Name: Anna Thompson
Activities: captain of Penn’s women’s ultimate frisbee team, national champion with Philly AMP mixed ultimate frisbee club team, world champion with U.S. mixed national frisbee team
Hometown: Kirkland, Washington
34th Street: What was it like growing up in Washington and how do you feel like that compares to Philly?
Anna Thompson: It was really fun. I really enjoy being there. I think I appreciate it more retrospectively because it's super outdoorsy, and I love to be outside. I love to ski, I love to hike. I rowed in high school, and so I love to be on the water. And here there's a lot less of that and there's a lot less access to that, so I developed a better appreciation for that once I lived here. I really love the people too. Everyone's really nice, they're really friendly and welcoming, which isn't to say that they aren't here, but it's a little bit of a different vibe.
Street: Why did you decide to row?
AT: My really good friend in middle school did it, and her older brother did it, so we started doing it together. Once there was this massive storm, and we got blown to the side of a building. I just had to hang out there for long enough so that we could push off with our oars so we could try to manage to get home without flipping–it was kind of crazy. When I rowed in high school, there used to be float planes that would land on the lake, and they would land right next to us. Once we got trapped by three of them landing around us, and we just had to hope they didn't land on us.
Street: When did you get involved with ultimate frisbee on campus?
AT: I knew when I was coming to Penn that I wasn't going to do crew. I have played sports all of my life—they’re super important to me—so I wanted to join a team. Frisbee is really big in Seattle, so I had had some experience with it in middle school. I decided to join the team basically before I got here honestly. I started out on Venus—which is our team name—freshman year, first semester. I just fell in love with the people and fell in love with the team.
Street: When did you get involved with the Philly club team?
AT: Our coaches are really involved with the club scene in Philly. Club is comprised of mostly adults that aren’t in school anymore, and it's a national thing, so we travel all over the country to play. They [the coaches] sort of helped introduce me to that world, and introduced me to Amp, which is the team I play for. I started playing for Amp the summer after my sophomore year, and then I played for Team USA the first time in January of my junior year, and I'm playing for the next round this July in Germany.
Street: What is it like to play on Team USA?
AT: The team that I've been on once before, and will be again, is the under-24 national team. We have a tryout application process. A lot of people submit to the coaches that are going to be selecting the teams on USA Ultimate, which is the governing body. They’ll select a hundred men and a hundred women to try out and there's a tryout weekend where there’ll be an East Coast round and a West Coast round. You'll go to one of those weekends, and it'll be just two days of playing with all these players that were selected, and then the coaches will select the rosters for men's, women's, and mixed, and then we usually have a training camp during a weekend. The last time it was November of 2017 in Atlanta, which was a few weeks before the tournament. That was sort of to get to know each other, and to get our system going. Then we traveled to the location of the tournament, last time it was Australia, and we had a week-long training before the tournament. It's not a lot of time as a team, because everyone's coming from all over the country. A lot of the learning happens on site where we're going to be competing. Part of the beauty, and part of what makes it sad, is that once the tournament ends, the team will really never be a team again. They restart the cycle every two years.
Street: What was your favorite part about playing for the world championship?
What keeps me motivated and what I love about the sport is the people. I think they're amazing: Everyone is genuine, they’re kind, they’re intelligent. They're passionate about something that is off the beaten track and isn't as recognized. I think because it's something that doesn't get a lot of notoriety, all these people really do have this very deep and genuine love for the sport, and I think there’s something that super special about it. Competing internationally is kind of like this honeymoon period of all these people who are really good at the sport, who loved it so much, and are just in this incredible place doing it. Being able to be passionate about something that maybe others don't understand, or see as much, is really telling of someone's character. A lot of people don't really understand how the sport works or how it's structured, so really the only people that understand are the people in the community. And because of that, it takes a lot of effort and dedication to pursue something that others might not quite understand. I really admire that in my teammates.
Street: What was it like winning the world and national championships?
AT: We played against Japan in the world championship, and it was a really great game. They have a contrasting style to us in how they play. It was a tight game, and we faced a lot of adversity, which was really fun, and definitely a really unique bonding experience. We ended up winning, which was incredible. It was a pretty unparalleled feeling. This fall, my club team competed in the national championship, which is for club teams around the US, and we won that too. The previous year at nationals, we had lost by one point in the championship, which was pretty devastating. And then we came back this year and won it—it was pretty amazing.
Street: Do you hope frisbee will be recognized as a professional or collegiate sport in the future?
AT: I think that would be really cool, but for now I just really love playing it. I think if that falls into place, that would be great because the sport is really cool, and is really fun to watch, but right now I'm just focused on the teams I'm on and having fun there.
Street: How has ultimate frisbee impacted your life?
AT: I don't think I ever anticipated it becoming this big of a portion of my life. It really is something that I love. It's not only a sport to me, it's also getting to be with my people, getting to spend time with them, and pursuing excellence in something. Athletics have been such an integral part of my personality and my character, and so to be able to bring that into my adult life has been invaluable to me, and something that I'm really excited to continue doing after school.
Street: Are you playing ultimate frisbee after college?
AT: I'm going to continue playing frisbee with Amp this summer, which will be fun, and then play in Germany with Team USA. I'm moving to San Francisco to start a job as a product and data analyst at a company called Ora in September. They have some really good teams there so next year I'll feel out the scene and see which ones I want to try out for.
Street: Do you have any weird or hidden talents?
AT: I can do the worm.
Street: What was your favorite class at Penn?
AT: Sex and Power with Dawn Teele. I thought she was really amazing.
Street: Smokes or Copa?
AT: Copa. Half–off Burgers on Wednesday.
Street: There are two types of people at Penn...
AT: Those who have the &pizza app and those who don't...and can I give you my referral code to include in this article? (You’re welcome Anna!)
Street: What is on your &Pizza?
AT: Half of the spicy tomato, half of the mushroom. Then shredded mozz, and basically all the vegetables. The key is definitely the balsamic at the end.
Street: Of the stickers on your water bottle, which one is the most important?
AT: Probably the Grand Canyon sticker. I went traveling to a bunch of national parks with my friends, and I mean, it really is grand. I can't honestly say anything else about it.
This interview has been edited and condensed.