I don’t want to be the only girl in the village

Equality, International Women's Day, Womens

Charlie Blair has used International Women’s Day to reflect on her own experiences as a young Ultimate player and on how we can all help Women’s Ultimate to grow.

Until about age eleven, I didn’t really have the opportunity to regularly play team sports with my female peers. Yes, we would be compelled by curriculum to have a weekly P.E. lesson as a whole class but girls playing team sports, with the slight exception of rounders in the summer, was just not part of the playground culture. I was always the only girl playing football with the boys at break time.

Granted, I grew up in a village and went to a tiny school, and a lot has changed since then, but the point I’m trying to make is that in this environment I grew up constantly measuring myself against male standards. I became understandably defensive, having to always defend my right to play, my right to be respected on the pitch. It was something a boy never had to earn before touching the ball; it was already granted.

The boys’ respect for me rested on my ability to compete with them. I was unduly elevated above the others girls who dared not do so. However, that never meant that these girls weren’t capable of competing, but only that they didn’t feel welcome to try.

Therefore it was hard for me to feel a sense of achievement if I was not achieving what the boys were. And I now recognise that this contributed to my embarrassing attitude as a GB junior.

After playing Ultimate for only six months, I was lucky enough to be selected for the GBU20 Women’s team heading to Vancouver. As were three of my ‘Kent comrades’, who were chosen for the Open team! But, although it was never their intention, I definitely felt belittled by the gruelling trials that the boys went through in comparison to mine. I felt they were being pushed much harder than the girls were. They knew it, I knew it, and although no one said it, I was thus implicitly the inferior member.

This embarrassed me. And as a result I very immaturely took it out on my team. Instead of respecting the skills that we did have, the connections we had fostered, the progress we’d made, I saw only the negatives; because we weren’t doing fartleks or putting athletic bidders on a pedestal, I thought we were underperforming on the international stage. This is not to say that women shouldn’t be pushing themselves in any ways they want, but they shouldn’t feel like they have to behave a certain way just because men are in order to see themselves as equals. I couldn’t see beyond my own warped criteria for what made a great female player, and more importantly, teammate.

I really did have good intentions, but whilst some of the girls did respond well to my demands, it also alienated a lot of my teammates. Dare I say, the majority of my U20 women teammates. My expectation that the team should ‘man up’ was in fact the problem. I was simply perpetuating the toxic culture of my own childhood playground. I was in no way being an ally to my fellow women, I was trying to rise above them and play like the men. I was imitating the boys’ style of aggression. It was a style that demoralised my team, rather than motivating them. And some were quite rightly then made to feel angry that I was not giving due credit to their sincere and worthwhile efforts.

Photo by Sam Mouat.

I have only just recently reflected on why I was like this, after a remark this week that was made to me during my first lesson with a women’s-only BMX class. And I now I realise the importance of addessing the reasons for it.

At this BMX class, one of the other women ridiculed the track’s lack of equality for not offering a male-only session as well. It was hard to swallow my giggle as she pitied the men too intimidated to show up to the ‘open’ sessions for fear of being shown up by talented 10-year-olds. In my mind, equally comparing the intimidation women feel from men to that that men feel from children… I don’t think is a fair or accurate one, for a start. Secondly, she was clearly only measuring her levels of intimidation against another man, which, as a married, middle class, white women, would potentially be far less than a black, queer woman.

By directly comparing these two examples she was implicitly suggesting that women are not deserving of the equity the track is trying to provide by offering ‘women’s-only sessions’. I’m sure it was not this woman’s intention and I’m sure she would call herself a feminist. But to me, she wasn’t coming across as an ally. She was struggling to recognise that feminism had worked for her, and that quite frankly, some (because I’m sure it’s not many!) men should put up with getting schooled by the kids as we get it right for the rest of the sisterhood.

So I feel that when it comes to Ultimate, we should be making sure that we are not having to behave and organise exactly like men to prove our worth. Now is not the time. And while we still have a lot of ground to make up, it should never be the time. There are differences that serve in no-ones interest to ignore in an attempt to offer simple solutions to a nuanced issue. And as our wonderful community seeks to make concerted efforts towards making Ultimate a level playing field regardless of gender, we need to breed a culture where women are never made to feel ashamed of their differences to men.

If Ultimate can make that safe space that women deserve, it will only draw more and more women into the game faster. This will in turn increase the depth of talent and the value of women’s play will only become more and more self evident to both themselves and everyone around them. That way, we will ensure that we won’t be repeating the mistakes of the past, and that there will never only be one girl in the village playing Ultimate.

Featured photo by Sam Mouat.

Women’s Indoor All-Irelands: Familiar foes meet again

Indoors, Ireland, Irish Ultimate, Rebel Ultimate, Womens

Aidan Kelly was there for the first standalone Women’s Indoor Nationals in Ireland recently, and he tells us what went on.

Dublin played host to the first ever standalone Women’s Indoor All-Irelands, packed within the iconic walls of Trinity College Dublin. Historically, the competition has usually taken place alongside the Men’s division, but now due to a typically high demand between the two divisions and few suitable venues that can feasibly contain so much high-octane, fast paced Frisbee, a decision was made to split the events by division.

Eleven teams from seven different clubs played across a single day in order to crown the winners and, for most, it was hard to see anything other than a Rebel vs Gravity final, which is typically the decider for most of our domestic Women’s competitions. In fact, other than last year at the same event, where Rebel dominated with two of their own teams playing in the gold medal game, Rebel and Gravity have squared off in pretty much every final across the country they’ve competed at since 2015. And, with the Cork ladies and the hometown heroines kept apart in the initial pools, it would seem likely that the two would be destined to meet in the final once again this time round.

With that said, you would be slightly ignorant to completely disregard the other challengers for the crown. Tribe, hailing from out west, were known to be a thorn in the side to most teams, as the perennial dark horses were known for being a formidable and tight knit unit, containing many players from the National University of Ireland Galway. Trinity College themselves, fresh off winning Women’s Indoor Intervarsities, had also thrown themselves into the ring with the idea of testing themselves at a bigger stage. It would have also been possible for history to repeat itself in some form as we could have seen one of the ‘big two’ fall to the other’s second team, as they both have proved historically to contain a wonderful amount of depth!

BOLT posing as a team. Photo by Conor Phelan.

However, the biggest potential usurper to the throne was quickly revealed to be BOLT, a team mostly made up of former/current University of Limerick players with a wealth of international experience. Having breezed through their first four group games with a goal difference of +56, heads were well and truly turned in the lead up to the pool decider with Rebel. From up in the viewing gallery, there were more than a few mumbles from supporters and players alike who believed that they could have the Champions’ number, and for awhile they just may have. In an early afternoon epic, Rebel edged out a universe point encounter by the skin of their teeth (11-10), to ensure they avoided their long-term rivals in the semis.

In the other end of the draw, Dublin Gravity made it through the group with little challenge as they bested a trio of second teams in the form of Rebel 2 (revenge!), Gravity 2 and Tribe 2 before flexing their bottle against the potential banana skin of Tribe’s first team. Despite the Galway girls managing to put home as many points as the three teams before them combined (six), Gravity were just much too strong and experienced for them and topped the group comfortably.

As the semis rolled around, we saw a reversal of the final group fixtures. BOLT would now have to face Gravity in a clash of the elements, while a clash between Galway and Cork would ensue in the form of Tribe and Rebel. In the end, the two more experienced favourites avoided any shocks despite valiant efforts from BOLT and Tribe, who provided tough competition throughout. Once again, Rebel vs Gravity was booked for the grand finale.

On paper, leading into the match one would have seen Gravity as slight favourites. Rebel were missing a number of their leading stars, while the Dubliners were on fire by the end of their semi and looked almost unstoppable. But, never the ones to shy away from a fight, it was the Munster women who started off the stronger. Going ahead early and following it up with a quick break, Rebel worked hard, refusing to easily allow the disc to be given away in order to maintain their lead as they matched and possibly even surpassed Gravity’s intensity with relative ease.

Pushed from the front by captain Emma Healy, who looked to inspire those round her with some insanely safe hands and inch perfect hammers, Rebel found themselves 5-4 up, but there was still a long way to go in the game. And from here, Gravity somehow found another gear as they slotted home their O and followed it up with two quick breaks out of nowhere to flip the game on its head. Suddenly it was 6-5 to Gravity, and Rebel had been completely sucker punched.

Indoors is a crazy game. In these tight games you can be on top and time would slow down to almost a complete halt. But when you’re losing, everything speeds up to the extent where you really need to show composure to avoid it getting the better of you. After another turn Rebel attempted to stop the rot by switching up their defence. With a passive endzone flood, they looked to force Gravity to pass it across their front endzone for what felt like 500 passes in the hopes of tiring out the offensive team and giving them a chance at potentially capitalising on any errors. But with the composure, wit and skill on display thanks to Gravity’s stars, such as Jane Linehan and Fiona Mernagh and punctuated by the unpredictable yet seemingly effortless nature of Ireland’s best talent (and eventual MVP of the final) Áine Gilheany, even a cohesive unit such as Rebel couldn’t contain what was to come, as they found their way through the defensive structure.

MVP of the final Aine Gilheany on the disc. Photo by Conor Phelan.

Rebel couldn’t get their break, and at this stage they needed several if they were to come back and break Gravity hearts. With time ticking away, both teams displayed wonderful offensive prowess which saw a number of points flow by without a single turn, and as they game died out, Gravity punched home the decisive final score to win their second Indoor All-Ireland title in three years, 14-9.

Overall, a successful event ran wonderfully by Dublin Women’s Ultimate. It was great to showcase the Women’s Division in Ireland and it was positive to see a number of different clubs putting out performances. It’ll be interesting to see how the rest of the 2018 season pans out, and if one thing is for sure, we can see Rebel regrouping and ready to try take back the top spot in Ireland. But will they be alone in striving to unseat Gravity?

Main photo also by Conor Phelan.

UK University Ultimate 2017/18: Women’s Indoor Nationals Preview

news, Previews, University, Womens

This year, University Women’s Indoor Nationals will be held in far distant Glasgow. Though extensive coverage will be taking place on the weekend itself, here is a sneak peek of what might go down on the fields of Ravenscraig this weekend.



Teams competing: Hertfordshire, Imperial, KCL, Oxford, UCL

The East region teams have to make a very long trek to Glasgow, but they will be bringing their a-game against any team who thinks that the distance puts them at a disadvantage. Hertfordshire, Imperial, KCL, Oxford and UCL (who qualified in that order) are all formidable teams with their own strengths and may be aiming to bring home some silverware, especially since last year’s National Champs Chichester didn’t even field a team for Regionals this year.

With a dominant showing by their women at Mixed Indoor Nationals, I’ll put my bets on Hertfordshire finishing the highest of the East region teams, with the highest possibility of  making the top three. Their women are tall, athletic, physical, and willing to put their body on the line for any disc. Keep an eye out for Ola Kulikowska (Uprising) and Cat Gale (GB U17 & U20 Coach) in particular.

GB U24 Women’s Interview

GB, news, Womens, WU24UC

Harry Mason caught up with all five captains of the Great Britain under-24 Women’s team before they jetted over to Perth. Join us as overall captain Claire Baker, D-line captains Amelia Kenneth and Bailey Melvin-Teng, and O-line captains Georgia Murphy and Alice Beeching kick off our international interviews.

What is your team philosophy? How would you describe what motivates and connects you as a team?
Georgia: We have adopted the New Zealand All Blacks’s mantra of leaving the shirt in a better place after wearing it. They play and live by this philosophy, always adding to their legacy. The idea is we treat ourselves and our opponents with respect, and that we are proud to play for Great Britain and strive to be better every day, both as individuals and as a team.

UK University Ultimate 2017/18: Women’s Indoor Regionals Preview (West)

news, Previews, University, Womens

Becky Greenwood talks us through the West region.

It’s that time of the year again, that we’ve all been waiting for! Women’s Indoor Regionals is just around the corner, and it’s time for the western women to shine and show their talent, teamwork and improvement. There are fourteen teams entering this year, and though some teams have lost players to graduation, all have new fresh talent ready to pounce and surprise. This year is set to be an intense one as every team pushes for a Nationals spot, ready to exceed expectations and have a lot of fun along the way!

UK University Ultimate 2017/18: Women’s Indoor Regionals Preview (Scotland)

news, Previews, University, Womens

Annie Bechtel is a product of the Scottish Ultimate scene, and is here to bring you the hot gossip before the women of Scottish Universities descend on Aberdeen to battle it out for the title of Indoor Regionals Champs.


UK University Ultimate 2017/18: Women’s Indoor Regionals Preview (North)

news, Previews, University, Womens

Kat Rowland brings us her first preview from the UWIR in the North.

With UXIR and UMIR out of the way, the spotlight turns to the year’s first women’s tournament. Beginners have settled into their teams and the North is becoming a little cold and dark for outdoor training, so UWIR is the next major event. Each team will have their own aspirations, whether that is one of six prized qualifying spots for Nationals, to develop team cohesion, or to beat specific local rivals. Certain teams are expected to dominate, but who knows who might rock the boat? Some final standings are predicted, but aim to exceed expectations and prove me wrong!