As a girl in ultimate…

I have grown accustomed to being treated differently than male players. Often, I am the only female on a team of 19. It has become such a regular occurrence that I don’t notice it anymore. Sometimes I won’t even register the fact that I am the only female until it’s pointed out to me. While being a “lone female” player can have its upsides, such as more playing time and standing out, in the long run it’s something that needs to change. Not just that, but the prejudice against female ultimate players needs to change. Often, the difference in how we are treated is unintentional, but the problem remains that if a female player on a mixed team makes a mistake in a game, she will often lose the trust of her male teammates much more than a male who makes a similar mistake. This loss of trust is especially devastating to the game of ultimate because so much of ultimate relies on good communication and team bonding. In a game, when the count starts getting close to 10 and there is an open throw to a female player, if the thrower doesn’t take that shot because they don’t trust their teammate, they could lose the point.

What I’ve found…

to be even worse than male teammates losing trust in a female player is her loss of trust in herself. When her mistakes are treated differently than a male’s on one specific occasion, she may experience a brief moment of insignificant frustration. But over time, she may begin to believe that she really is not as skilled as her male counterparts. Every pass she throws and every throw she tries to catch from then on will be something she lacks confidence in, and that lack of confidence will cause her performance to decrease further. This can often turn into a never-ending cycle that leaves her feeling unmotivated, inadequate and lacking in confidence. I myself have experienced this cycle and was only able to break out of it due to an incredible support system of coaches, friends, teammates and parents. Many young female players, especially those new to the sport, aren’t nearly as lucky as I have been.

It isn’t just among players…

that this prejudice is obvious. For example, I signed up for an ultimate camp last year where a lack of female participants resulted in the cancellation of the girls’ portion of the camp. Is that really a good way to promote girls’ youth ultimate? My answer is no; we don’t need cancellations of female camps, lost hopes and false promises. When the ultimate camp that I had signed up to go to was canceled, it made me feel like I was considered a sort of second-class citizen in the ultimate community. It felt as though I was being sent a clear message that my ultimate career somehow mattered less than a male’s. This is not the sort of message that we, as the ultimate community, should be sending to female players. What young, female ultimate players need are skills clinics and camps that both specifically target girls’ ultimate and encourage positive coed play. Additionally, we need organizations like GUM (Girls’ Ultimate Movement) that understand our frustration. Simply put, we need people and organizations who support women’s ultimate.  

Jenna Krugler (on left) is 16 years old and goes to Nevada Union High School. Jenna has played for Nevada Union, Bitney College Prep Air, and Foothill Ultimate, and she recently competed at YCC in Minnesota with Belly of the Beast (U-16 girls’ team). Her favorite throw is the high-release backhand, and her favorite opponent is Hannah Ramey.  Jenna really likes ultimate because it is not only common, but encouraged, to play mixed ultimate as well as single-gender ultimate.  In order for mixed ultimate to continue to develop, a large base of female ultimate players is necessary. By promoting girls’ youth ultimate, we are ensuring there will be more female players in the game later on. Jenna is excited about GUM because, up until relatively recently, there hasn’t been a widespread effort to promote girls’ ultimate. Jenna tells us that “GUM has changed this by being a proactive leader in supporting and encouraging girls in ultimate.”


Feature Photo: Oregon Flood at the 2014 Youth Club Championships/CBMT Creative