Posted by Marketing Manager on July 13, 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.
Week 4: Vivian Wong
I am very grateful to the sport of ultimate. It brought me lasting friendships, a lifestyle change, and a fun reason to stay active. It never occurred to me that I was a woman playing ultimate. I was just some person enjoying a recreational sport with friends. But I remember when subbing on a random night, players took turns leading a type of stretch in a group as the spirit game. I chose a groin stretch during my turn. One of the men yelled out loud, “Ladies, you especially need this if you know what I mean.” I knew exactly what he meant and I shot back, “Pretty sure groin stretches aren’t an exclusive thing for ladies.” He had the audacity to continue, “Nah, you girls really need it more than us given what you do haha.” Not a single person in the circle spoke up. No one stood up for me and that felt even worse than having my gender brought to the foreground in such a negative way.
Over the next couple of years I became more aware of my responsibility and my teams’ responsibility to make Vancouver a more supportive and inclusive place to play ultimate. Standing up for what’s right is incredibly exhausting when doing it alone all the time so don’t be a bystander. All it takes is one incident for someone to shy away from ultimate forever. This sport is so special because it's so progressive. I hope everyone does their part to make it stay that way.
Week 5: Camila Paiva (from Brazil!)
This week’s story came to us all the way from Brazil!
I’m Camila Paiva from Brazil. I started Ultimate a year ago, but before that I used to play basketball. Due to the lack of women playing basketball, I used to play pick-ups with men (14yo). I know they felt that I shouldn't be playing with them but I didn't care. It was a fact that some didn't pass or let me sub in a game. I had coaches (men) that were angry when I said "sorry" to a girl from the opposing team due to unexpected hard contact. I apologized because I believe it was my responsibility to take care, not only for me, but for others. I quit even though I love the sport and my former coaches, but treating people how they deserve, with respect, is more important and I didn't know how to change that in sports.
Ultimate was always for me, but I just discovered it a year ago. I fell in love with it because of Spirit of the Game. It’s a way of life and that's how it's been conquering people to play it. I'm always sharing the power and energy that SoTG has had in me and in others: self-confidence, patience and respect. I was never ashamed of being a woman and I want other girls and women to feel the same. I love playing mixed. All of us are equally important on field. So, let's ultimate us! Let it ultimate you.
#ThrowtoMe. #ThrowtoWomen. Throw to Us. ;)
Week 6: Wendy Lecheng
My story about Women in Ultimate is less about me and more about the countless women I have shared fields with in my 15 years with the VUL.
When I play in VUL, I do it for the pure joy of the game. I love getting on the field, after a long day at work, and burning off steam, sweating, and laughing with my teammates. I tend to poach a fair bit on defence (although I like to call it, “playing more efficiently” haha), and generally relax. Yes, playing ultimate is relaxing for me. Call me crazy.
But sometimes my joy is overshadowed by what I consistently see happening on opponent teams:
- My female-matching mark diligently cuts for the disc;
- She gets open. Like, really open (see previous paragraph);
- Handler does not throw to her;
- Handler either holds the disc too long, or forces a throw to a male who is not open, both resulting in a turnover.
Every time this happens, I:
- communicate to the handler that they should THROW TO THEIR WOMEN. Especially when they are WIDE OPEN. It is a little gesture but, I feel, an important one to raise over and over and over again;
- communicate to my mark that she should tell her teammates that when she is WIDE OPEN she expects to get the disc!
I acknowledge it is the thrower’s prerogative to determine whether or not you as the cutter are open. But if it is as obvious as what I see happening, time and time again, and as one of the most progressive communities of athletes I know, we should actively discourage the above scenario, as it happens, on the field. Or chat about it on the sideline. Keep the lines of communication open, be respectful, but be FIRM.
Week 7: Danie Proby
Being a coach at Ultimate Peace in the Middle East for the past 5 years has given me a lot of opportunities to see the impact our wonderful sport has on young people in other parts of the world. These kids come to camp usually having preconceived ideas of the ‘Other’. When they arrive at camp, they normally have not spoken to someone with a different background. There is tension and emotions are running high.
Most of the work the camp does is to bring down cultural and religious barriers by letting the kids play together and realize that they can be friends. It is incredible to see the transformations in the kids by the end of the camp. There are tears and hugs when they say goodbye to their new friends because they have made friendships that will last a lifetime.
The teams at camp are single gender and there is no specific mention at camp about gender equity. At the end of the camp, we have culminating tournaments and sometimes the tensions run high; the kids really want to win! There were requests for mixed games or a tournament but us coaches had some reservations. We were worried that the boys would dominate and that the girls wouldn’t be supported, would lose interest, and not feel valued. Well.... we were wrong.
The mixed tournament was the highlight of the camp. Every person on the teams got equal access to catch, throw, and pull in the games and the girls never had to say #throwtome. Now, I don’t enjoy being wrong (who does?!) but this was one of those moments that really sticks with me. We as coaches, and Ultimate Peace as an organization, had created spaces for the athletes to thrive and play. We have open dialogue, we are curious about each other’s lives, and treat each other with respect. By the end of the week, the kids are full of spirit, cheer, and love for one another. These kids were playing the sport purely for joy and their love of the game as opposed to win-at-all-costs. They were having fun, being kids, and winning and losing as a team regardless of their colour, religion, or gender.
I love that when I am coaching, I often learn more than I teach.
Week 8: Breanna Dar
When I first joined school ultimate I found myself being overshadowed by the guys and the older players on our team. Which took a toll on my confidence, however when I joined my first summer league team I learnt different throws and cuts which allowed me to improve greatly. As a result, when I came back to play in the school season I was more confident in my skills and in my knowledge of ultimate in general. As of today I am a captain on my school team and take the lead in making sure that everyone is encouraging one another to build the idea of not only being a team but a family.
Week 9: Jamie Marmolejo
I find there's a big difference with men and women in Ultimate. I've especially noticed it when playing other teams. Women sometimes get passed to less, for instance. I think it might be one of the reasons why teams always struggle to find female players. I think the solution is as simple as getting the disc to females! Once I started receiving more passes, I definitely felt more involved and keen to come out and play. Rain City does a great job at making sure our female players are involved, so I'm quite happy about that!
I'm assistant captain on my team this year and it definitely makes me feel more dedicated to the team in the way that I want to create a fun, open environment. The same environment I felt during my first season last year, which made me come back again this season.
One thing to keep in mind, not just women, but also new players, don't be afraid to pick up, toss, or receive the disc. But also, just have fun and don't forget to dance on the sidelines! This is of utmost importance.
Week 10: Leanna Yee
I was introduced to ultimate 8 years ago, having never thrown a disc. For the most part our team always had new-to-ultimate players, and like most teams in the lowest div, we tried our best to ensure all players got their league fees worth of touching the disc during game time.
In those early years, we came across a team that didn’t do the same. I started noticing after a few points that they never passed to their women. To be honest, it sucked marking up against a player that wasn’t going to be passed to, every. single point. I remember asking my check if this was common with their team, and she admitted that it was how their team typically played. Despite our team consisting of beer-guzzling out-of-shape scientists, the other team was under-utilizing their players and we quickly picked up a hefty lead in the game.
As we neared game-point, I proposed a women’s-only point. The men paced on the side lines, cheering their female players as hard cuts were made, great passes were connected, defensive plays were made, and the disc was turned over, and over again. I can’t remember who won that point, but I do remember the big smiles on the women we played against, and how pleasantly surprised their male players were. The women came off the field, greeted by high-fives and newfound respect from their teammates.
It makes sense to #ThrowToWomen. #ThrowToUs. #ThrowToMe.
Week 11: Kristine Salzmann
A friend of mine introduced me to ultimate in high school after I stopped playing softball and was looking for another sport – and I’m so glad he did. I’ve met countless wonderful friends, including my husband, and it’s kept me active as well as been key to taking time for myself after becoming a parent. I had no preconceptions about ultimate when I started but thought it was neat to find a sport that I could play with both male and female friends. I think due to playing other competitive sports for most of my youth I came into it with the attitude that as long as I worked hard I should get the disc just as much as anyone else on the field. I've been very fortunate that I've never been on a team in which I've felt excluded due to my gender.
I was introduced to the VUL after university and have played on various teams in the league for more than a decade. I've also played in the Surrey league for the past few years. I'd really like to see more women-matching players in the SUL and more women picking up the disc. There have been many times when a disc has turned over and my check will run away from it. Often I'll encourage her to pick it up but she'll demur, saying the other (inevitably male) players are better – to which I respond, this league is here for you to learn and enjoy yourself, and that’s only going to happen if you get your hands on the disc! The SUL is a recreational league that, like the VUL, emphasizes fun and encourages growth - there's no better place to try handling or be the initiating cutter.
I'd like to see the VUL's new gender balance rule make it into the SUL in a year or two, but I know from talking to players in the league there will be some growing pains. It's kind of a chicken or the egg thing: do we need more female players in order to change the ratio, or will changing the ratio increase the number of female players? Based on the experiences of other leagues it seems to be the latter, so one year we'll just have to proactively make the jump.
Week 12: Emma Madden-Krasnick
I haven't played much coed ultimate since finishing high school. There's been the occasional league team, but it's been mostly women's teams for the past five years.
In our last year, our school team won provincials. Looking back, I absolutely attribute this to the fact that we used every single person on the field. We had a very strong team overall, but I think we won because everyone contributed. We were also a tight group off the field, and the level of trust between us really helped our on-field play as well.
I’ve had mostly positive experiences playing mixed. I know this is not always the case, and I’ve heard many of my friends declare that they would “never played mixed,” because they just don’t enjoy it or don’t feel valued or utilized. I’ve heard it described as “watching the game while on the field.” I think the reason that I haven’t shared this experience might be because when I play on a coed team, I am usually playing with people who know me as a player. It’s when I have picked up for a random team that I’ve noticed myself being looked off. It seems as though I have to first prove myself to these new teammates in order to contribute on the field – which can be difficult to do if I am being looked off throughout a point or the game...It's more enjoyable to everyone if all seven players are contributing, and it also leads to greater success... after all, it's pretty difficult to win a game with only four people.