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.