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!