We will not be trying out for the 2019 Aviators Season.
January 29, 2019 5:50 PM   Subscribe

I was amazed to read they tried to stay on their other club team at the same time. Seems rather impossible to satisfy both. I hope they are able to mend their relationships with their old teammates.
posted by M-x shell at 6:28 PM on January 29, 2019

I like how the team couldn't be arsed to even *move the meeting location* out of the men's showers.
posted by Scattercat at 6:36 PM on January 29, 2019 [5 favorites]

For what it’s worth, the pro and club seasons historically have not overlapped significantly so this isn’t as crazy as it might seem. On the other hand, the pro and club teams generally have a lot of overlap in terms of players, which can lessen the sting in the early season. This obviously wasn’t the case for them.
posted by yeahwhatever at 6:46 PM on January 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

Damn. I was really hit by the contrast between this statement:
Our teammates were truly supportive of us. They made it apparent that they appreciated our presence on the sideline and that they respected us on the field.
And then all of the casual disrespect they faced - not just from the organization, but also sometimes from those same teammates:
In a game against another team playing with a rostered woman, one of our teammates justified an ill-advised throw because his receiver was being defended by a ‘girl.’
I can't hear that from someone and still feel 'respected,' even if it wasn't directed at me. I believe them that their teammates were supportive, most of the time, but even then this man still thought of them as 'lesser.' It goes to show that you often can't really tell whether a man thinks of you as an equal, until he does something to reveal that he doesn't.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 7:18 PM on January 29, 2019 [10 favorites]

I briefly played ultimate in college (back in the late 2000's). Ultimate had a good community and clubs where I was playing at the time. I played with the women's team in college, maybe some co-ed tournaments? And we scrimmaged a lot with the guys team as well. I was never a particularly good player, never that athletic or anything but I really enjoyed playing an had a good time. I was really struck by "the spirit of the game" calling a foul because you believed it was a foul and there were no contests to it, getting everyone involved, playing because it was fun. Tournaments were competitive but it was also about doing your best and as long as you did the best you could it was fine. Granted I was on a new team at a very small college so it skewed who participated but it was still regarded as a really inclusive activity.

Then I played a tournament (?) day with mixed teams in the town.

I'm a tall woman at 5'11''. Back then I had the appearance of athleticism even if I had no vertical jump to speak of and have never run a mile under 10 minutes. I was easily picked up to be on a team.

I was shocked buy how quickly the game changed playing with all women to playing mixed and how BORING it became. All of a sudden the game play changed from dynamic movements and playing to sailing the disc over the heads of the women on the field knowing that they couldn't make up a height deficit of a foot AND jump higher than the 6ft4in players who were on the field too. Somehow the game play immediately change to what they guys were good at and how they could succeed rather than all the strengths of the women on the field (getting low to the ground, esp in windy weather, using flexibility and agility to get around the defenders).

It was half a team of men playing against another half team of men rather than two co-ed teams playing each other.
posted by raccoon409 at 8:40 PM on January 29, 2019 [19 favorites]

Well, in competitive play, can you really blame the players for playing in a way that gives them an advantage ? Taking out half the team seems a pretty big advantage...
posted by Pendragon at 12:40 AM on January 30, 2019

I guess they don't play with the rule that everyone on the team has to touch the disc before scoring.
posted by kokaku at 1:35 AM on January 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

"Taking out half the team seems a pretty big advantage..."

But taking out half of your team in the process isn't so great.* More to the point, as raccoon409 points out, their are two ways to remove half a team: a way that favors men, a way that favors women. I suspect, and this is the point of the anecdote, that in our society, whether it's in business, sports or anywhere else, the men's way is almost always the path taken. Even more to the point, it doesn't occur/appeal to women (or occurs to them less often) to invalidate the efforts of half their own team, while it seems to come pretty easily to men.

I'll stop mansplaining now as women are very capable of defending these points themselves (and have better insight into this than I do, since, I'm a guy), but I couldn't let that comment pass.

*By "Isn't so great" I mean "is really shitty."
posted by oddman at 5:11 AM on January 30, 2019 [8 favorites]

I don't know much about sports, but I know a lot about ultimate. In the summer I play 4 or 5 days a week, in pickup games, leagues, and tournaments. I'm a guy in my forties and I don't play at a high level, but occasionally I play with men and women who do.

The two main organizing bodies (here's an explanation of who they are ) are pushing to make ultimate a "legitimate" sport. They want it to be on TV. They want it to be in the Olympics. They want it to be offered as a sport at high school and college levels.

Some players (myself included) are ambivalent about legitimacy. I like being able to watch well-covered games on tv. It was gratifying when my football coach uncle accidentally watched part of an AUDL game on an obscure ESPN channel and expressed surprise that it was a real sport with athletic people doing athletic things. But I didn't start playing hoping that ultimate would be in the Olympics one day. And legitimacy could bring more of the lousy aspects of other sports to ultimate.

So players are calling for gender equality before legitimacy. Some men boycotted the AUDL, calling for gender equality at the pro level. A few AUDL teams rostered women last year but, as this post illustrates, the teams didn't treat their female teammates equally. This month, a new womxn's pro league was announced and teams started tryouts.

Anyway, ultimate has a lot of work to do but players are actively addressing issues around inclusiveness and equality in ways that don't seem to be happening in other sports (besides Quidditch).
posted by Drab_Parts at 5:22 AM on January 30, 2019 [4 favorites]

Mixed division (ie mandatory coed) ultimate is one of my favorite things about the sport. The style of play is definitely different from women's only, but women are every bit as if not more important than the men out there on the field. That said, I think it's easy to see why women often don't enjoy it. There are lots of guys out there who will rarely throw to women, and while ultimate is officially non contact you are still running around full speed with guys much bigger than you. Ultimate may be more progressive than many sport communities but it still favors a certain amount of cool-girl attitude.

But this isn't really what the linked article is talking about, which is women playing in open (aka either gender aka basically all men) ultimate. It sucks they won't be coming back. All the passive gender discrimination in terms of ill-fitting jerseys or no women's locker room is kind of understandable but I think it's still very fair to call out the team for that. The chats about 'puss' are gross and demeaning and they would have made me uncomfortable too, even as a male on a men's team, I think. It does feel a bit unfair to fault the guy who called them out because ...hypothetically he might care more about women in person than he does about stopping demeaning language in men's-only spaces.

Anyway, I hope AUDL teams learn the right lessons from the article: women are awesome but you have to earn their respect.
posted by ropeladder at 5:41 AM on January 30, 2019

It does feel a bit unfair to fault the guy who called them out because ...hypothetically he might care more about women in person than he does about stopping demeaning language in men's-only spaces.

1) It was a team group chat that included 2 women, so it wasn't a men's only space.
2) Perpetuating sexism in men's only spaces is still perpetuating sexism. Witness the defense of Trump's disgusting comments on the Access Hollywood bus as "locker room talk". Then witness how Trump treats women the rest of the time.
3) How you act when you think no one is watching is who you really are.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:55 AM on January 30, 2019 [5 favorites]

It was half a team of men playing against another half team of men rather than two co-ed teams playing each other.

Unfortunately, this is a big problem in mixed ultimate games. It's better at elite levels, but still an issue.

USAU tried to address this by changing the gender ratio in mixed games.

Ultimate is played 7 on 7. In mixed ultimate, each team would play 4 men and 3 women. Organizers have tried tournaments in which some points are played with 4 women and 3 men. Here's a discussion of the policy from two years ago. And here's a statistical analysis of how it worked.

The conclusion of the study is that changing the gender ratio of players on the field slightly increases female involvement in play, but not as much as having team rosters on which women are equally represented.
posted by Drab_Parts at 6:23 AM on January 30, 2019 [3 favorites]

hydropsyche: I wasn't saying it was a men's only space--the author was speculating whether her male teammate would have spoken up in a male only space.

I agree with your follow up points, I just think it's uncharitable (though understandable) of her to speculate when he did speak up. There is a lot of pressure on guys to play along with toxic culture or at least not engage it; in my experience that guy was probably relieved to have an easy excuse to shut it down.
posted by ropeladder at 7:43 AM on January 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'm saddened by this article, and by the experience that these two players had. I've been a part of so many discussions on this issue, mostly listening to female-identifying players in my (greater Seattle) community and in the country as a whole.
Because Ultimate is a fringe sport, it has been able to maintain, to a degree, such radical ideals as self-officiating, and keeping "spirit scores" (a rough measure of sportsmanship and rules knowledge) at most levels of play. Embracing gender equity is very much in line with the guiding principles of the sport (there should be joy, for everyone, in play), but it's an uphill battle with no clear consensus of how best to achieve success.

Players, such as these, are fighting the battle for equity from the top down. They feel strongly that having role models on the field is a great way to encourage young players to join the sport. They are fighting the generational power of "sport as it's always been" -- dominated by physically larger, faster and stronger players, and the expectation that the male iteration of the sport is , by default, the most entertaining.

The top-down fight is being aided by forces (such as Fulcrum media) who provide video coverage of the sport, but focus on the women's and mixed divisions ; and even ESPN who have been convinced to rotate the scheduling of the "showcase" game at large televised tournaments, so that the default best time slot is not always the men's game.

As Drab_Parts has said, the semi-pro leagues have more or less been coerced, by boycotts and community pressure, to try various ways to include women on the field, with very mixed success.

One of the great things about Ultimate is that it's possible to share the field with players of all levels, even the elite, and thus have conversations with them about this issue. And clearly there is no consensus. Some elite female players want their own semi-pro league, some want to carve out a space within the open (read men) league, and some want mixed to be recognized as an Olympic sport.

I am involved in the struggle from the bottom-up. I coach a mixed gender high school team. We've become woke to using gender-neutral language and pushing for flipping the gender ratio of the 7 person on-field squad from to 4:3 m/f to f/m on alternating points, and generally creating a team vibe that looks to value each and every player for the skill-set they bring.
We hope to create an environment that encourages every player that comes out to find joy in the game, and we hope that players will stay in the sport and be lifelong players. But I'm a dude, and I know it would be better, in many respects, for my female players to have a female coach as a role model. we hope that this generation of players continue to love the sport and become those role models in the future.

I'm also one of those players with mixed feelings about the aspirations of the sport. I like that kids who might not fit the profile of the "sporty" type have an outlet that doesn't necessarily demand the same physicality or mindset of many sports and yet is great fun and exercise. I hope that there is room for all types, but most things struggle trying to be all things to all people.

Ultimate certainly isn't alone in this. We've discussed the US women's hockey team , for instance, here on the blue.

Lots of work yet to be done.
posted by OHenryPacey at 9:58 AM on January 30, 2019 [3 favorites]

I'll put in a plug here for playing ultimate overseas. Bear with me.

I first got introduced to ultimate in college, where yeah, it was co-ed, but basically it was all guys playing. It was fine but struck me as nothing special compared to any other sport I had played. Never really got into the strategy of smart game play at that level. It was more a bunch of dudes throwing a Frisbee around.

I next ran into it when I moved to Nairobi, for a job in the humanitarian sector. Ultimate in Nairobi introduced me to a specific group of people in a certain place in time that I know I'll never be able to go back to, and I treasure very deeply. It was an open, welcoming pick-up game that wanted all players - race, gender, orientation, etc. agnostic. We couldn't normally field enough players for 2 games at the same time, so the more the merrier - and substitutes hardly waited more than a play to come back on the field.

It wasn't really about competition as it was about the game itself, and socializing while exercising at the same time. I felt instantly welcomed from my first game, included both on the field and off during my years there, and warmly wished farewell when my time came to depart (we'd usually all sign a disc for the person next departing). This isn't to say that there weren't personality conflicts, or that things always went perfectly, but in general, because of the people involved - both men and women (maybe a 60/40 split, roughly?), it was a group activity that was regular, reliable, safe, and fun.

This group regularly met for smaller and more casual Friday evening games, and larger and more competitive Sunday afternoon games. The same group, or a subset thereof, on a regular basis would take over a local Ethiopian restaurant, or a couple blackjack tables at the casino, or a member's house for a raucous party. The latter usually involved inebriated games of disc golf of some sort. We planned and hosted FEAST - Frisbee East Africa Sand Tournament - every year south of Mombasa on the beach. We'd rent out houses and towards the end of my time there we had Peace Corps / et. al. kids coming from all over the continent to play with us. We rented houses and campgrounds and hosted huge seafood pasta lunches and Vaseline-greased watermelon polo in the pool at night.

Across all of these memories, I deeply appreciate both the wonderful women who were a part of them. Many of them single and trying to figure out dating abroad. Many of them spouses to other guys who played together with their spouse. Some of them super athletic and better than most male players. Some not very good at all but just happy to be part of the group and the group was happy to have them. Everyone encouraged to play and round out the group better. Same went for the locals who joined our group, they were welcomed and we appreciated their interest and energy and unique perspective that they brought to the group. It was somehow easier to become fast friends with them through that group than it was to make friends with locals in day-to-day life overseas.

That was Nairobi. Not everywhere got it as right as that time and place - Kuala Lumpur had enough interest that the games got particularly exclusive and they were hard to break into - playing fields were harder to come by. But, still in a looser sense than Africa, welcoming to anyone who figured their way into the game, regardless of gender or race.

When I came back to the US 5 years ago, I went to the pickup games in Golden Gate Park and was instantly and supremely disappointed with the nature of play and the group dynamic. Super competitive, extremely clique-y, and not very welcoming to outsiders at all. I don't know why this was, but in 3 weeks of coming I learned ~15 people's names and I can guarantee that no one learned mine and I wasn't missed when I didn't show up again. And I was a fairly fast and athletic DUDE. I can't imagine a woman coming a second time to that game - although to be fair there were a few that seemed to have made it into the inner circle there. Quite a shame to see Ultimate being that way in the bay area of the US, of all places.

Tl;dr - playing overseas seems to be a way more welcoming Ultimate environment for women and POC. Don't recommend it here in the US.
posted by allkindsoftime at 10:49 AM on January 30, 2019 [3 favorites]

pushing for flipping the gender ratio of the 7 person on-field squad from to 4:3 m/f to f/m on alternating points
This can be a very good thing. There are also downsides. I played through college and a few years of pick-up after that, and three-fourths of that was mixed. At different times we would find ourselves on different sides of the ratio decision. For casual play, or for competitive games where we had enough women on the roster but they weren't noticeably better or worse than our opposing team's women, negotiating 5/2 or 4/3 is a matter of etiquette and making space for people to play. (I think I've played 3/4...maybe twice ever?) But there were tournaments where a few of our female players had to stay home for whatever reason, and our women had to play with few subs or even "savage"—playing every point, all game, all day. We were a bit stuck. As a small school's team, there just weren't that many women to recruit, so the choice for our women was to sometimes play in these rough situations or to switch to being an open team and not play at tournaments.

On the other side, there were times (especially two particular seasons) when our women had an advantage in numbers, athleticism or skill, and we would field as many women as we could, forcing the other team to match. My point is that ratios are tactical as well as social and that fielding more women can be a way to grind women players down for an advantage.

(AFAIK this is irrelevant to the situation in the article, because the AUDL is open, not mixed.)
They are fighting the generational power of "sport as it's always been" -- dominated by physically larger, faster and stronger players
I see this sentiment frequently (see also raccoon's comment above), and I'll be honest, I don't get it. Won't domination of those with superior athletic attributes continue to the extent that sport is competitive? (The old joke on my team, especially from those of us of normal height, was "be tall!"—best called as a loving jeer to a six-foot-four teammate making a high-altitude catch.) This is why we have less-competitive leagues, and tournament seeds, and separate open/mixed/women teams. Being long-limbed and being fast are just about as close to pure advantages that one can get in Ultimate. Could you help me understand what it means when we say we want to fight that, or work around it?
playing overseas seems to be a way more welcoming Ultimate environment for women and POC. Don't recommend it here in the US.
There is quite a range of cultures within north american Ultimate.
posted by daveliepmann at 7:57 AM on January 31, 2019 [1 favorite]

Could you help me understand what it means when we say we want to fight that, or work around it?

I think I can.
You can look at a sport and say: the very best iteration of that sport is the very best athletes on the planet playing it at the very highest level. an example of this would be the Olympic men's basketball "dream teams", where there is no question whatsoever that few, if any, humans could replace those individuals.
Or you could look at a sport and say: there are valuable skills that can exist in this sport that are under-represented if it is dominated by a very narrow set of physical attributes. an example of this would be the inclusion of the Libero in volleyball. that position creates a space for gifted, but often diminutive, athletes that would likely never be rostered if the sport were just a race to field the 6 tallest players.

If the media, and coaches, and spectators are only fed the version that is freakishly sized players doing a particular thing, as is historically the case in many many sports, they may never be exposed to the excitement that players like Jessie Shofner can bring to a game.

There are many aspects of sport that make it appealing to an audience. Volleyball fans no longer care that not everyone on the court is 6'6", they appreciate the Libero. Rivalries, for instance, make college sports appealing to a mass audience that already knows that the pro version is "more athletic", and yet millions watch college sports. So why not create a "best" version of Ultimate that is the version with equal opportunities for men and women , and give that version to the audience. Let rivalries and allegiances form and promote those as more important than just huge dudes running and hucking.

My view is that Ultimate is capable of embracing something like this, and it's what i promote to the kids that I coach, and what I advocate for in rules sets and tournament formats.
posted by OHenryPacey at 9:56 AM on January 31, 2019 [3 favorites]

There is quite a range of cultures within north american Ultimate.

I agree. I play in New York City and there's quite a range of cultures even within NYC ultimate. We're experiencing a modest ultimate boom and I have a lot of games to choose from. There are pickup games in which the players are fairly horrible to newcomers (and, honestly, to each other). The players who organize my regular game work hard at creating a welcoming atmosphere. If you show up once they will encourage you to come again and when you do they will remember your name.

I started playing before you could search the internet for the nearest pickup game. I started my own game with a small group of friends and it grew as people noticed us playing and joined in. You shouldn't have to play with assholes (unless you want to), and you might be able to create the game you'd like to play in.
posted by Drab_Parts at 1:09 PM on January 31, 2019

If the media, and coaches, and spectators are only fed the version that is freakishly sized players doing a particular thing, as is historically the case in many many sports, they may never be exposed to the excitement that players like Jessie Shofner can bring to a game.
Thanks. I see your point about sports trying to provide multiple ways for individual athletes to be competitive. My experience from Ultimate and other sports is that being inclusive and humane is more difficult in direct proportion to the twin pushes for pro leagues and mass spectatorship. The farther spectators are from the sport (as in TV and the Olympics) the more they dismiss, for example, competitors in lower weight classes and tactics that are impressive more technically than visually. It's a real shame what popularization does to a sport.

I'm impressed by Shofner's durability, daring, and explosiveness.
posted by daveliepmann at 4:47 PM on January 31, 2019 [2 favorites]

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