We Will Not Vanish

“Pressure is a privilege”—Billie Jean King

As a member of the All-Star Ultimate Tour, I am beyond lucky to have a platform from which to share my thoughts with the broader ultimate community. So in spite of my somewhat crippling fear of sharing my writing with anyone, and in the spirit of celebrating the pressure I feel and the privilege granted to me, the following are my musing as the tour comes to a close:

Earlier this summer, I asked my friend to put some podcasts onto my phone before my plane ride home to Seattle, the big flight that marked the beginning of my All-Star experience. Anticipating nerves on my flight (because I have a mild to moderate fear of flying) and boredom from clocking double-digit hours of driving each day on tour (because I get car sick from reading), podcasts seemed like an optimal solution. However, I couldn’t have been more wrong about their necessity. #Vanlife has been one of the best ways I could think of to get to know my teammates, as well as acquire new skills like voice-throwing and landmark identification. Furthermore, on my flight to Seattle, I befriended Ken, the passenger next to me, who just so happened to be a pilot. Much to his chagrin, Ken spent his flight having an in-depth conversation with me about flying, planes, and contingency plans if anything were to suddenly go awry. Despite learning the intricacies of flying, and just before piling into Shady Van surrounded by new friends, I actually did manage to make it through one podcast; and, serendipitously so. 

The podcast episode to which I refer is “The Lady Vanishes”, an episode of Malcolm Gladwell’s series titled Revisionist History. Gladwell’s podcast centers on the story of a painter in the late 19th century whom you’ve likely never heard of before; her name is Elizabeth Thompson. Chances are you haven’t heard of her because after her painting “The Roll Call” was hung on the line in Gallery II of The Royal Academy’s annual exhibition (which is a HUGE deal), she was denied membership to the same institution by just one vote. She was shutout of art society, and she vanished. Gladwell shares Thompson’s story to help exhibit the concept of “moral licensing”. The gist of the social psychology phenomenon is that “past good deeds can liberate individuals to engage in behaviors that are immoral, unethical, or otherwise problematic,” (Gladwell, The Lady Vanishes). In the case of Elizabeth Thompson, this meant that following her initial success with “The Roll Call,” her talent was pushed to the background and her existence was overshadowed by her male counterparts.

Like Elizabeth Thompson, we accomplished something amazing—we successfully promoted women in ultimate by showcasing individual talent and increasing media devoted to female athletes; however, our work is far from over. What we have accomplished is not enough, and when the tour ends, the work we continue to do is paramount as we strive to reach gender equity in our sport. Gladwell explains the concept of moral licensing with the metaphor of a door, and I think it applies here, too. With tremendous support from the ultimate community, one door has been cracked open, and we 17 All-Stars were able to slip through, bringing with us our host teams, their communities, and a good portion of the ultimate community. I have some trepidations of sounding overly preachy here, but we cannot take the successes of the All-Star Ultimate Tour and feel liberated. We cannot shut the door again on everyone else. Those who have power, those that have helped to open the door, need to recognize their power, and follow on what Gladwell deems a “virtuous trajectory." 

Consider all the work there still is to do. Think about the privileges and opportunities afforded to males in our sport, the most popularized of which is the pro leagues. Think about the discrepancies in media coverage that exists between male and female sports that further notions of men as superior athletes. Think about the recent crediting of female Olympians’ successes to their husbands. Think about how much work there still is to do, think about how we’re going to do it, and do it. We will not be more Elizabeth Thompsons. We will not vanish.

 Photo: Tino Tran Photography

Photo: Tino Tran Photography

 

*For anyone who’s interested I highly suggest Gladwell’s podcast, as he explains these concepts much more comprehensively than I do in this blog post! Check it out: http://revisionisthistory.com/episodes/01-the- lady-vanishes

Playing with the Enemy

We never thought we’d wear the same jersey as the enemy. By “the enemy,” we mean our longstanding rivals at the college, club, and international levels. Those rivals are our teammates today. 

We are Kate and Mira, two-thirds of the Canadian contingent on the 2016 All-Star Ultimate Tour. We have been teammates since WJUC 2010 and recently completed our college ultimate careers together at the University of British Columbia. On the Tour, we are best known for our lack of cellular connection and are therefore quite useless most of the time on the road. We’re great as Shotgun unless you want us to Google map you to the nearest gas station, send a GroupMe to the other van, play a Spotify playlist, or really anything other than provide company. Our moment of glory was the ten-hour period that we spent north of the border as the only ones with working phones and debit cards.

To us, our All-Star teammates were perpetually the ones that we had to match up against and strategize around. Since we are from another country, there aren’t as many opportunities for us to play with these women. While watching them make incredible plays against us, we never expected to, one day, share in their successes. The feeling of now being able to cheer for a sick Beth Kaylor layout, the first time sending a Hail Mary huck to JWei, or Frantz saving you with an incredible layout D is impossible to describe. Previously those plays were constant annoyances (still awesome, just less awesome when they are against you), but now instead of dreading them, we look forward to them. It’s been a pleasant surprise to discover that knowing these players so well as opponents has lead to instant on-field connections.  Obviously the transition isn’t seamless, but knowing each other’s cutting styles and favourite throws makes it easier. 

 Photo: Tino Tran Photography

Photo: Tino Tran Photography

Looking back, we have shared many experiences at the same tournaments in cities across the world, but we have done so as strangers. It’s fun to reminisce on those moments and share different sides of the same stories. Sitting with the Oregon crew, we remembered different Regionals based on location, jersey colors, and the presence of ‘scoot scoot’—Beth’s scooter to transport her broken foot in 2014. Looking back to WJUC in 2010, we wish our 16-year old selves knew what was to come, and could have made those connections sooner.

Dazzled by Skill and Athleticism

Being injured…sucks. That is a pretty obvious statement but it has been particularly applicable to my life lately. While playing with my club team at Colorado Cup, I sustained an ankle injury that has benched me for the past three All-Star games. On the Tour, it can be easy to get wrapped up in your own play or experience and forget why we are really here. For a while I was unhappy that I couldn’t get exactly what I wanted out of the Tour because of this injury. I felt frustrated that I couldn’t show off my skillset or contribute to the team on the field. I even felt guilty when my awesome and supportive friends came out to watch and I couldn’t play. I was being very individually focused rather than thinking about the team and our goals. But a young player recently helped me step back and realize that I am getting exactly what I wanted out of it: to empower the next generation of All-Stars.

Girls are coming to these showcases, and not only being entertained by big plays and close games, but also inspired. Last Friday, after our game in my hometown against my own club team, Phoenix, I saw at least 15 young athletes running around, smiling and throwing, all while wearing their brand new All-Star tanks. As I walked past a small group eagerly waiting for their discs to be signed, I heard a youth player exclaim, “Never end the All-Star Ultimate Tour!”

Her genuine excitement for the game was evident and it gave me chills. It reminded me of how I felt when I got to watch women’s soccer as a young girl. Dazzled by their skill and athleticism, I saw those women as a bold example of just how incredible female athletes could be. It drove me to push myself and to work hard so that someday I could be like them. And I have no doubt that each of those young women that came to our game will be able to achieve their goals as athletes. I am so proud to be part of something that is encouraging girls to do just that, regardless of whether I am making plays on the field or supporting my team from the sideline.

So, the people have spoken: never end the All-Star Ultimate Tour! I hope we never do.

 Photo: Tino Tran Photography

Photo: Tino Tran Photography

The Japanese Flavor

私は初めてアメリカでultimateをしてたくさん感じたことがあります。それはすごくいいグラウンドでultimateができることです日本では練習でも大会でも芝があまりないグラウンドでultimateをやっています。唯一日本では決勝戦だけいいグラウンドでultimateができます。また、アメリカほどultimateが日本ではメジャーではありません日本でultimateを知っていますかと聞いても知らない人が多いです。しかし日本とは違いultimateと言うだけで通じることがすごいと思います。観戦料がかかるにも関わらずあれだけ多くの人が試合を見に来ることです。日本では観戦料がかかる試合は一つもありません。だから、すごく驚きました。またたくさんの子供がultimateに興味を持ちultimateをしているのにも驚きました。日本では少ししかultimateをやっている子供はいません。ほとんどは大学からultimateを始めます。私も大学から始めた一人です。少しずつ中学や高校の授業で取り入れられてますが、まだまだマイナースポーツです。だから私達自身がもっともっと子供達にultimateを教えて、楽しさを知ってほしいです。

This is my first time in the United States playing ultimate, and I have experienced so much. The quality of the fields here have been amazing. In Japan, fields with grass are hard to come by, so we practice on fields of dirt and rocks. The nicest fields are saved for tournament finals. Generally speaking, ultimate frisbee is not common in Japan, so if I were to ask someone if they knew what the sport is, they would most likely have no idea. It's refreshing to be in a country where people know what you're talking about when you mention ultimate; it's a great way to connect with many different people. It is incredible to me that we can charge spectator entry fees, and still attract large crowds. If this was Japan, an entry fee would deter many people from watching. I was also astonished by the youth ultimate scene here in the U.S.; you find very few young adults and children who play the sport in Japan. Usually, you start playing ultimate at the university level. I started dabbling in ultimate in junior high and high school, but didn't really start playing until college. So it has been our mission as leading athletes to coach and encourage children in Japan to play ultimate. That way they can experience the unique nature of the sport. It is my hope that Japan will one day reach a scale of development and availability of coaching similar to that of which I've seen here. 

We're Not in Kansas Anymore

To all the Ultimate enthusiasts, followers, and everyone in between: hi! We are Caitlin Fitzgerald and Clare Frantz, two friends, teammates, co-captains, and now fellow All-Stars. As two players from Kansas (University of Kansas Betty and Kansas City Wicked), we haven’t had many opportunities to travel to both coasts and experience the unique Ultimate cultures that thrive there. Although all different from Kansas, we have had a blast learning about the distinct characteristics of each city. In addition to that, our teammates all have different backgrounds, playing styles, accents, and contributions to the Tour, which has made for a very rewarding and eye-opening experience thus far.

 Photo Courtesy of the Ultimate Sports Guide

Photo Courtesy of the Ultimate Sports Guide

Playing in Seattle was a great way to kick-off the tour, as it is one of the most prominent Frisbee hubs in the nation. A visit to Five Ultimate headquarters early in the day for player photo-shoots made us feel like TV stars instead of All-Stars. Arriving at Memorial Stadium with the Space Needle towering over us put butterflies in our stomachs at the thought of playing on such a big stage – a feeling that hadn’t quite hit us during the photo-shoot. This community also rallied to provide one of our largest crowds, including excited youth players asking us to autograph their discs and t-shirts after the game. The biggest crowd us Kansas girls had experienced previously was maybe 100 people standing around the field at Regionals during our game to go. That was without a live stream, without a stadium, without experienced Worlds players, and without the strange sensation of feeling like a rock star. Needless to say, this first game was a huge juxtaposition from anything we had experienced in the Kansas Ultimate scene.

After our games in Vancouver and Portland, we arrived in San Francisco for our first youth clinic and only double-header. We welcomed the cool ocean air (despite the swirly winds that came with it) after having just played in two hot afternoon games. SF provided us with some incredible views of the city as we stayed in Upper Rockridge, Oakland with our hosts Marc and Cheryl. Their house was one of the coolest places any of us had ever crashed for a weekend, which comes as no surprise since it was formerly Billy Joe Armstrong’s house. Marc explained that he was more than happy to give back to the Ultimate scene by hosting us since he had been in our shoes many times back in his college Ultimate days. Although we (Fitz and Clare) have stayed in some nice houses, we are all too familiar with sleeping in closets, hallways, or bathtubs, showering in rec centers or moldy bathrooms, or squeezing 12 of us into a tiny hotel room. Marc and Cheryl’s house was a welcomed change from the majority of our sleeping situations with Kansas Ultimate, and we can’t thank them enough!

After San Francisco, we embarked on our longest leg of the tour, bound for Denver. With Colorado Cup happening that weekend and three former All-Stars on the opposing team, this game brought in one of our most enthusiastic crowds, eager for the athletic plays the matchup against Molly Brown was bound to bring. To our delight and surprise, there were about 20 hometown friends there to support us Kansas girls. Toward the end of the first half and certainly by the second half, we started to face the windiest conditions we had seen so far on the Tour. In all honesty, this brought us back to our element as Kansas plays home to every type of weather imaginable. We take pride in our ability to play successfully in the wind and other undesirable conditions, even so far as to refer to our college team as a great bad weather team. With the wind and so many Kansas alumni in the stands, this game felt the most like playing on our home turf.

The team made a pit stop in Kansas on our way from Denver to Atlanta, and although the Midwest showed its heat and humidity, we were pleased that the Stars got a small taste of our Kansas roots. Throughout the tour, we have discovered that each destination has its unique perks and quirks, and we are ecstatic to have the opportunity to experience all of them. We will always be two Kansas girls, but this Tour has truly opened our eyes to all the other amazing Ultimate communities in the nation.

Forgetting Stevie, and Other Short Stories.

The All Star Ultimate Tour.

Where to start.

Twenty one days, ten games in nine cities across the country. A travelling band of female athletes caravaning in two vans fondly dubbed “Slim” van and “Shady” van. These are some of our stories.

Day 1
Location: Washington
Kim has had almost two weeks to adjust to America. When shopping in the supermarket, she buys what she thought was a banana but actually turned out to be a plantain, much to the amusement of the rest of the team.
It’s going to be a long trip.

Day 2
Location: Washington
“Remember, your brains are your best insurance” – Qxhna
Wise words that we would carry with us and reflect on throughout the Tour.

Day 4
Location: Driving from Seattle to Eugene
Janina: “Soo, why are you wearing overalls on a road trip?”
Soo: “It’s denim Sunday…duhhh”
We appreciate Soo’s commitment to her team’s tradition of denim Sundays. We also appreciate knowing what day of the week it is.

Day 5
Location: Oregon
The general consensus is that people on the Tour don’t separate their lights and darks in the wash. Except Hayley, she’s a separator. She rocks the blinding white tees.

Kim has decided it is genius to buy canned food to save money.
She did not buy a can opener.
At what point does it get awkward to ask a restaurant to open your cans of tuna and beans… 
#fromspraggstoriches

The drive as we came in to San Francisco was eventful. We missed two exits off the freeway. When we turned around we missed the same two exits on the way back. Good thing we have a whole tour to perfect this driving thing.

Day 7
Location: Utah
We were about an hour out of Salt Lake City when we saw a meteorite. The van quickly escalated from confusion to full scale flipping out as we figured out what it was we were seeing. As it continued its arc across the sky, it became more broken up as if they were little meteorites chasing each other across the sky. This was one of the coolest things seen on the Tour to date not including Hayley’s sock tan line.

Conversation with our Utah hosts:
A: “Don’t listen to him, he’s wearing sweat shorts”
B: “They’re from H&M, that means they’re hip”

Day 9
Location: Driving through the woods to a swimming spot in Colorado:
JWei: “OMG they have a zoo down there!”
Scarth: “That’s a farm”

Day 10
Location: Colorado
Janina stayed home alone while everyone went to play or watch Colorado Cup to recover from her concussion. She had a couple of options to keep herself entertained: going for a walk either along the road or in the woods. She opted for the one-way road so she wouldn’t get lost in the woods. She got lost anyway.
It’s a work in progress.

Day 11
Location: Colorado
Eddie, Claire, Kim, Scarth and Shiori watched the sunrise from Red Rocks. They were half way there when they realized that they had forgotten Stevie.

When playing games it was decided that Janina had to wear her concussion helmet. A Hawaiian flower decorated bicycle helmet. Throw back to Q’s words of wisdom “Your brains are your best insurance”.

Day 12
Location: Kansas
We have twelve leftover hard-boiled eggs from breakfast. Qxhna, with all her great ideas, turned it into an egg-eating relay contest to avoid the impeding disaster of twelve eggs in a warm van. Thanks Qxhna.
We never realized that there was technique to eating an egg as fast as possible.
Option 1: Eating the egg white first, and then the yolk.
Option 2: Taking heaps of little bites
Option 3: Opening your gullet and just swallowing the egg whole

Day 13
Location: Tennessee
Shof: “ What day did we decide it was today?”
Sometimes the tour exists in a time capsule where we can decide what day of the week it is. The general consensus is Tuesday.

Day 15
Location: Driving from Atlanta to Raleigh.
Kate: “Are you speeding?”
JWei: “But I’m still getting passed!”*
Kate: “Is that what you’re going to tell the officers?”
JWei: “Yeaaa…I’ve got a speeding problem, don’t tell Q.”
(*JWei was not speeding)

Day 16
Location: North Carolina
Kim said the words “rubbish” and “heaps of stuff” in casual conversation today, still laughing at her Australian terminology two weeks into the tour.

Arrived in North Carolina. It’s humid. 
We went swimming at a quarry in Raleigh, the water was so warm that we couldn’t quite tell the difference between being in and out of the water. 

A couple of guys showed us a spot to jump off a tree into the water. For some reason they became quite patriotic and started shouting “’MURICA”. We didn’t have the heart to tell them that two of the three of us jumping were from Australia and Canada.

Day 17
Location: North Carolina
Rohre told us that the deadline for our blog post was 10am the next day.
We decided to go dancing.

Day 18
Agenda: Driving from North Carolina to DC.
The house is quiet as everyone takes advantage of a rare opportunity to sleep; we sleepily contemplate the opportunity to capture many more memorable moments on what is left of this Tour.

We are here to showcase women in ultimate and promote gender equity. We are here to play games. However, that’s not the only thing that is happening on this Tour. 

These shenanigans are most likely somewhat familiar to you as you read this, whether you’re on a men’s, women’s or mixed team. This is team culture. This is people in ultimate. And we are a community.

Photo: Courtesy of Natalie Bigman-Pimentel

-Kim Spragg & Janina Freystaetter 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When proof reading this blog post:
Qxhna: “Do you want to include the funny fact that you two are buddies?”
Janina: “No, we’re not buddies”
Kim: “…”

The Privilege of Our Ultimate Community

I have the privilege and honor of being a member of the All Star Ultimate Tour 2016. It’s an experience unlike any I’ve ever known—the mountains and grass plains, the highway rumble strips lulling me to sleep, the amazing plays women make in every game.

However, my privilege in the ultimate community extends far beyond this ASUT opportunity. I am a white, college-educated, able-bodied woman. The ultimate community prides itself on its warmth and inclusivity, and I’ve experienced both in spades. But does our community extend that welcome to everyone, particularly those who are not white, college-educated, or able-bodied?

Becoming an elite ultimate athlete requires both time and disposable income, and so the socioeconomic fabric of our ultimate community becomes somewhat predetermined. The ultimate community in the USA is predominantly college-educated and white, with disposable income to spare. Of course there are exceptions, but for the most part, ultimate is a sport of privilege. Inherent in privilege is exclusivity, and thus certain people are denied access to the ultimate community.

So how can we reach a wider and more diverse frisbee community, across socioeconomic and racial bounds? How can we invite more voices of color into this conversation? How can we transform our community to be more accessible, welcoming, and empowering of all interested athletes?

One way to start is by listening to people, voices, and organizations that advocate for change and accessibility within the sport (Yay AGE UP!). With these perspectives, we can be better equipped to join the dialogue and admit the gaps in our own culture and community. It’s time for us to think about who we want to be.

To be honest, I’ve only recently begun thinking about these issues (evidence of my own privilege, to be sure). But in the small conversations I’ve had thus far, I’ve been humbled and challenged to think beyond my own perspective, to consider the parasitic relationship of oppression and privilege, to understand that there is no quick fix.

To those who’ve given their time and energy to explain their thoughts on the ultimate community and privilege, thank you. I can only hope that we start to ask more questions, and more importantly, that we start to listen.

Déjà vu

Déjà vu, big time. Memorial stadium on an electric Friday night, big empty turf underneath the Space Needle and a swelling crowd while the All-Stars put the finishing touches on the field and then start to warm up. It’s exciting; new jerseys, new banners, new squad. Untested. The All-Stars are trying out their jerseys in blue, Riot is in their traditional white.

But I’m on the other side. I’m seeing Shof and Wah and other former teammates after a long time apart, and we’ll be reunited on the field, but in a different way. So much is the same, but for me, everything’s different.

The feeling of nostalgia grew throughout the game. This was the beginning of their journey; this was my only chance to be a part of the 2016 All-Star Tour. My first game, and my last. Bittersweet.

Playing on the other side, now playing the part of the club teams we challenged all of last season, the lens of retrospection allowed me to appreciate even clearer something I could only partially grasp while on the tour.

No fear.

If Riot loses this game, there’s the feeling that it’s a game we should’ve won; we’ve been practicing together for months and some people for years, we have world champions at the highest level in spades on the team, compared to the All-Stars who met each other this weekend. Last year, I remember so vividly how everything we did on the field was practically a miracle. I was in awe of my teammates; we were in awe of what we could accomplish. Every success was elating; failures were just learning opportunities. We rode that feeling, and the trust and giddiness that came with it. We had nothing, absolutely nothing, to lose. Being in white instead of blue, I felt a pressure that was completely absent last year.

No fear takes swagger.

Part of the magic of the tour is that the challengers are so much younger than the club teams they face. A little bit of confidence goes a long way when you’re matching up on players who’ve been playing in national title games since before you picked up a disc. To see Lisa P play, or Shof, or Wah, or JWei, they can line up against anyone and cut with the confidence, grind out defense with the same intensity, hit the same throws. It’s about knowing that honors and accolades don’t matter when the pull goes up; any upset is just waiting for a team that knows they can take it.

This attitude, this no fear, play confident, attitude, is something that I find particularly inspiring in female athletes because it’s not how society tells women to be. To succeed as a woman in sports, there’s a certain amount of ignoring the haters.

Helping the All-Stars pack up the gear after the game, and watching them load the vans, what I missed most of all I think was life on the road.

Appreciating every moment.

The tour is such an adventure. Some of my favorite moments are the weirdest. Buying a strange and lovable blue stuffed animal at an Idaho gas station. Driving the trailer through New York at 1am. The last points of the Brute Squad game. There’s no goal except loving every minute of the thing. Learning about your teammates, and being surprised and amazed every step of the way. On the field and off the field, the only way to fail was to fear failure. To not leave your heart on the line or in the back of a sweaty van. What a powerful way to play, and live.

“Nostalgic” seems not quite strong enough to cover it.

Let Them Play It

Guest article by Laurel Oldershaw

Let them play the clip again and again when I go down and break my leg in an attempt to sky Jenny Wei. Was it a rookie mistake? Perhaps. A late jump? Could be. An injury that compounded from potential shin splints and exhaustion? Also a possibility. 

Playing in the All Star Game was some of the most fun I have ever had playing any sport. Breaking both bones in my lower leg happens. We all get injured at some point if we push ourselves past our limits to become better athletes and in turn, better people. 

With the recent video that came out, as well as Charlie Eisenhood's article on Ultiworld regarding bad bids in ultimate, I feel obliged to add my voice. This is different than bad bids featured in Eisenhood's article as most of those have been layout bids in an effort to horizontally go through another person to get the d, whereas this was a jump. Secondly, many people involved with those bids have not spoken up. The discussion has instead been centered around the opinions of those unaffected by the spectacle of injury. I have had the chance to reach out to Jenny Wei and discuss the incident with her. I appreciate her talking with me and I look forward to a spirited face off in the future. However, before we as a community jump into widespread public discussions about dangerous bids, let's hear first from the players involved, and then bring it to the larger community. Isn't that how any call on the field is made? 

Jenny Wei is an amazing defender. She is a vocal deep deep that commands the entire field. She boxed me out cleanly and got to the disc first. She's a solid handler who, upon the turn, moves the disc quickly to her upfield cutters to increase the effectiveness of the All Star junky d. To future opponents, watch out! To young players, watch her over and over again. She knows great strategy for us to learn from.  

So let them play the clip of me running into JWei and breaking my leg. Let them see the angles and the camera shots and let Ultiworld do their job of objectively reporting newsworthy events. Anybody who plays elite ultimate knows, it's not about how you fall, it's about how you rise. I consider myself the luckiest girl in the world to rise with an incredible team behind me - huge shoutout to my teammates on Nightlock! I also am extremely lucky to play in a community of inspirational and courageous women who have reached out to me to share their support over the past couple days. And lastly, being called a star from the All Stars themselves makes me truly feel like a shooting star. 

So let them play the clip. That's not important to me. Bones heal. I will do my best to recover quickly because I got to play against the speed of Jesse Shofner, the throws of Stevie Miller, the layouts of Claire Revere, and the defense of Jenny Wei. I cannot think of any more of a reason to heal fast than to see these incredible women again on the field. If Ultiworld decides to first post a video of me breaking my leg rather than the incredible plays that make me want to be an elite athlete in the first place, then that's an independent news decision they have made.  

Let them play the clip. Let this bid get added to the list of dangerous plays in the world of sports that can be found anywhere on the Internet. Let them attempt to distract the phenomenal force of women in ultimate by talking about this injury and not the talent present at the event where it happened.

This is a big week for elite ultimate as the best teams in the women's division face off this weekend at Colorado Cup, where 14 of the 16 teams present are coming off seasons that ended at nationals. I wish Nightlock and the rest of the teams the best of luck! Play hard. Play spirited. Play your game. Let them play the clip, and I'll see you on the field real soon. 

 Photo: Kyle MCBARD - UltiPhotos

Photo: Kyle MCBARD - UltiPhotos

She's a Star.

 Photo Credit: Kyle MCBARD - UltiPhotos

Photo Credit: Kyle MCBARD - UltiPhotos

Our hearts are with Nightlock’s Laurel Oldershaw after her unfortunate injury in our game last night. Elite athletes and role models like Laurel are what make this sport special. After a fantastic two games in the Bay Area, we're off to our next community, but we will bring Laurel's good spirit and excellent athleticism with us. She’s a Star. 

We wish her the best of luck in her recovery, but if you know Laurel, she will bounce right back with a smile on her face and a determination to get right back into the sport she knows and loves.

Thank you to everyone in the community that is displaying positive support for her, and thank you for the outpouring of good thoughts from individuals and organizations alike. 

 All-Stars and Nightlock post game huddle. 

All-Stars and Nightlock post game huddle. 

You All Better Believe It

I learned a new cheer on Tour, it goes, “I’m a star, you’re a star, you’re a star, we’re all stars!” The more I cheered this cheer, the more I looked up at the people I was cheering for, the more I saw what the All Star Ultimate Tour embodied.

 Jenny Wei - Tino Tran Photography

Jenny Wei - Tino Tran Photography

I’m a star. A general trend for women in athletics is to be humble at all times. Even the players on this Tour, myself included, often feel awkward referring to ourselves as “stars.” But the funny thing is, we all consider each other “stars.” Every day I am star struck at the chance to be in a van and on the field with national and world champions, Callahan nominees, and leaders of women in ultimate in their respective communities. But while I’m busy being a total fan-girl, I am encouraged by my teammates that I’m also here, and that they are also excited to play with me. So, I want to be unapologetically confident and be proud that I am a star.

You’re a star. When we do this cheer, we point to our amazing fans and supporters in the crowd. We proudly tell them that they are stars. The crowd that comes to support their local team and the players on the Tour reminds me of those who have personally supported me for so many years. Those who have invested their time and effort into my growth as a person and a player. The people who made this tour possible. These people are my stars. I can’t even express the amount of support I have felt so far by my stars; it feels like all of North Carolina, and everyone I have ever met on the ultimate field is happy for me and wants the best for me and this Tour. Every day, my teammates and friends in NC are working relentlessly to spread our mission by hosting watch parties - open to the public, supporting the Tour financially, being unbelievably active on every social media platform, and sending me all kinds of encouragement. My stars push me forward and inspire me every day. You are stars!

We’re all stars. This Tour means so many different things to me, and half the time, I still can’t even believe that I’m a part of it. I am so grateful to be 1/17 th of this awesome movement, and I want to empower others while on Tour. We are all stars, and you all better believe it!

Dear Serena: A Letter from Champions to a Champion

 Photo credit:  Jimmy Baikovicius

Photo credit: Jimmy Baikovicius

Dear Serena,

Thank you for being you. Thank you for how you speak out, how you radiate confidence, how you fight – for how you win. You embody the strength of will and character that we, the women in ultimate, strive to be.

We too, are champions, athletes, advocates, change-makers in our own sport. Ultimate individuals, teams and organizations are taking big steps in promoting discussion and actions around gender equity.  The All-Star Ultimate Tour (a cross country tour of games between the best athletes in our sport, with the mission to promote women in ultimate) produced a feature length documentary that is making waves in ultimate.  Its message is universal though. The All-Star Ultimate Tour Documentary examines the difference in how gender affects the way we value athletes. If you have some time, check out this film. It is one of many efforts in our community to open up the conversation and fight for equity in our sport.

We admire how you rise to every occasion, how you train, how you dominate, how you are unapologetically the best. Ultimate players look up to you as an example of one of the best who stands for what should be a given, equality.

We hope you enjoy the film (linked here)!

XOXO

Women in Ultimate

Media update!

The All-Star Ultimate Tour is excited to bring you coverage of our showcase games in each city along our way. We'll be working with Luke Johnson of Fulcrum Media to bring a two-camera, slow motion replay, graphics, and commentary viewing experience. 

We couldn't be more excited to work with Luke who has such an incredible background with ultimate media and a history of supporting #womeninultimate.

Hope you'll tune in and follow along our media coverage this All-Star Ultimate Tour, 2016 edition!

**Please note that Vancouver and Raleigh are not confirmed at this time.

 Luke Johnson

Luke Johnson

 

 

Redemption Tour

We could have been great. That’s what I keep coming back to. We had all the pieces: phenomenal players, an incredible history of winning, experience at nearly every level of play, captains that knew how to get gold, a goal to not only be the best but to be so undeniably. This, even more so than years before, was our year. It was our final year; our victory lap. It was the 5th season of a long, hard, and inspired run for us, a final push that would cement our legacy before we passed it onto the next generation. It was the end and it was going to be beautiful.

But we were plagued by wrongs. Fugue 2016 never found its swing. As our beloved rain gave way to Stanford’s sun, we watched our chance at our dream bafflingly slip away. For the first time in my career I experienced the college national championship from the bleachers instead of the field. In the days that followed I drowned in frustration, confusion, anger, and most of all, heartbreak. The sport and the team that had taught me so much of who I have become--hard  work, fight, buy in--took it all away and left me broken and reeling.

The All-Star Ultimate Tour 2016 feels like a second chance. I can’t rewrite the ending of my college career; unfortunately that chapter is closed, but I can write a new chapter. This could be a redemption tour. It could, once more, be a chance to reach for greatness, to lift my teammates up, to define success in groundbreaking ways. And it provides something new too, an opportunity to play with new stakes, as part of a movement of utmost importance. Suddenly I saw a new light and found a way to feel inspired again. Dreams and drive edged their way in once more. Redemption Tour 2016 here I come.

But it's not just a redemption tour for me. It's for all of us. It’s time we reimagine the future of women in ultimate. The tour is an opportunity to demonstrate and celebrate our strength, passion, and viability as athletes and as leaders. This sport can break your heart but it can grow it too. I've already written some of my story but together we get to write the future. I’m ready for the next chapter. Welcome back, dreams.


-Alex Ode

An Even Bigger Step

It was early this past April. Scrolling through Twitter, I read an Ultiworld notification about an article gleaming, “San Francisco FlameThrowers to Host Women’s All-Star Game.” I instantly racked my brain for an explanation; was the All-Star Tour happening again?? As I read the article, this feeling began to erupt in me. A feeling of pride and giddy excitement. It was real - a reverberation of the previous summer’s All-Star Tour. The Bay area women gained support from far more than just their immediate community. They had succeeded in promoting their event nation-wide, gaining support and resources from their local professional team, and then live-streamed the event for all to see. Reviving  the excitement of the 2015 All-Star Ultimate Tour,  they fed the flame of a conversation about providing women higher opportunities in ultimate. This is an obstacle not easily overcome. And I know this because it is an obstacle that Kansas City is tackling as we speak.

Last summer the Kansas City women’s club team, KC Wicked, partnered with Kansas City Ultimate, a long-standing recreational organization. This was our second year as a club team. KCU offered a large amount of support to our team in terms of finances and other forms of support such as gatorade and equipment at practice. In return, Wicked helped to recruit sponsors for the league, set up fields for summer league and the league tournament, and assisted with the youth clinics offered by KCU. One extraordinary opportunity KCU offered to Wicked was the chance to play a showcase game during one of the league nights late in the summer. KCU asked that teams play to 11 rather than 15 so everyone would have the chance to watch the showcase game while enjoying complimentary beverages. 

 Kansas City Wicked

Kansas City Wicked

The showcase game hadn’t even started before I heard grumbles of the games being capped early. People voiced their frustration, having paid a fee to play a guaranteed number of games throughout the summer, and here they were getting cut short just to watch a scrimmage by the local women’s team. Yes, there was a large number of people who greatly supported the game and cheered us on, but the weight of the complaints, and heckles for "hammers" brought down the level of competition. It didn't quite live up to my personal expectations.

But often times, it’s failure that drives re-evaluation. Where KC was not as successful, we can take from examples, like the Bay area showcase, that were successful. KC Wicked will most definitely have another showcase game this year. We have more experience and more support than last year on our side, and have extended the effort to the men’s and mixed teams of KC to include them as well. My hope is that the Kansas City ultimate community will learn that this showcase is more than just a message to local women/players that there’s a team for them. This showcase is one way we’re contributing to the conversation of gender equality in athletics. This is a small step in the right direction. So, this year, let's make it an even bigger step. 

 Photo: ultiphotos paul rutherford

Photo: ultiphotos paul rutherford

All-Star Ultimate Tour 2016

In 2015, the All-Star Ultimate Tour traveled from Seattle to Boston, stopping in nine major cities across the country and playing in showcase games against the country's premier women's club teams. In addition to the strong viewership online and in person, we had over a half a million interactions with the community surrounding the Tour.  

The All-Star Ultimate Tour shone the spotlight on some of the premiere college-aged female athletes, Alika Johnston, Hannah Leathers, Lisa Pitcaithley, Qxhna Titcomb, Jesse Shofner, as well as the host team's outstanding players, Lauren Sadler, Catherine Hui, Kelly Hansen, Octavia Payne, etc. to create strong female role models for the next generation of ultimate players. 

Photo: UltiPhotos Pete Guion

With the number of hours of footage covering men's ultimate increasing and so many venues for men to compete in, the tour was one way for our community to support female athletes and women in ultimate. 

Gender inequality is a reality. This project is a step in the right direction for our sport, and we hope that the empowerment it facilitates reverberates beyond the ultimate community and plays a part in the global movement for gender equity. 

The All-Star Ultimate Tour is excited to capture the attention of the ultimate world once again in 2016. We are in a prime position to capitalize on the momentum from many of the exciting things happening for women in ultimate leading up to this moment. For 2016, we are working hard to increase our impact and to lead the way in shaping the future of sports.

 

Stay tuned for more announcements by liking us on Facebook and following us on Twitter!  

I Decide

 

“Small opportunities are often the beginning of great enterprises.” Demosthenes

At the conclusion of WU23UC, I felt like I was in pieces. I was recovering from a multitude of minor injuries, I was exhausted, and my team and I had just lost the bronze medal match. All I wanted was to go home to everything that was me in real life. When I was asked to join the All-Star Tour, I knew within two minutes that I wanted to join this team. I had been dreaming of a chance to travel the USA while playing with the best clubs teams (including some of my heroes) for years, and as a high level Australian player, I believe that it is my duty to continually improve. Within six hours, I had decided that it was possible for me to go on the tour if I stretched my resources and did some serious injury management. After two hours, I had decided it was worth that stretch. Another 10 hours later, I had locked in my new plans to fly to the USA in exactly a week.

Due to the  timing of the trip, I put many things that I care about in Australia in jeopardy, but it’s the choice I had to make to get a shot at my dreams. A close friend of mine actually said to me that it was an achievement just to be invited in the tour, but I disagree;, just to be invited would have been nothing, a non-event;, the opportunity was possible, so I had to do it. In my limited life experience, I have come to believe that great opportunities are never perfect, but you have to take them anyway.

I have been playing ultimate for seven years, but I have never played as well as I have in the last few months. In fact, for the first few years of my playing ultimate, it seemed as if I wasn’t even going to be a talented player. I don’t feel like I have been working any harder than I did before, but the difference is that I have been expanding where and when I play. In 2014, I was given the opportunity to attend Kaimana in Hawaii and the World Ultimate Club Championships with a team I had never played with before. Now in 2015, I managed to make the Australian Under 23 Women’s team and the All-Star Ultimate Tour team. These amazing adventures are linked and each would not have happened without the other.

These opportunities have exposed me to so many high-level, high-pressure ultimate games that I have improved so much without even realizing it. I am suddenly saying yes to every throwing session, training session, game, or piece of advice anyone is willing to give. It shows. Usually, I would only get a chance to be filmed playing ultimate maybe once a year, and now I have been filmed playing nine times against the best in ultimate. You can bet I will be analysing and re-analysing those games over and over when I get home.

I have just finished playing my last game of the 2015 All-Star Tour, and I’m still not satisfied with how I have played. However, that doesn’t matter. The wise Opi Payne told me that when we mess up, we have to look forward and, see what’s next. The next step for me is to share what I have learned on this tour with my friends and teammates world-wide. If I had any advice for young athletes, it would be to take every opportunity. Every time someone asks you to throw, train, play or gives you advice, take it. Opportunities come big and small, imperfectly and sometimes fleetingly. Ypou have to seize them and learn all you can from them.

23 days ago, I met Qxhna Titcomb. 17 days ago, I joined a team of 17 amazing athletes. 1 day ago, I played the last game I will play during the most amazing experience of my life. I have met thousands of passionate ultimate fans and people that I normally would never meet. I met them as part of a huge community I am extremely proud to call myself a part of. I have achieved new goals and records. I have learned styles of play that I haven’t understood before, and I have been inspired by hundreds of new friends. Finally, I have learned the power of my decisions. 

Perspectives of a Worldly Tourist

For a large number of us on the tour, this summer has consisted of an unusual amount of ultimate. Just last month, eleven out of seventeen of us competed at the U23 World Championships in London, eight of whom brought home a silver medal with me in a disappointing loss but well-fought match with the Japanese women. After competing in U23 Worlds two years ago, I learned that such an incredible experience, not to mention the recoil after coming short of the placement goal, requires a large amount of mental and emotional energy to fully decompress and process everything that occurred. During this particular summer, there was only one week between Worlds and the tour, so there was not enough time for that to happen. In some ways, the two experiences have blended and grown together in my mind, as if they are two parts in one experience with the same overarching goal.

It’s fun to imagine Worlds and this tour as a six-week long summer camp; when it comes down to it, that’s essentially what it is. Having the opportunity to meet awesome and new people, form friendships, and play some of the best ultimate we will play in our lives is nothing to overlook. Between the two experiences, there have been numerous jokes, giggles, dance parties, and late night conversations you live for. Not to mention, playing on teams that are so short-lived sparks an amazing team energy that is sustainable the entire time. I didn’t know I could love doing warm ups as much as I have this summer. I believe that through these experiences I have grown a tremendous amount both on and off the field, and will carry forth many tidbits from all the amazing people I have met along the way.

There are definitely differences between Worlds and the tour as well. Worlds was more structured, which makes sense based on the experience and nature of the tournament, while the tour requires much more self-sufficiency. In the same vein, it’s interesting to transition from a style of ultimate where there is something to lose, verses playing with nothing to lose. That concept has been one of the major mental transitions which the Worlds players have had to face. It’s not to say that one style is better or worse than the other, but the transition itself has been quite fascinating.

There are certain components associated with that transition. In the beginning of the tour, it was difficult to comprehend how we would be able to come together as a team without the extensive playbooks, training sessions, and coaching that we had just a week earlier. Although we are all competitive athletes and want to win games, the mentality going into the first game against Riot was about having fun and playing with nothing to lose. There were no expectations leading into the experience, and it was really exhilarating to jump in blind.

On the other hand, in every game at Worlds, there was something on the line. I don’t think that mentality dictated our everyday actions, as the vibes were always light and fun. For the most part, that’s how we approached the games as well - having fun with teammates, dancing on the sideline, being goofballs in general. I think that rather than the team creating a mentality of playing with something to lose, the mentality was created by the environment and teams that surrounded us. Playing against the various countries always reminded me that it wasn’t a normal tournament and I was playing on a world stage.

Seeing as the opportunity to win a gold medal doesn’t come around often, I would say that on some level, this did influence my mindset towards playing with something to lose. I’d like to think that I should approach every game I play as if there is nothing to lose, but it’s difficult to forget about the overarching goal of winning a gold medal when you are there to represent the USA. The pressure in those high level games is exhilarating and is why we all play the sport. But, there is also something to be said for playing to have fun and showcase the sport. In many ways, I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive, which is another reason why the transition has been so fascinating.

Losing in the finals at Worlds was rough. It still makes my heart sink to go back to the moment on the field when I saw that final Japanese pass go up to win the world championship. With that said, it’s also not fun or easy to lose games on the tour. The same feelings of disappointment and wanting to give more were just as vivid for me after losing to Traffic and Molly Brown on the tour.

However, something that we continually remind ourselves and our opponents on this tour is that win or lose, each game is a win for women’s ultimate.  The more I thought about that, the more I realized that the biggest similarity between Worlds and the tour is so subtle but extremely important. In the end, it’s about the overarching goal: raising the level of women’s ultimate. As hard as losing to Japan was for my team, women’s ultimate took one large step forward that day in the same way that each game on this tour is one step forward for women’s ultimate. Both these experiences have meant a great deal to me and have helped me grow immensely on an individual level. It’s even more surreal to think that my six-week adventure has helped women’s ultimate grow just as much.

Additional Thoughts about the AST Spiking Conversation

Before our game against Philadelphia Green Means Go this past Sunday, as a team, the All-Stars decided to institute new scoring celebrations. Maintaining energy after travel and little sleep was proving difficult, and we felt the need to infuse some new energy into our play. If you were unable to catch the game, these celebrations included the following: joyful spikes, acting out “tourist” activities by taking “photos” of one another, riding a ‘bus’ around the field, and taking our signature ‘Slim selfie’ after scoring goals.

Post-game, conversations about the spirit and integrity of these actions began both amongst our team and the media. Certain All-Star players felt that our celebrations were un-spirited and compromised our overarching goal as a tour. We received texts and emails from esteemed teammates and friends who were concerned with our actions, and a few critiques via twitter and other social media. Side conversations among the Stars ensued, creating what felt like our first contention as a team.

Prior to our game against New York Bent last night, leadership and I called a team meeting to address these issues. We framed the meeting as an open-floor discussion, and live tweeted individual thoughts from our Twitter handle (@AllStarUlti) in order to be transparent with tour followers.

The players’ spectrum of opinions became apparent very quickly. On one end, some were concerned that the spikes and excessive celebrations (mostly due to length) were disrespectful to the other team. And that in addition, they had detracted from organic, heart-felt congratulations to our teammates post scoring.

Others offered a contrary perspective—if men spike and celebrate, shouldn’t be able to do the same without criticism? Those of this opinion felt that the celebrations performed were for us -- that their purpose was to celebrate each other.  They proposed that actions were within spirit of the game, which was defined as upholding integrity on the field, and challenging and respecting our opponents.  

After addressing these two ends of the spectrum, we conferred mid-range pros and cons. We discussed the light-hearted intentions of the celebrations, stating that they came from a good place and hoping that GMG felt the same. I personally mentioned the importance of body language, and making sure that our behavior was celebratory rather than aggressive. Others addressed that although our intentions were good, it may have come across differently to our followers and to the other team. And that more importantly, it put some of our teammates in an uncomfortable position.

In search of a common ground, we concluded a plan of action moving forward. The team committed to taking less time with celebrations, reserving fun celebrations for huge plays, and to making sure that celebrating each other was our priority.

I concluded the meeting by addressing that because we come from different places and different ultimate cultures, our opposition on the topic is inevitable. And that is ok. Bringing different female ultimate cultures together is a large part of what makes this tour so incredible. That being said, with a fairly open mission statement—“to promote women in ultimate”—we as the All-Star Tour acknowledge our responsibility to promote women in the sport while maintaining respect and integrity for our teammates and our opponents. While there was no absolute conclusion to our meeting, we do feel that the differing opinions on our team represent a larger spectrum of opinions on the issue. If so inclined, we encourage you to continue our conversation by posting below. Some questions we still have are: are women held to a different standard with spirit of the game? If so, what actions can be taken to ensure that we are working towards a more balanced standard? Is spiking the disc and/or celebrating with positive intentions spirited, and why?  Let’s keep the conversation going.

The Gift

Before I started chasing plastic, I used to spend my time chasing pavement.

In high school, running competitively was my life, and I spent my freshman year at UCLA training to walk on the D1 cross country and track teams. Exhausted and longing to be a part of a team, I quit training and was lucky to find a new (and greater) passion in ultimate. However, a few things from my high-mileage days still resonate with me now.

One of them is a quote from track legend Steve Prefontaine: "To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift."

To me, ultimate seems like a gift. When training with the UCLA team, I never felt as though I was truly a part of the team. I was only able to train with the other runners one day a week. They were D1 athletes who were attending UCLA in part to run with the team, and I was just an outsider who had set her sights to making the team.

When I heard about ultimate at a club fair, I was frustrated and exhausted with cross country and track, and ultimate seemed like an opportunity to get involved in a different athletic activity. I went to a practice and almost instantly fell in love with Bruin Ladies Ultimate. My UCLA BLU teammates made me feel so welcomed and helped me stay passionate about the game. In turn, I wanted to give my best to them -- to grind through workouts, to sacrifice my body on the field, and to support them in their ultimate and non-ultimate related endeavors. I wish I had the time to give more. BLU and ultimate overall has taught me so many things about life, taken me to places I’d never thought I’d go, and introduced me to people that nothing else could, and I am forever grateful for that.

Since the beginning of this tour, Prefontaine’s phrase has resurfaced in my mind. Being a part of a project like the All-Star Ultimate Tour really does feel like a gift. There's no doubt that all the individuals on this team have worked hard to become the players we are today. Even then, the tour is the result of something far greater than any one person. It is in every essence a community effort. From the thousands of dollars contributed to the Indiegogo campaign, to the families that opened up their homes to us, to the fans who've watched our games in person and on the stream, to the crew who ensures quality of broadcast, to the volunteers who help us keep this show on the road, and to those of you reading this, the support has been incredible. The tour and its mission and values are working, and it wouldn't be possible without all these components.

As players, we're grateful for the fantastic opportunity to represent women in ultimate. And with that opportunity comes an inherent responsibility to give our best for all those who watch and support us. There's something about playing with hundreds of people in the stands - especially young girls - that makes you want to leave it all out on the field. So to all the people who make this gift possible and inspire us to give nothing less than our best, I think I speak for the entirety of the team when I say thank you so very much.