Posted by Marketing Manager on May 2, 2018 12:12 pm
One of the reasons ultimate in Vancouver is so popular is because we play almost entirely co-ed games. It’s a lot of fun to gather or create a mixed group of friends to partake in joyful exercise, cheer each other on, see each other improve, and socialize.
Currently the VUL is composed of:
- 42% women*
- 58% men*
- Less than 1% - prefer not to say/another gender
(* Women and men includes trans and self identifying women and men)
That ratio allows teams to mostly play 3 women-matches and 4 men-matches at a time – the ratio we’ve used for over 20 years. Last year we took a step to moving towards gender equity with a new gender balance rule that allows teams to play 4 women-matching players and 3 men-matching players more frequently using "endzone sets". One endzone is selected at the start of the game, and whichever team starts from that endzone gets to choose the ratio for men-matching players to women-matching players. Since teams end up switching sides after every point, the teams alternate choosing the 4m:3w or 3m:4w ratio.
We've made some progress, but our goal is to move our co-ed leagues to be fully gender-balanced.
Unfortunately, some teams have difficulty recruiting and retaining enough women. We know from league data that the retention rate of women is about 4% lower than the retention rate of men. That equates to over 100 players each year.
Why the gap?
When we’ve discussed this with women in committees, surveys, or captain’s meetings, we often hear stories of not feeling as included or of not getting the disc very often. These stories touch on how women experience our sport differently based on their gender.
For Summer League 2018, we’re opening up the dialogue with a campaign about women in ultimate, centered around the hashtags #ThrowToMe and #ThrowToWomen. We want to increase awareness of the challenges and solutions to enabling more women to play ultimate.
Here’s how to participate in the campaign:
1. Watch our #throwtome video
2. Re-visit this page each week for a VUL member’s story about women in ultimate.
3. Use the hashtag #ThrowToMe and #ThrowToWomen on social media throughout the summer when you have stories and photos of women to share, especially positive ones like showcasing your women handlers, captains or new players. You can also tag us or include #vul or #vancouverultimate.
4. Send us your stories by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’re seeking stories about women in ultimate from all VUL members, although we will mainly be featuring women’s voices. Tell us a story about your personal experience or team’s experience regarding women in ultimate in 250 words or less. Stories can cover challenges and/or successes. If you have a story you’d like to submit, email email@example.com.
Week 1: Troë Weston
I've played sports my whole life - not just ultimate.
Whenever I started playing with a new group of guys, I was always assumed to be bad at the sport until I proved otherwise. Likewise, I noticed new guys were always presumed to be good at the sport until they proved otherwise.
A few years ago, I played for an "open" team in Ireland at a tournament. I was the only woman on the team and they all knew nothing about me beforehand. I'm pretty used to the regular dynamic that happens when I play with a bunch of guys for the first time - but much to my surprise, in the first point of our first game, I went to pick up the disc on a turnover and it didn't surprise anyone. That was a first. Then, when the disc was tapped in, one of the guys immediately cut deep for a huck, which was again a first.
I asked him afterwards - how did he know I could put it? He said he didn't know, but that's the cut he's got to make when he's in a good position to do so, no matter who has the disc. (Also, in case you were wondering, I did huck it and we scored!)
Week 2: Megan McCann
I’ve been playing ultimate for around 18 years, and have played at a somewhat competitive-ish level in 3 countries to date – Australia, South Korea and Canada, and on both women’s and mixed teams.
I was lucky to be introduced into the sport in a very welcoming, small and accepting community in Australia, where some of our key players had a strong mixed background and so the teams were very inclusive of everyone, which was great as a newbie. It was eye opening to travel elsewhere and discover this was not the norm.
There is nothing more infuriating than having to prove yourself as a woman on a mixed team. I feel fortunate that I at least had a few years of ultimate under my belt when I had to, I can’t image how difficult it is for new woman on some teams I have seen, to develop and grow their skills. Something that’s good to stress is - not all teams have this issue, and I have been lucky enough to play on a few of them – last year I played with Vancouver’s mixed masters team, Mastadon. Mastadon did a great job of making use of the entire team. I think this is even proven in our stats (thanks to Lindsay-I-love-stats-Masters), which came out as pretty even across the board.
Week 3: Melissa Woodward
I am fiercely proud to be a member of the ultimate community. It is because of that pride that I like to hold ultimate players to a higher standard in terms of spirit, equity, and inclusion. When I first started playing I would play entire games without touching the disc. I repeat, I would not get passed to ONCE! Part of this was my own lack of confidence and lack of field awareness, but this went on for way too long. So I would like to highlight the people who gave me that confidence and helped me become a better player.
- The teammate who saw my backhand huck in warmup and would specifically cut for it so that I could learn when and how to throw it in a game.
- The teammate who said “you and I are just going to give and go and I’m not looking at anyone else” so that I knew it was my job to get open and he was trusting me to be there for him.
- My male teammates who came to watch my women’s team play Regionals.
- The female coaches who have inspired me.
- The teammates who have given me high fives after successes and failures alike and asked if I wanted feedback before giving it.
- The teammates who cheer for risky throws because they know that always playing safe isn’t how you get better.
Supporting women in ultimate is easy. Go watch women’s and mixed games, strike deep when women-matching players have the disc, and trust them on the field.