Shawn Adams

"On April 10, 1994, Shawn Adams was struck by a bolt of lightning and killed while playing in a game of Ultimate Frisbee in Nashville, Tennessee.
He was 29 years old. He died playing the game that he loved.

Shawn played with an incredible intensity and yet always as a gentleman.
He showed us that Spirit of the Game can be achieved in the intensity of competition.
His spirit will live in our hearts forever."

Fred Baes

Click here for the Shawn Adams Fan Club on Facebook


Shawn was an Ultimate person. He lived for Ultimate, and, sadly, he died for Ultimate.

mar'tyr - n. a person who dies or suffers for beliefs

Shawn is a martyr!

If God had come to the fields that day in Nashville and asked "Who will die for Ultimate right now? Someone must go with me now."

Shawn would have been the first one to answer "TAKE ME!"

He would have. He was that kind of person.

During his short life, Shawn did as much as he possibly could to play, learn, and perfect his own Ultimate skills and, moreover, to pass along his knowledge, spirit and love of the Game to others. He developed Ultimate into a local Chattanooga super cool thing that everyone enjoyed.

Shawn started playing Ultimate in Chattanooga in the early eighties when he was still in high school. His love for the sport grew, as did his ambition to establish a competitive team in Chattanooga. Many players came and went. Many team names came and went. But there was always one constant - Shawn.

Shawn couldn't get enough Ultimate. His love for the sport was immense! When others were too busy to play, Shawn would somehow find people who had time. If he couldn't get his team to travel to a tournament, he would head out on his own and find another team to play with. He simply had to play! Ultimate was his passion. It was his livelihood.

Shawn was unique. He had a special way about him. He was kind, thoughtful, gentle, and trustworthy. He always put others before himself.

He worked for Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise, an organization based on the philosophy that everyone deserves to have a roof over his or her head. Shawn was at home there, because he was able to help others and to make their dreams come true.

He also helped people achieve their dreams on the field of Ultimate. Without exception, Shawn took time to educate and encourage new players. Because of him, many people stayed to play that might have otherwise given up.

Randy Hollingsworth

Savage Seven, Huntsville - 1988

Let us take a moment to reflect upon this fellow whose spirit persists in spite of his physical absence.  Shawn, to this day, represents the pinnacle of the Ultimate player, an example to us all.  He played with the utmost intensity, always striving toward excellence.  When Shawn was on the field, you knew it!  There was no doubting his presence.  His genuine respect for the Spirit of the Game and his fellow players never faltered.  Shawn was a man who gave the sport all he had all the time.  To him, I believe, Ultimate was life, and life was Ultimate.

Let's challenge ourselves to enjoy this tournament in a style that Shawn would approve.  Play hard, play fierce, bare your teeth and growl, fly like the wind and touch the sky, but never lose sight of the fact that one of the greatest aspects of our sport is the people with whom we share it.

(From the Shawn Adams Ultimate Tournament Program: 1997)

I met Shawn in 1988 during my first game of Ultimate at the Bright School here in Chattanooga.  Although I wasn't initially taken with the sport, Shawn's relentless phone calls necessitated that I play.  His love of the sport was infectious, and I had no choice but to get involved.  I can honestly say that Shawn changed my life.  

(From the Shawn Adams Ultimate Tournament Program: 2000)

Dear Women, Men and Children of Chattanooga Ultimate,

A date fast approaches that dramatically impacted our ultimate family and its branches throughout the Southeast. April 10, 2001 will be the anniversary of Shawn Adams untimely death. I ask all of you to reflect, pray, or whatever self-expression best suits you on this date. I realize that many of you were not fortunate enough to have the real privilege and honor of knowing Shawn, who was the embodiment of Spirit of the Game, friendship, and love. Shawn was and will always be my brother; I miss him. But this simple assertion does not encompass the depth of this loss. So to all old school players I say I know what you are feeling for I too feel it; I say take solace in the fact that he is always with us. To the new school players I ask all of you in the coming week to be compassionate to the older players. Sunday, you may see one or two or many of us with a tear in our eye or us hugging each other; please understand our sense of loss. Shawn was and is Chattanooga Ultimate; none of us has not felt or experienced the loss of someone close to us so if you see one of your ultimate family members in pain or sadness do what my brother would have done give that person a big old hug and let them know you care and understand. I sincerely hope that this has not and does not offend any of you, but I needed to express these feelings. And I extend an invitation to everyone to join me Tuesday the 10th in a pilgrimage to visit Shawn to share a beer and other libations; anyone who is interested can email me at the above address to arraign a time and meeting place.

Peace, friendship, and love to all. 

Chuck Gearhiser 

P.S. I think of you all as family even the evil stepsiblings, but seriously remember we are a family with all the idiosyncrasies that any family has. So next time I or one of the other family members offends, hurts, or does something else which bothers you remember life is short and forgiveness is divine.

At MudBowl 1994, I remember hearing someone on a distant field yell "G## D### It Shawn!!".  I knew Shawn's voice well enough that I instantly said to myself "Cool, Shawn's here!".  It was Shawn cussing at himself.  He was always so hard on himself when it came to Ultimate.  But, he never had a negative word to say about others on his team.  He came to Knoxville for Ultimate practice many times, and picked up with us at tournaments often (like he did the weekend he died).  So, I've played Ultimate with Shawn many times, and I'm positive that the only name that ever came out of his mouth after saying "G## D### It" was "Shawn".

This is not a specific story, but a general memory I have of how he played Ultimate.  Let's say Shawn is on offense, and I'm guarding him.  He has the disc and is about to throw it.  As he throws it, I get a piece of it, and it hits the ground.  As I instantly run towards my endzone, he would (as he is running after me) say "great block!".  This is just an example, but he would always congratulate you for your good play, even though you were on the other team.  I've heard him do this many times at tournaments, too.  If he bumped into you, he would always say "sorry", and ask if you were OK.  And yet, Shawn was one of the most intense players I know.  He would lay out for your awful, awful throw, and then say "I should have gotten that!"  "Dude, it was 15 yards outta reach, nobody could have gotten that disc!".

April 9, 1994 (the day before Shawn died).  We were playing some Atlanta team, I think.  We were on defense, and a pass went long to Shawn's man.  They were alone downfield, but very close to each other.  Just as the disc was getting there, their legs got tangled, and they both hit the ground hard.  I remember thinking "I bet this guy will call foul, even though it was unintentional".  The other thing that went through my head was "that pass was uncatchable, that guy better not call foul".  Anyway, Shawn said "Oh man, I'm sorry!  FOUL!  FOUL!".  He was calling a foul on himself.  The dude said "No, we just got tangled up, no foul".  Shawn insisted: "No, man, I fouled you.  Your disc right here".  Dude said he didn't think so, so he contested the foul!  Well, as the disc was being sent back, people were asking "what's going on?  what's the call?".  I said it was a foul that was contested (which technically was true), but the dude wanted to be sure everyone knew Shawn called the foul on himself, and dude was contesting it.  I don't know who this "dude" was, but he showed the same high level of sportsmanship that Shawn always did.  I felt ashamed of the way I was thinking about the situation as it was happening.  Mine was the typical, competitive reaction: "that was uncatchable, I can't believe you're gonna call a foul!".  Shawn showed by example that you can be competitive, but still be polite and sportsman like.  In fact, at the time, I remember being pissed at Shawn.... if the guy doesn't think you fouled him, just shut up and pick up the disc, I thought.  I never SAID it, but I'm ashamed to this day having even thought it.

I guess this next story took place in the mid to late 80's sometime (some will recognize the story, and clue me in on a date).  Shawn always liked to participate in SMUT (Smoky Mountain Ultimate Tournament) here in Knoxville, but he had trouble getting his Chattanooga teammates to come in the early days, so many times he just came up and picked up with Knoxville.  Well, one year we were accepting checks and bids on a first come first serve basis.  There was only one slot left.  We got a call from Shawn at the Frisbee House, and he said he finally got his Chattanooga crowd into SMUT, and was wondering if there was any space left.  We told him there was one slot left, and we knew of at least 2 checks that were "in the mail", which was true.  He asked if we had gotten the mail today, and we had, but no new checks were there.  He said "are you guys gonna be there for a couple of hours?".  We said "sure", and he said "I'll be right there!  Don't go anywhere!".  So, Shawn loaded up the truck with a few of his Nooga Ultimate buddies, and they drove the 100 miles to the Frisbee House with his check.  That was the year that Chain Lightning did not get into the tournament... they thought that, since they won the year before, they were automatically in.  Fred from Chain must have talked to me and Bob Nichols (tournament director) for 2 hours on the phone, pleading his case.  We kept coming back to "Shawn drove his check here he wanted to be in SMUT so badly, what did you do?".

This next Shawn story is one of my favorites, and I have some video to back this one up.  It was a hot summer Sunday around 1986 I guess, and practice was scheduled for 1:00pm at Cherokee Park here in Knoxville.  The phone rang at about 10:30am and it was Shawn, calling from Chattanooga.  He wanted to make sure we were having practice before he came to Knoxville. Shawn used to come to Knoxville often for our practices (I think he had a girlfriend in Knoxville, so it wasn't just about the plastic!).  Anyway, we get to Cherokee Park, and our usual spot was already in use by some vollyballers.  Well, we had an alternate field at Cherokee that was not ideal, but we were willing to move over to it (it went uphill/downhill from one endzone to the other, had 2 man-hole covers and was too small).  Well, when we get to this other field, a couple of guys were hitting golf balls towards our field.  Now, they may have been there before us, but give me a break: hitting golf balls in a public park!  I was starting to feel like one of those rats in a cage, with more and more rats added to see what would happen.  Well, we just sort of put our stuff down and started tossing the disc, hoping these guys would aim some other place.  In fact, they started hitting their shots even longer, and almost hitting us.  I think they were actually very good, and were able to control their shots very well, and were just letting us know they were not going to stop.  One of our teammates picked up one of their golf balls and chucked it back, and screamed at them to stop hitting their f#$@ing balls at us!  In fact, this guy has always been known as sort of a hot head, and he was about to walk over to them and, probably, get into a fight.  That's when Shawn stepped in.  He said "let me go talk to these guys".  As soon as Shawn got over there, they stopped hitting balls to talk to him.  We watched closely, as we were not sure how pissed they were at us at this point.  Shawn must have
talked to these guys for 30 minutes!  We set up the field, collected their golf balls and put them in a pile, and started playing.  Even after we began playing, Shawn was still over there talking to these guys.  Eventually, Shawn and these 2 guys walk over, the 2 dudes pick up their golf balls, and then stood and watched us for about 10 minutes.  Shawn stood with them, explaining to them the game, and what was happening on the field.  After the golfers walked away, we asked Shawn what he said to these guys.  He said the first thing he said was something like "You guys are pretty good, what are you hitting with, a 2 iron, 3 iron?".  They said they were hitting with their 9 irons, and Shawn was like "wow!  You guys can get that kind of distance with a 9 iron!  Amazing!".  So, Shawn talked golf with these guys for a while, and then they eventually asked him what we were doing, and that's when he explained to them all about the game of  Ultimate.  Shawn was so good with people, and so unselfish.  He drove all that way, and missed the first 30-45 minutes of practice so that we could all play.

Well, that's all the Shawn stories I can think of right now.  We love you, Shawn.... with any luck, it'll be a while, but we'll see ya later.

Charlie Cwiek
Voodoo (Knoxville Ultimate)

SMUT - 1992



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