For "gopher" Anna Thompson, ultimate frisbee will be her ticket to Australia and New Zealand in 2018. 

Photo by Steve Kotvis

Anna Thompson, or “Gopher,” as her teammates now call her, stepped onto the ultimate frisbee field with only one year of experience under her belt. Little did she know that in two years’ time, as just a junior in college, she’d be headed to Perth, Australia to represent the United States in the World Under-24 (U24) Ultimate Championship. 

Thompson’s journey began at Penn, where she joined the club ultimate team, Venus, in the fall of her freshman year. The following spring, Thompson was invited to participate in Philadelphia’s club mixed team, AMP, where she was introduced to elite-level ultimate, breaking out of her comfort zone of college play .

From then on, Thompson not only played for the Philadelphia women’s team, “Green Means Go,” but also played alongside her Venus coaches, Raha Mozaffari and Patrick Sherlock, within the Philadelphia Area Disc Alliance (PADA). 

“I played the winter league, which is a really competitive indoor league, and a lot of Philly elite players play that, which was a good introduction to Philly’s club scene,” Thompson said. 

The following season, Sherlock encouraged Thompson to “apply to try out” for the U24 team. Players with an outstanding “ultimate resume” are encouraged to send an application to the World Flying Disc Federation (WFDF). By January, Thompson received notice of her invitation to try out in Columbus, Ohio. 

“I was super excited," she said. "There were a lot of names on that list that I had seen play or that I had heard about. It was super humbling to get the opportunity to try out.” 

Thompson agreed that her favorite team to practice with at the tryout was the mixed team. 

“The speed of the game is different for men and women," she explained. "Men can be more explosive and can move faster than women, so people with no experience will sometimes have trouble working with the other gender.” 

Thompson went on to mention that her previous experience on the AMP mixed team helped her overcome that challenge during the tryouts.

As for expectations for the tryouts in general, Thompson says she had none.

“I didn’t go into it with really any expectations; I didn’t think it was constructive. I wanted to learn things and play ultimate for a weekend. So that’s what I did.”

Then, in July, Thompson got the call of a lifetime. 

The Seattle native was invited to be one of 11 girls on the U24 mixed team, who will be traveling to Australia in early 2018 for the WFDF U24 Championship. 

As for her travel plans to Australia, Thompson says she’ll be going early with her family to visit New Zealand as well. 

“Forget ultimate, I get to go to Australia and New Zealand, and that’s awesome.” 

Thompson hopes to try for the U24 again two years from now, and possibly continue on to the World Games when eligible.

“Ultimate is amazing in that you can be an adult and play into your thirties or later at this elite level with amazing athletes, kind of in its own little world."

Thompson is currently captain of Venus. She credits all her success to Mozaffari and Sherlock: her coaches, teammates, and mentors throughout this experience. 

“A lot of the reason I’m doing what I’m doing now is because of Patrick and Raha. I can’t emphasize enough how important they are, and how integral they’ve been in mentoring me and helping me develop as a player and person.” 

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