate community?

Coach, clinic instructor, volunteer, captain, player, club player, videographer

Tell us about a favourite ultimate memory:

One of my favourite memories has got to be when I did my first successful layout in an ultimate game. I have had two broken collar bones (one of them was a result of a collision with a guy in an ultimate game) and I was too scared to try since I might risk re-injuring myself. At CUC 2018, during a quarter-final match against Wicked West, I remember Vortex was down 3-9. It was such a bad start for us, we just were not ourselves during the first half. But we gradually picked ourselves back up and scored point after point. We had lots of pressure in terms of time, where we had to maintain possession of the disc at all times and score as quickly as possible. I believe it was 8-10, and we were able to generate a turnover once again. I remember hearing Jordan (my coach) from the sideline yelling my name. I made eye contact with him and he told me to just run (to the end zone). Trusting his call, I just booked it deep and my teammate threw one of the nicest hucks ever. I remember going after that frisbee and the thought that was going in my head: "I have to get this disc no matter what." The disc was right in front of me, too far for me to catch while running but still in reach. And without thinking, I stretched both arms out as far as I could, closed my eyes and went for it. I didn't open my eyes until I heard my teammates on the sideline cheering and that's when I laid out and caught the frisbee. I wasn't in the endzone, but I was able to keep possession of the disc. In the end, our team won the game 12-10. This was such a big milestone for me in my ultimate career and it made me realize how your desire to catch the frisbee/keep possession of the disc can really override any other thoughts.

What's your favourite throw and why?

My favourite throws have got to be either a backhand or a hammer. Backhands were the first ever throw that I learned, so I relied on it quite heavily when I first started. As my skills gradually improved, I started to learn how to throw hucks and even how to do backhand pulls. It is a pretty stable throw for me, so I usually like to use backhands when possible. Hammers are such a fun throw to use! I use it the most when playing offence against a zone since throwing over the top is one of the many ways to beat a cup defence.

What are you most excited about for the sport of ultimate these days?

I am so pleased to see how much this sport has grown over the last few years! When I first started playing, it was a relatively small sport in schools and there were very few schools with very elite programs. Nowadays so many more schools have developed a strong ultimate program and there are so many more opportunities for players to learn and play. I can't wait to see how much further this sport of ultimate can grow and hopefully I will be able to help out in any way possible.

When did you start coaching/captaining/mentoring, and what inspired you to start?

I was fortunate enough to get my first captain position in Grade 9 at Burnaby North and had it for about three years. I also had the opportunity to be one of the captains for Vortex in 2017. I have always liked taking part in team sports and I also wanted to make sure that everyone on the team was involved in the game. I personally disliked it when teams only relied heavily on 4-5 players and only passed amongst themselves. Therefore I made a personal goal to make sure that everyone on the field would be able to get a touch on the frisbee before we scored. I believe this was likely the reason why I held onto a captain role for those years, because I wanted to make sure everyone felt included on the team. 

My first coaching experience was back in Grade 11, where I occasionally helped coach my school's junior team when their coach was unavailable. It was hard at first because I felt a bit awkward and out of place since the kids were merely two to three years younger than me. But as I got to spend more time with them and watch them grow, I started to get more comfortable in that position. That junior team was able to defend the Burnaby New West Banner and I was fortunate enough to have been able to support them that day during the tournament. From this experience onward, I found it more rewarding and satisfying to know that I was able to help some players grow a love for this sport and help them improve their skills. Seeing how many of those players from that junior team grew to become such talented young athletes made me realize how much I truly love to coach. Therefore I made it a personal goal to be able to give back to the ultimate community and help other players find their true potential in this sport.

Who have you learned the most from in ultimate, and what did you learn?

Personally, I would say that I learn from every single person that I have either played on a team with or played against in games. There are lots of small skills that you pick up from experience and I think that has allowed me to become the player I am today. But there are three coaches that I have had in the past that I think I truly learned the most from in ultimate. The first would actually be Mr. Nystad (Kyle Nystad), who was the person who introduced me to ultimate. He encouraged me to give ultimate a try in Grade 7 after we had an ultimate unit in gym class. Although he never really coached me officially on a team, he was still someone who helped me develop my fundamentals in PE class and even provided me some amazing opportunities to play for the Junior A team for some tournaments when I was in Grade 8 (St. George's Invite and B.C. provincials). Because of him, I grew a really strong love for this sport and decided to continue playing when I transferred to Burnaby North. 

Another person I learned from the most would have to be Jordan Dhillon, who was my coach in Vortex for two years. He helped me build my confidence in ultimate, helped me identify key problems in my offence and defence play styles, and was a really supportive coach both on and off the field. He was also the coach that helped me build my power and consistency with my hammers and got me to do my first ever layout in an ultimate game! Jordan was a coach that always followed the play on the sideline and was so vocal in giving instructions during the game. But he was also a coach that wasn't afraid to be a bit silly and fun to be around when needed. To me, he showed me what it takes to be a true coach.

Finally, I have learned from one of my high school coaches Mr. Gabriel (Ben Gabriel). He was a reliable mental pillar that everyone on the team was able to rely on when needed.  But most importantly, he has played such a key role in developing the ultimate program at Burnaby North. His dedication and passion towards this sport has really been inspiring to me. One of my favourite memories was always seeing him play ultimate frisbee videos during math class in order to entice other people into trying out! I do hope that one day I would be able to follow in his footsteps and help develop a strong ultimate program in other schools!

Why did you decide to start volunteering/working for the VUL?

I initially started working as a volunteer in 2017 in the Fall U19 program. From that moment, I fell in love with helping out and gradually started to get more involved with the other youth programs in the VUL. Currently, I am working as a lead instructor for some of the U14, U16, and U19 programs that are offered. I wanted to find a way to give back to the VUL community, after it provided me so many opportunities to learn and play outside of school.

This spring season, Monica can be found on the field teaching skills, strategies, and spirit of the game to U19 players (Intermediate) through drills and activities adapted to abide by physical distancing requirements.

Do you know someone we should highlight with our Community Spotlights? Tell us about them! Email for more info on how to nominate someone. 

Past Community Spotlights: