My name is Theresa Yu and I am a senior in high school entering my fourth year playing ultimate. I’ve met some incredible people while playing ultimate, and I am glad to call a few of them my closest friends. What’s unique to my experience is, through all of my experiences in high school ultimate and the Youth Club Championships, I’ve only ever played one week non-mixed ultimate. This may come as a shock to some, but to others, I know it is a statement that might be completely relatable.
My home state, Connecticut, only has a high school league for boys. The few high school girls that play the sport in Connecticut either compete in the boys’ league like I do, or play different out-of-state girls’ teams. The lack of girls-only playing opportunities is what made the one week I spent playing with only girls so empowering.
I attended CUT Camp Girls Elite in Chicago, where I lived, learned and played with some of the most awe-inspiring female ultimate players in the world. Every day, we learned important offensive and defensive tactics, but most importantly, we gained powerful friendships with each other that still exist today, months after the camp concluded. Additionally, in the few mixed sessions that were held with the Boys Elite camp, I encountered male peers that were thoroughly excited and energized at the prospect of playing mixed ultimate, which was a huge contrast from some of my previous experiences in mixed/co-ed ultimate.
In addition to the high level of ultimate, one of my most profound experiences during the camp was during one of our classroom sessions in which I listened to the shocking and revealing stories of my fellow female ultimate players regarding their own ultimate experiences. From demeaning group chat messages to sexist coaches, it was clear to me through these stories that my own experience with ultimate was pretty sheltered in comparison. I had never really experienced such blatant sexism in the sport of ultimate, and I was incredibly shocked to hear these powerful stories. The mutual bond that was created between us only grew as a result. We began the camp as a group of girls from all different states and countries, but ended as a family, created through our shared experiences with ultimate. I cannot thank the coaches – Shof, Kaela, Maggie and Vegas – enough for knowing exactly what to do and say to help nurture Team #Flare. After CUT camp, I was even more motivated to try and create more opportunities for high school females to play ultimate in my home state, and consequently, experience the amazing community that exists out there to support girls and women in ultimate.
Perhaps one of my own biggest takeaways, however, was my realization of the importance of support and how fortunate I have been to have had amazing people who support me. From my high school coaches, Mr. Thompson and Mr. Lang, to all my CUT camp and YCC coaches to the many friends I’ve found through ultimate (you guys know who you all are!), I am lucky in that I have always had a support system that encourages me to continue to play as well as challenges me to be a better player and person. Not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to have that in their own high school experience, so for that I am most grateful. The support that I’ve received is a large inspiration for me to want more girls to play ultimate both in my school and also in my state.
If there’s one thing I wish I’d be able to tell every ultimate player, coach or supporter, it would be that one of the most important components of the advancement of this sport is encouraging your female friends, sisters and acquaintances to give the sport a try, and then showing them your support of their efforts. This can be achieved in so many different ways. Reach out to female players when they are confused and need help understanding how a particular stack works. Don’t look off your female teammates when they make cuts. Push your own ultimate community or league to have set gender ratios for their mixed teams. If you’re a mixed coach with enough numbers, why not play four girls and three guys? The smallest gestures can show the greatest support, and in turn, make our sport a better place for all.