Leading with Positivity

First year making Stanford Superfly. Sophomore year. 5th place of Southwest Regionals to go to Nationals against Santa Barbara. I didn't play very many points back then, so I definitely felt like I had to prove myself by working really hard on the field. I was matched up on a cutter wearing a visor and a brown ponytail who was about my size and speed. I was playing pretty tight defense on her and was with her when she planted for her deep cut. The throw went up. I didn't think she would get it, and I hesitated to bid. She bid, caught the disc, and scored off of the possession. I walked off the field, and Coach Robin said, "Slim, you had that. You could have bid!" I knew she was right. I was disappointed in myself for not bidding.

I remember this point so vividly because in the end, we won this gritty game and a spot to go to Nationals. But also, this was the first game where I felt emotionally invested in ultimate.

When I was growing up, I would shy away from competition because I was scared of failing, but during this game, I felt the rush of adrenaline and the competitive spirit as a player. The summer after this college season, I would run sprint practices on my own to get faster, take any opportunity to play more ultimate to improve my ultimate IQ, throw every day, and reach out to ultimate players that I looked up to who would be willing to fill my brain with all the knowledge that it could absorb.

Although it sounds like my mind was set right off the bat, I had my fair share of struggles. I also intensely remember College Nationals 2012 - Superfly vs. UBC. I was a rookie cutter put in on my first point on D, and I was focused and ready do everything possible to play great defense and take away the under. I marked up on my opponent, took away the under, and got roasted deep. They scored in three passes. My eyes started tearing up, my body language was dejected, and I had the feeling that I wouldn't be playing much of that game. I let this point instill a lack of confidence in my game. I let this point get to my head and be a hindrance to my performance on the field.

It took me awhile to realize that ultimate is way more than just how I play on the field. Being hard on myself wouldn’t necessarily help the whole team in the moment of a game. However, reliving moments like this outside of tournaments were - and are still - a great source of motivation. On the field during a big game, only so many players can be on the field at a time. But, just because you aren’t playing doesn’t mean that you stop being involved; the role you should take is simply a little different. As a teammate, you can talk to players on the field about where the threats are on the field, you can bring your teammates water, you can encourage your teammates to keep on grinding on defense, you can celebrate when your teammates do cool things, you can rush the field and high five your teammates even when you are scored on, and more. All of these things are a huge part of ultimate.

Every time I come home with my voice half gone, my dad tells me, “Steph, don’t yell so much. It will ruin your voice.” I tell him okay, but deep inside, I know that this is part of my ultimate game, and being the best teammate that I can be means that I will continue to use my voice to support my team.

I've been so lucky to have played on so many supportive, positive teams. Superfly’s culture is all smiles and positivity. When you make a mistake, your teammates trust you to get it back on defense and do better next time. BW, a South-Bay mixed team, gave me endless support and a great community to thrive as a new player. Nightlock is up and up and up. GRIT all day. Fury is Every Fury Any Fury.

Some people have commented about my energy on the field. Lou Burress recently wrote an article recapping this past College Nationals Superfly vs. Fugue game, and attributed my energy as a contributing component to Superfly’s success. Teammates occasionally ask me where my endless energy on the field comes from; when I reflect on this, I think about my favorite parts of all the amazing teams that I've played on. I think about all the amazing people who have left lasting impressions on what kind of player I strive to be. I think about what kind of team I want to play on.

I want to be part of a team that rushes the field because they want to celebrate the great things - little or big - that they do on and off the field. I want to be part of the team that will pick me up when I make a mistake and trust that I will do better next time. I think that if I want to be part of a positive team, if I want to have teammates that will pick me up, I have to take on the responsibility to bring that positivity myself. I have to take the responsibility to pick myself up in tough situations. To some, mustering up energy to yell and pump people up can be difficult and draining, but for me, it's a fun and huge part of the game. I love creating that unifying team energy on the field. Positive vibes, smiles, and high fives are contagious. I love showing the other team that my team stays up no matter what the score is. One of my favorite things to do is make eye contact and high five a teammate. I know that this might not work for everyone, but I'm happy to find that it works to keep my spirits and confidence up.

I recently read a quote in a book that said, "People tend to be who they want to be." This quote excites me because it tells me that I have the power to be who I want to be if I just decide that I want it. For me, I want to be the best player that I can be, but if in the moment, I can't be the best player, I want to be the best teammate that I can be.

I’m grateful to have competed with the WU23 team in London. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to live the ultimate life and travel across the country to play and promote women’s ultimate. It’s been an invaluable experience, and I can’t wait for more to come.

While I’m at it, I want to thank everyone who has supported me and given me the strength to believe in this quote and believe in myself. I want to thank the ultimate community for providing a space of genuinely accepting and supportive people. It means a lot to me!

One For the Dreamers

I remember when the NexGen Tour came to Seattle. It was the summer of 2011; I was going to be a high school freshman next fall, and I’d been playing ultimate for 4 seasons. I was just about as in love as any middle schooler can be with ultimate. Naturally, if there was a showcase game of this magnitude right in my hometown, there was no way I was going to miss it.

The game was electric. Big stadium, chanting crowd, the turf glowing under the lights and the players glittering with exertion and lighting up from the energy of the night. I don’t remember who won, but I remember I was entranced. This was before pro ultimate, there was rarely a chance to see elite ultimate in a setting like this. This was it -- this was the dream.

As two of my friends and I made our way back to the car in the darkness after the game, we saw the NexGen bus parked outside the gate. Boosting each other up, we could look through the windows at the darkened interior, and feel a little of the thrill of the epic tour for ourselves. We all agreed, fervently, that when we were a little older, and bigger, and faster, playing for the tour would be the coolest thing ever. But even as we said good night, a hot little thought slipped from the back of my mind down to the pit of my stomach; unlike my male friends, I would never -- no matter how good I got, no matter how hard I worked -- have a chance to play for the NexGen tour.

Diving into that thought opens a whole slew of disempowering assumptions. One of the most basic was the belief -- in a 14-year-old female athlete -- that no one wants to watch women’s sports. Who would come watch? Who would support it? This tour -- in big ways and little moments -- has changed that assumption for me.

The initial KickStarter campaign exploded, making more money faster than anyone thought was possible, and exceeding our goal by almost $10,000 (I just had to double check that number because I couldn’t believe it). To kick off the tour, more than 500 people came out to watch us play Riot. That was just the start; each of our live streams has attracted hundreds of viewers. People are tweeting about us, and writing articles about our games. Last night, in Colorado, we had the opportunity to play for a big audience of Coloradans and ultimate players from all divisions. Sadles’ catch made the ESPN Sportscenter Top 10, and Lisa P’s layout vs Molly Brown was also featured on ESPN, ranking number 8.

I have taken two important messages from the tour so far. For everyone who loves to watch and is working to grow, support and showcase women’s ultimate: you are not alone. And to all the girls watching from the stands: you can live your dreams, too.

Revived

This team is saving my sanity and rebooting my love for this beautiful sport. It’s the first time in a long while in which there is nothing to lose. I’ve found it’s an interesting space to move through in a situation as unique as this opportunity. It comes down to what the end goal is, I think. If you came to me two months ago and asked what I’d hope to get out of my college season, I’d tell you it was to win a National title. With that goal comes an outstanding amount of pressure, right? High stakes, high reward, little room to work with. I’ve been reminded recently that winning is only one aspect of the game that should be focused on. It’s been a liberating experience to get to run out on the field and not have to worry about the outcome. If you came to me, today, with the same question of what I hope to get out of this tour, I’d tell you with full honesty that my goal is what has been ingrained in our mission statement- to showcase the best women in ultimate.

It’s an absolute privilege being able to play along side these women. It’s rare to come into a team atmosphere that has such a high level of trust and respect for each other right off the bat. I feel that with teams of this sort, the kind in which we have no background of practicing or creating a team identity for months together, feel fake and forced. The All Star team doesn’t feel anything like that. It feels natural to be playing and hanging out with the players on this team. It feels like we’ve been together for a whole season. I think it, again, comes down to sharing a common goal. We’re all willing to step up and be responsible for the incredible history that’s being made.

Around every corner, I’m still surprised with how much people are willing to give to make this Tour go about with ease. Even the people on this tour with us, working behind the scenes to pull this project off, have given so much. Like today, we found ourselves pulling over almost every hour, maybe even less, to let van cool off a bit - our van has an engine that loves the attention from our handy man, Xtehn. It was especially touchy, seeing as it was 100 degrees outside and we needed to go up in elevation to get through Oregon. At the rate we were going, who knows where we would have been by now. The players are now all piled into the trailer-less van, cruising our way through the flat bare lands in the middle of nowhere.  Our crew was nice enough to bite the bullet and get the other van, aka the sauna on wheels, through the hills. The adaptability was on point and the support was even more incredible. It’s a real breath of fresh air witnessing such selflessness through out this experience so far.

Adapting to the Differences

Yesterday night, we played Vancouver Traffic. The feeling of yesterday’s game was very different from Monday's, for a lot of expected reasons. The venue was located at a park, not in a stadium. The crowd was older; there was no elementary school league using the field before us who then stayed to watch. Traffic was also more unknown to us, so there was a lack of scouting because we weren't matching up against our close friends and teammates.

But, it was still an amazing game of ultimate nonetheless. 

Traffic threw some zone at us, and it was really cool to observe how our team was able to collaborate and come up with a strategy that helped us fight back in the second half. 

Something else stood out to my teammates and me were the amazing volunteers who helped us from the minute we got there until the minute we left. It made us feel welcome and emphasized the incredible support that ultimate communities have to offer. To all volunteers -- thank you so much.

One of the biggest takeaways from this game was the realization that each city is going to be very different from the last. Everything from the venues, crowd, opponents, style of play, and weather is going to vary so much. Learning how to mentally overcome these differences is a challenge that our team will face. Although we lost our game tonight, we have learned so much about ourselves and what this experience is going to be like. We have just arrived at the venue in Portland, and I'm excited to see what Schwa has in store. 

One down.

Yesterday was legendary.

Seattle is a beautiful and vibrant city, and the sun was shining! Many of us shared a relaxing morning at the Titcomb household, exploring Lake Sammamish via canoe and having communal journal time before loading up the van and heading to Seattle Center.

We kicked off the tour with a game against Seattle Riot, right under the Space Needle. The venue was awesome, and the crowd was exhilarating. There was some worry about our chemistry and flow before the game – we had only practiced once and some of us met the others only hours before the game. As evidenced in our play, we were ready for the challenge. We stuck to flexible but structured O and D lines throughout the game, and we designated play-callers to lead on-field discussion. It was a remarkable game with breaks early (and late) on both sides. 

Every time we scored, it was so exciting. Playing with a group of amazingly talented young women, most of whom I haven't gotten to know particularly well, led to some really cool surprises (and pride) while watching from the sideline. We played a good game, and it could have gone either way. It definitely wasn't what I expected... We won. 

While the game was unforgettable, there were some other incredible things that happened. Just before warmups, our game field was being used by an elementary school league. I was surprised by the large number of kids, as well as the level of play. They actually understood the rules and had pretty good disc skills! Though watching the league and playing competitively against Riot was unforgettable, the coolest part of the day arguably occurred after the game. Fans from the stands flooded the field; lots of young girls asked for signatures on discs, hats, jerseys. Some came to watch us play - many of them players themselves – wanted to learn after watching our game. While I could hear the fans during the game, it was great to meet a few of them afterward and thank them for watching and supporting our mission. 

Thank you to everyone who watched at the stadium and at home! 

Day 1: So it begins.

For the last couple of days, All-Stars have been trickling into Seattle, meeting each other for the first (or fiftieth) time and collectively becoming too excited for the tour to do anything but talk (and giggle) about the next three weeks. 

The weekend activities have included eating, sleeping, shopping for van decorations, and last but not least: our first (and only) practice as a team!!

If I had to describe the practice in one word, it would be wet.

However, the rain didn’t stop us from learning a crash course in the team offense and defense we will be running. Rohre Titcomb, who led our practice with Mike Lawler, had a valid point when she warned us the short practice might leave us feeling dissatisfied…

There were miscues, miscommunications, and silly weather related mishaps.

However, I don’t feel dissatisfied. Not in the slightest.

I feel so unbelievably excited and lucky to be a part of this project. Getting to play with the athletes I’ve matched against all through college is such a rare experience, and I cannot wait to do it every day on this tour. Although our first practice didn’t go perfectly, I’m not worried. The chemistry will come. The team will come together, and grow together.


So far, I’ve spent less than 24 hours with these girls, and I already love them all.

And so it begins:

Riot tomorrow, Traffic Tuesday, and Schwa Wednesday!


Dori 

All-Star Ultimate Tour partners with E.R.I.C.

The All-Star Ultimate Tour is excited to announce a partnership with Early Recognition Is Critical to elevate the quality of live streaming that will be accompanying the Tour. The All-Star Ultimate Tour recognizes E.R.I.C. as aligned with the same mission of promoting women in ultimate.

E.R.I.C in association with your community contributions and E.R.I.C co-founder Jim Gerescener and NexGen founder Kevin Minderhout’s new joint venture will be underwriting free broadcasts of all nine All-Star Tour games.

Show your appreciation for ERIC giving them a Facebook like to let them know you want to see more projects like this.

Broadcasts will now feature all the things we’ve come to expect of a professionally produced product including multiple camera angles, replays and expert commentary.

We cannot promote women’s ultimate without sharing it, so we’ll be releasing the embed code for the video player and encouraging organizations to embed the live-stream directly into their homepages.

Of course everyone can conveniently watch free at www.allstarultimatetour.com.

We are beyond excited for the support of E.R.I.C in helping us bring YOU the All-Star Ultimate Tour.

We are Ambassadors

Alongside several other All-Star players, I am currently in Chicago training for the U23 Ultimate World Championships next week in London. I am playing on the women’s team with Slim, Stevie, Cuz, Alika, Shof, and Jaclyn. Qxhna and Lisa are playing on the mixed team. While we have talked as a women’s team about how much of an impact we can have on young players and that we are ambassadors of our sport, last night was the first time this connection really showed itself to me.

After another long day of training, last night I checked my facebook and I had a message from a young woman from the Philippines explaining that I am a positive role model for her, that she has seen videos of the U19 team in Dublin and my play stuck out to her. The message made me really happy, I couldn’t stop smiling and it really encourages me to keep playing fearlessly and spreading our sport to other women throughout the world.

Our sport is amazing in so many ways. Through ultimate I have improved my communication skills, organization, leadership ability, fitness, confidence and adaptability. I love the simple nature of the sport, being able to set up cones wherever there is space, not needing an outside perspective to make calls, teaching players of all ages and abilities. Ultimate is probably the only sport I know that can be played at a competitive level for a majority of a person’s lifetime. As it continues to grow, I hope that we can keep the game simple and spirited, encouraging play at all levels. From pick-up and league play, college and club, to masters and grandmasters, men and women, boys and girls of all ages and abilities can grab a disc and work together.

Ultimate has had such an amazing and positive impact on my life and I am excited to be an ambassador as I travel to London and throughout the United States with the All-Star tour in the coming weeks. 

Play Like a Girl

I grew up on soccer…eating, sleeping, and waking to kick the ball around.

But when I started college at the University of Colorado I was totally burned out. I was on the hunt for a new sport to dive into.  

I went to the women’s ultimate Frisbee club team information meeting and immediately knew that my heart would belong to Kali for the next four years. I became obsessed with ultimate, maybe even to the point of addiction. I loved the sense of community, the spirit, and the game itself.

My obsession grew quickly. I would sit down to do homework and end up watching hours of ultimate Frisbee highlights and Callahan videos. I quickly collected a handful of players to idolize. I referred to them as  “The Gods of Ultimate”.  I admired their style of play, dissecting each perfected pivot and baited layout D. I tried to mimic their throwing form; I wanted to embody their swagger.

I talked about them as if they were celebrities…I probably would have asked for their autographs if I ever met them in person.

Interestingly enough…all of these players were men. If I had searched more thoroughly I surely would have discovered some female players to fan-girl over, but it was so much easier to access male athletes in ultimate. Female exposure simply didn’t exist in the same way.

Eventually, I added some phenomenal female ultimate players to my collection of “Ultimate Gods”. I saw them play at College and Club tournaments, and I was blown away by how fiercely they controlled the field and the pace of the game. But (and this is the part that makes me cringe the most) when I talked about these amazing women, I admired how they “played like guys”. I was referring to how accurately and quickly they moved the disc, how they made bold decisions and executed them with confidence, and how they played defense with unwavering aggression.

I want to change that. I want to show young aspiring athletes why these qualities should be attributed to “playing like a girl”.  I want to show how powerful female athletes are and how “playing like a girl” means playing with 100% heart, effort, grit, and dedication.

I hope this tour inspires the ultimate community to continue to push for the growth of women’s ultimate, raising the bar for the level of competition and the access to exposure. I hope this incredible display of women in ultimate gives young athletes a plethora of female “Gods of Ultimate” to chose as their idol. I hope this tour sparks the dreams of young athletes to “play like a girl”.

Paving the Dirt Road


I was 18 years old, hearing back from colleges, and likely going to a school without a team.

I was done. I spent 5 years playing the "alternative" sport in high school, begging any of the year round lax and volleyball girls to come out for frisbee. Tirelessly attempted to get even 7 girls out for practice, while simultaneously adoring our rag tag bunch. Frisbee was such a huge part of my life, I abandoned 4 other sports and theater, but I was exhausted. I couldn't do it anymore. 

But I constantly heard about the successes of Alison Douglas and Laura Masulis out of USN, I learned so much from Yusi Turell, Sara Gibson, Tobey Beaver...
 
I remember watching Georgia "Lebron" Bosscher's Callahan video for the first time, it made me want dreads. 

I remember watching Carolyn Finney's Callahan video with awe and pure desire to play on that level some day. 

I kept playing frisbee because of the inspirational women I was exposed to.

I visited the University of Oregon on a beautiful spring day. It happened to be Regionals weekend, and I loosely knew Sophie Darch but I was still super awkward. I began wandering around, and found myself gazing over the Willamette River on the Autzen Footbridge...That was the moment I decided that this was the place I needed to be. When I returned to Oregon in the fall, I joined a family called Fugue and was given the gift of competitive, athletic, and supportive women for friends. 

 Hayley Wahlroos Top 10 Sports Center play, 2014 College Nationals Semi-Finals.

Hayley Wahlroos Top 10 Sports Center play, 2014 College Nationals Semi-Finals.

Fast forward to 2014 College Nationals... 
In the moment, Hayley's Sports Center lay out grab was awesome because it was a break for Fugue in semis, but the bid was standard play. It was sick, but it was expected, she does it all the time. They caught it on ESPN - cool, but they just caught one of many. 

I am often given the opportunity to play on a big stage and with that opportunity comes the will to make our sport better. My hope is that the All-Star Ultimate Tour can breathe energy into youth girls' programs and players, to share with them the incredible community that is women in ultimate and to give them something to look up to. Youth girls' ultimate is unfortunately the lowest represented division in USAU, but it's producing the GRITIEST players. Youth girl players are the members of our community giving the most and getting the least back.

This week, I was a volunteer counsellor at the Eugene Middle School Ultimate camp. The one camper that was consistently asking for the biggest challenge, taking the toughest matchup, and fighting to prove herself was a girl named Elsa. Elsa was an inspiration, and she is the player in every city that I am hoping to reach. She has a tough road ahead of her, but I hope that the show we put on displays tenacity, strength, power, integrity, and unbridled confidence by relentlessly unapologetic women in sports. 

Let's make her road easier. Let's unify.