The Hillside Flyers

Remember that dazzling group of tumblers? They just randomly somersaulted into the nostalgia part of my brain this morning. I can’t remember anymore why the group disbanded. Did the coach move away or something?

MPR story from 2001 here



about 11 years ago

I do believe the coach did move away. The Hillside Flyers were part of Neighborhood Youth Services, which is a division of Woodland Hills. NYS is based out of the Washington Center and is a wonderful drop-in center for area youth. It's too bad they couldn't work things out after the coach moved away - fun to watch and a great opportunity for the kids to try something new.


about 11 years ago

One time I was watching the Hillside Flyers at Juneteenth and they had a backing track of 50 cent or something to warm up to, which was fine, but ... they used the unedited version of the cd, so all of the kids were tumbling away lost in the bliss of performance while I was looking around awkwardly to see if maybe we needed to change the music.  But for that crowd the F-bombs and other non-niceties flowed off of everyone else just as smoothly and unself-consciously as the kids did.  

The only more awkward backing track moment I had was sometime in 1987 or so when my c-squad basketball team was playing a small farm town school somewhere in Central Minnesota.  The school didn't have a pep band so the Cheerleaders just played something on the PA for the players to warm up to ... which was side a of Debbie Gibson's "Out of the Blue" cassette  There was something completely unintimidating about psyching myself up for a game to "Shake Your Love"  but no one else seemed to notice ...


about 11 years ago

I'm sure we lost the game, by the way.  


As for the Hillside Flyers, I decided at that moment that there are things I just don't understand about Hillside culture, and no matter how long I live here or how much I love the place I'm probably never going to understand (or agree with) everything about life here. When you have such a vividly diverse mixture of people, values and personal choices are going to range widely, but the upside is that beauty and wonder ranges even farther.   

Yusuf A. Abdullah

about 11 years ago

Hello everyone,

I was surfing the web and happened to catch this site and discovered this conversation. I thank all of you who have commented on the Hillside Flyers and I personally would like to thank Paul Lundgren for thinking of and remembering the Hillside Flyers. I'm the coach and the Founder of the tumbling squad that you all are talking about. 

I came to Duluth as an undergraduate in fall of 1994. I'm a graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD '99). During that time I was an all conference Basketball player and an active community member. Like many African American males from the inner-city, I really wanted to make it to the pros, but I understood the odds and found my passion working with youth.

After I graduated from UMD, I became a graduate basketball assistant for UMD and landed a job at Neighborhood Youth Services (NYS) located on the central hillside of Duluth. During the summer of 1999 I discovered a couple of kids tumbling which reminded me of the time when I was 8 tumbling in Racine, WI. That was the beginning of the Hillside Flyers. Five kids turned into 30 within a year. We went very strong for the next 6 years including over fifty performances in 2005. Shortly after I started the Hillside Flyers I landed a job at UMD as an admissions counselor where I recruited students of color from across the state to attend UMD. During that time, I believe I was able to give young kids a hope & confidence, I was able to connect communities, and I was able to establish myself as a professional. As far as the music goes, we tumbled to Hip Hop music and I promise you we always played the edited version and eventually went to instrumentals.

So what happened? Well I always knew I would eventually leave Duluth but never knew when. I started my family in Duluth my wife and two sons. In 2005, my wife finished her undergraduate degree from UMD and I finished masters in education. At that time, my wife and I decided it was a great time for us to move to Minneapolis where she is from and be closer to family. I left Duluth on a positive note and I frequently visit Duluth with my family for speaking engagements and UMD business. 

Currently, my family and I live in Minneapolis where I am a counselor and basketball coach for Patrick Henry High School. I also have two tumbling programs and I have one more class to finish before I obtain my principal licensure from St Cloud State University. I am doing very well and have made my mark in the twin cities as I did in Duluth.  

Finally, crimes happen everywhere. It is unfortunate that the poor neighborhoods get most of the exposure when it comes to this sort of thing. People come and so do go programs. It is unfortunate the program is no longer in existence but the move was great for my family and me.

Paul Lundgren

about 11 years ago

Thanks for the update, Yusuf. It's great to hear you are doing well. It's a shame Duluth has lost you, because it seems you're a tough guy to replace. But who knows, perhaps one day the Hillside shall fly again?


about 11 years ago

I think this update is great, and I am glad he's doing well.  I think its sad that so many people assumed it was something more nefarious than moving up and onward in life.   I also agree that it would be great if our hillside had someone else to take up the mantle of the Hillside Flyers.  

I do stand by my story though, perhaps he was distracted and missed it himself, or maybe he was gone that day, but they were definitely tumbling to an unedited track at that performance.

The Big E

about 11 years ago

I think I might have played pickup ball with Yusuf.  Well, on the same floor anyway.

Leave a Comment

Only registered members can post a comment , Login / Register Here

Read previous post:
When spelling matters

From the Duluth News Tribune website: The top searched item is "Hells Angles." Hells Angels = badass bikers Hells Angles...