An Open Letter to Male Ultimate Players… From a Guy

by | April 29, 2014, 6:00am 143

Hey, guys.

I’m writing to you because the sport you love, ultimate, is also the sport I love. It’s more than my favorite sport–I consider it my spiritual practice. Ultimate has helped me in times of grief, sadness and depression, and in times of anger.

I play ultimate because it’s a game one can’t win alone. I play because I get lost in the moment. I play ultimate because I get fired up watching a teammate’s huge layout D. And I play ultimate because, at most levels, it’s up to the players to hold themselves, and each other, accountable.

I believe that the sport we love, while growing overall, harbors troubling sexism—and men, I think we are responsible. I see sexist behavior coming from some of us, both on the field and off. I contend too many of us don’t take female players seriously, and we don’t respect women’s ultimate more generally. We can, and must, do better.

I am a good, but not great, ultimate player. I have played in lots of sectional tournaments. I will never play at nationals. Despite my limitations, I have, like many players–including many men—often been told I’m a natural leader. For too long I thought that meant I needed the disc all the time, and that my voice needed to be heard for my team to win, whether “my team” meant a competitive team I practiced with regularly, or the random group of people at a pick-up game.

As men, we have been conditioned to believe that we matter. We’ve been told that we are great. We think we can make the huge throw or the big defensive stop. It is our job to make the big play.

So we show up to ultimate, and many of us play the hero. Some of us give unsolicited advice, shout about how open we are, throw contested hucks, and, all too often, we ignore the women on the field–especially at pick-up games. Maybe we throw to them once. Twice if we think they’re really good. Too often we never even find out whether they’re skilled, because we never give them a chance–as though the chance was ours to give in the first place.

Men: ultimate does not belong to us. The disc is not ours. The game is not ours. Being male does not give us a right to ignore our teammates. When it comes to sports, we are privileged. Women must prove themselves worthy, while men must prove themselves unworthy.

Some of us believe the disc belongs to us because, in general, we are taller and run faster than women do. I contend that those of us who believe that are wrong.

Of course, there are exceptions to the above statements. Some games and teams are more inclusive than others. Some women play gladly at pick-up games, get the disc whenever they want it, and captain competitive mixed teams with few issues. Yet the presence of gender equity in some spaces does not mean all is well across the board.

I’ve brought this up with men before and heard variations of the following counter-arguments:

  • I would throw to women if they got open.
  • I throw to women if they’re good.
  • Sports are meritocracies, and guys are faster and taller than women.
  • It’s about winning, not social equality.
  • Why are you lumping all men together? I throw to girls all the time.

I have gone to pickup games and watched talented female players get ignored on the field so guys can repeatedly huck it deep to one another. I’ve played in mixed-gender leagues with women who get the disc only a few times a game—and not because they’re never open.

If you don’t want to throw to women, play for a men’s team. If you want to play mixed, then play mixed. And if you play pick-up, throw to open people. Period. Every time we neglect a player on the field, I argue we hurt the game we love. Self-officiated at most levels, it’s up to us to create the culture we want. I seek an ultimate culture in which open players get the disc—and new players, regardless of gender identity, are warmly welcomed and nurtured–for even the best players were once novices.

I didn’t write this “on behalf” of female players, as though they need a man’s protection. I wrote this because I, and several players I know, both women and men, believe there’s a widespread problem about gender relations in ultimate. And I believe that sexism in sports comes from men. It is not due to women’s “genetic inferiority”—it is due to our learned overconfidence and prejudice.

True leadership is about lifting others up as we climb. It means stepping up at times and stepping back at others. I see specific things we can do to build towards a better ultimate.

We can refrain from calling people off the disc at pick-up games. We can huck to our guy friends less and throw to open people more. We can remember that we’re probably not as great a player as we think. We can yell less and encourage more. We can talk about women players and women’s teams with respect. And, if we’re on a competitive mixed team, we can learn from the best teams, who say that people who feel valued and valuable create a team of winners.

I invite you to observe the games and leagues in which you play. Who gets the disc, where, and how often? Also observe your own behavior. Am I dominating the game, cutting off other players when I make cuts, or ignoring open players? Do I assume female players need advice and male players don’t?

Lastly, and perhaps most crucially: If I’m not one of those guys, am I calling out those who routinely exclude or trample on others?

I ask myself these questions, and others, every time I cleat up—for fun and in competitive games. I repeatedly fall short. It’s a lot to unlearn. I identify as a feminist athlete, and I believe in ultimate, so I think it’s worth it to keep working.

USA Ultimate describes Spirit of the Game, or the ethos of ultimate, this way:

Highly competitive play is encouraged, but never at the expense of mutual respect among competitors…or the basic joy of play.”

Not ‘mutual respect among only male competitors, but “mutual respect among competitors.” That means every person who steps on that field deserves respect, and every player deserves to feel the joy of this beautiful game. May we work together to ensure ultimate’s bright future–for everyone.

This was originally posted on Kenny’s blog and has been reprinted with his permission.

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  • Margaux Jones

    You rock Kenny!

  • Thanks for the article! I'd like to point out that I have many times strategically used this behaviour against teams. It's often evident early in a game to the opposing females when the men are ignoring the women. You notice when your mark never gets the disk, even if she got open on you. You can then alert your team and start poaching. When you have 3 women junking up your throwing lanes, you're at a disadvantage, and yet the now very open women often still don't get the disk. I agree with your point, if you don't want to throw to women, play mens.

    • Kenny Wiley

      Thanks for the comment, mcarolyn! I completely agree on the strategy. I left 'winning' mostly out of my argument, though–I don't think the most important thing is "throw to women because they'll help you win", even though it's true–the argument should be "throw to women because they're people."
      But my current and former teammates will tell you that I wholeheartedly agree.

    • Tiki Mossop

      SO agree! – I 'love' it (from a defensive/oppositions point of view) when a team doesn't use their ladies! It means I get to poach and be a nuisance all day!! The best teams are the teams that use all their players – why play 5 (or 4) against 7?! Surely those odds aren't great no matter how you look at it!

  • Jason Brask

    From my perspective as a higher level player from the late 90's and early to mid 2000's, my peers and I viewed/view women with considerably more respect then you and yours do. In fact, one of the primary tenets we employed in assembling and deploying some of our later career coed (sorry, mixed) teams was that you were only as good as your women.

    • Camille

      And yet, perhaps the statement 'you are only as good as your women' implies that women are the weakest link.

      • Sarah

        It meant that your women must be used (well) in the game in order to win. The phraseology isn't good, but I played with a team that stated this and that's what it meant for us.

    • Guest

      Wow, seriously?! Do you not notice the blaring sexism in this?
      "You are only as good as your women".
      You might be a very respectful guy, but please consider this phrasing for a moment. It is a variation of the saying "you are only as good as your weakest link". Maybe this is a little harsh… but would you ever say "you are only as good as your best player?" No you wouldn't. That makes no sense. So unfortunately, at some level you are implying that woman, however good, are different than male players and require validation for their existence. I completely understand that most woman are indeed not as fast or tall or strong as many men, just please rethink your tenets and their general origin/bias. Thank you.

      • hey ladies

        Odds are, and these are very good odds, that the women on a mixed team are the "weaker" players. So, if your lady players are very good, and the other teams ladies are not, you have an edge. If all your men are terrible, and your ladies are great, you are going to have a terrible mixed team. However, if you have strong male players and the women lag behind quite a bit, you can still have a very good mixed team.

        And validation for there existence? Ease up. Noone is questioning why they exist. This article is simply asking guys to throw to open girls.

      • Sarah

        I started playing ultimate with a great mixed team that stated this as a principle, and I was not offended (I am a woman). I think it's taken out of context and the OP didn't do a great job of explaining/phrasing it, but what it meant for us was that the team that utilized their women the best were the ones that won. In other words, effective play with the women on a mixed team will win/lose games.

    • Nick

      Jason, what I got out of this statement is that you are missing something huge…The women that you play(ed) with are good athletes. It is always easier to respect someone who is a good athlete over someone who is not. I hope that you understand that fact, because it is the reason the man who wrote this article wrote it. He is not playing with high level athletes, he is playing with regular athletes. I am in his category of players as well and my experience is much the same. The lower level the players are, the less likely women are going to be respected. That is the statement I would like you to take to heart.

      Also, to your last statement, if you are using this in the same way I do, then everyone reading needs to understand, "only as good as your women" does not mean only as good as your weakest link. It means that if you respect and use all the members of your team, you will mostly likely be beating the team who is ignoring their team. Essentially, this means your team is using the players that the other team views as their "weakest link" to your advantage.

      I do contend however, that this statement shouldn't be used. Because although you may not be speaking about your women as the weakest link, you are still speaking of the other women as their (the other teams) weakest link.

  • Patty Bates-Ballard

    Wow, you have brought back 30-year-old memories for me when I played college ultimate and rarely got the disc. I began intentionally calling "open" in the deepest voice I could muster. It worked, to a degree. I got more passes, but not that many more. I hope this article will be food for thought for today's players.

  • Ben Rupp

    " Sports are meritocracies, and guys are faster and taller than women.
    It’s about winning, not social equality."

    I absolutely loath these arguments.

    • Veronica

      Not if it's a pick up game. That's what league games are for.

  • guest

    why doesn't someone watch the USAU semis and finals and keep track of stats. how many touches do the girls get on O and D etc.

    • Bryan Lake

      Last time I saw stats on this specific topic, I believe it hovered around a 2:1 male to female touch ratio. One thing to keep in mind about this stat is that there are more men on the field then women during mixed. Lines are typically 4:3 which means even in a game where everyone touches it, the men will still get the disc more often. You have to also consider if teams are using more male or female handlers as they'll get the most touches. One or two long points of zone with male handlers could completely muddle this stat.

      • Josh

        …one could argue that the mere fact that lines are more often 4 men to 3 women is evidence of the inequality issue right there.

        • Bryan Lake

          Well there's not much that can be argued there. 7 people on the field means there will be inequality in the gender ratios. Unless we move to an even numbers of players on the field, we will not have equal playing time for men and women in that regard.

          • Equality could be approached by alternating 4-3 with 3-4.

  • Ultimate Community

    Dear Skyd and Ultiworld,

    Please stop pushing "gender equality" in ultimate articles. It's a joke, and waste of what could be interesting ultimate-related articles, reviews, writeups etc. Women are not oppressed or discriminated against in the ultimate community, they have just as much opportunities as men (even more so because they can play in 5 divisions and men can only play in 4 divisions). Sorry, women's ultimate is just like the majority of other women sports in that it is slower and less exciting. Look at the NBA, MLB, NFL, and every other major sport: they have been around for decades and decades before a professional women's counterpart is introduced and still way behind the men's leagues. Women in professional ultimate is far away. Play the game for the love of it and stop worrying about trying to prove the legitimacy of the game.

    The Ultimate Community

    • Zog

      You missed the whole point of the article. Every single male who has ever played ultimate has heard a male disparaging female players. Yes it may be slower and yes they may not make plays that appear to be as athletic, but that doesn't mean that we as a community should put up with derogatory statements. Where I attended college the women's team attended nationals on a regular basis and we didn't and yet the comments about women players being inferior persisted. Women are not inferior, but they absolutely are discriminated against in all of the ways that the author described. Open your eyes to the true world around you.

    • Ultimate is the Only Sport that I can think of that has Competitive mixed play.

      I personally play for a small college that does not have a Women's team(simply not enough girls every year). Our team is Mixed, but we compete in the USAU college series as a mens team. All of other tournaments are Mixed.

      There is a distinct difference between playing men and women separately, then playing Mixed. The author is pointing out an attitude problem in Mixed play that can be observed. Players are ignoring SOTG for their own teammates because of their gender. It is not fun to play when you never(or rarely) touch the disc.

      This article is not looking for a pro women's league now, but it is looking for the current mixed-playing Men to reevaluate their attitude toward their female players on the field.

      Respect mixed play, and respect your fellow ultimate players(regardless of gender).

      • Paul

        Mixed doubles in Tennis is a competitive event at the Olympics, as well at Wimbledon.

    • many women i know are faster than I am and I'm in pretty good shape. I don't regularly play sports but when I do I'm alright at them. To say that any women's sport is less exciting than the male counterpart is complete b.s. Women's soccer is just as if not more exciting to watch than men's soccer. Women's basket ball has gotten to a point where it's more exciting then watching teams of over sized guys score 100+ points a game. And I think the only reason why the MLB's counterpart isn't as exciting is because some ass hat somewhere decided that women can only play softball. So I'd take a step back before making such accusations.

    • LLC

      How cool for you that you presume to speak for the entire ultimate community! Couldn't be that "learned overconfidence" the author mentioned, now could it?

    • Guest

      Dear “The Ultimate Community,”

      We are lucky enough to live in an era and a society that has progressed enough to begin closing the gender gap, not only in athletics (through women’s participation, but in the professional world as well. Unlike baseball, basketball, hockey, football, and other “major sports,” ultimate frisbee is fortunate enough to be growing and developing during this time in which the bridge between genders is closing. We are fortunate to be in a position to influence the growth and development of this awesome sport, unlike the aforementioned “major sports” whose growth and development had occurred during times when women were thought to be inferior. Those “decades and decades” that they were “around for” are exactly why the gender gap is so large; the opportunities to develop women’s play and leagues were not available until the late 20th century.

      With that said, being a part of the development of this truly awesome sport during a time in which a narrowing gender gap is taking place in our society brings about the opportunity for all of us as participants to influence it. We do not have to take the “decades and decades” because our society has changed and our social outlook on the gender differences and inequality that exists is no longer as skewed. As participants, we are all able to influence the route this sport will take and should feel fortunate for participating in it at a time when can still break the path for this sport. Why must we conform to the path that had been laid out for the other “major sports” when we embrace the rather alternative culture of Ultimate Frisbee? Why can’t we simply shape it with its own path and choose to reject the gender inequalities that exist in other sports? Our current media-enriched society will influence the current and future mindset of this and the two ultimate frisbee media outlets have done a great job promoting the discussion about our chosen future for this sport.

    • McKean

      Everyone has been really polite in responding to you, I hope you can appreciate that. I hope you can also appreciate it when I say you are an idiot. You are an idiot for several reasons; your general position on this issue, your presumption to represent the Ultimate community, asking Skyd and Ultiworld to pigeon-hole themselves and cater their coverage to simple-minded idiots, and reading an entire article you disagree with only to write a response that helps the article's argument and discredits you. You're an idiot.

      • trollsaurusrex

        how many times did you spell check that?

    • Oliver

      Is this post meant to be ironic or did you just not read the article?

      The author's point is not that women are overtly oppressed or discriminated against in the ultimate community, but rather that many men within the community do not treat them with the respect they deserve as fellow athletes. I ask if your post is meant to be ironic because your comments (I'm going to assume that you are a male that thinks he's speaking for "The Ultimate Community" ) illustrate exactly the sort of chauvinistic attitudes the author of the article is talking about.

      If you only love the game when men play, that's fine, but you're losing a great opportunity to learn a lot from many incredibly talented women, many of whom play much smarter than most of the best dudes I know.

    • TommyMo

      "Sincerely, The Ultimate Community"…?

      You think that YOU speak for the ENTIRE Ultimate Community??

      Well, now I know two things about you, for sure:
      1) You're a young, arrogant fool.
      2) You're not NEARLY as good at Ultimate as you think you are, pal!!

  • Kenny Wiley

    "Ultimate Community" (except not so much),
    First off, thanks for taking the time to comment. I don't know you nor your gender identity, but I think it's pretty dangerous and unfortunate that you presume to speak on behalf of the community. I posted the blog 16 hours ago and have heard from players all over the world already who strongly disagree with your assessment.
    If you took the time to actually talk with women, I think that you would (on the whole) find that women are discriminated against in our sport. Not always, and in diverse ways, but definitely in general. Being "allowed to play" does not mean the same opportunities exist. I encourage you to, instead of presuming to speak on behalf of a community which, judging by the initial reaction, does NOT agree with you, examine your own biases and prejudice.

    If you are male, part of male privilege is thinking your view is the dominant one. While there are many men who share your view–which is why I wrote the piece–it does not mean you are right. Indeed, I firmly believe you are wrong on many counts. If you are female, I encourage you to ponder whether you have internalized our culture's sexist attitudes towards women and female athletes.
    I imagine you will disagree with this comment, and that's okay. I'm glad you took the time to comment on my essay, and hope the dialogue continues.

  • Matt

    "If you don’t want to throw to women, play for a men’s team. If you want to play mixed, then play mixed." So true!

  • Davis

    I play in Seattle, where this is not an issue.

    • BigBurd

      This is false. It is an issue in Seattle. It may be less of an issue at the elite levels, but I'm a woman and I play in mostly mixed, intermediate league teams in Seattle and routinely feel like I have to be six times as good as a dude to get get half the touches. It's really stymied my development as a player. Oftentimes guys ARE super athletic and get away with not being that great, because their athleticism covers for them. This does not make them better ultimate players. Many of us women spend hours perfecting skills to make us competitive, often only to have a few touches per game.

      • Guest

        It's still an issue at the elite levels. It's even funnier so when women who play elite mixed play pickup or intermediate leagues, they still get looked off.

      • Art Vandalay

        Today l learned that being more athletic doesn't make you better at sports… Please tell that to any elite player in any sport.

        it might not seem fair to you, but natural athleticism can, and usually does make you a better player.

        • Michelle Shakalaka

          I think the point trying to be expressed here is that a lot of women work hard to be good at their sport yet don't see the results. A lot of times, even if a woman IS athletic and is completely open under, the thrower will look her off in lieu of a deep shot to a covered man in the end zone. Presumably, the fear in the thrower's mind being, "If I throw to this woman cutting under, she might drop it…but if I throw to that man in the end zone, he might catch it." This view is what the article is challenging. The idea that both cutters can be the same degree of "open", yet the handler will choose to throw to one over the other because of gender is cause for inequity.

        • BigBurd

          Being more athletic does make you better, but being able to jump high and run fast are not the ONLY things that make people good ultimate players. In my experience, I have played with male players who basically only have jumps and fast running, and get respected like they're good players even though there's so much more to it than that.

    • No name

      Is Seattle exempt from gender discrimination? Do you really think that no woman frisbee player in Seattle feels this way?

    • I mean, this happens everywhere. However, i do think in Seattle especially and probably a few other places, it is much better than most of the country. I know a few female ultimate players who basically refused to play mixed, despite their own desire to play mixed, and felt like the scene in Seattle was "so much better" that it brought them back. So that is a victory, but it doesnt eradicate the problem.

      One thing that Seattle does well, is mandate played 3/4. Nothing is more harmful to continuing participation by women than playing 5/2 6/1 etc. If you're league only has 25 women who want to play, if you decide to play 5/2 so you can have 6 teams or whatever, don't be surprised if many of those women aren't back. Limit the number of teams you have.

      • Guest

        I completely agree with your second point. This is an issue I have experienced many times. Our rec league is currently playing 6:1 and our team has 3 girls. This limits playing time to the point that coming to games often feels like a waste of effort and time.

        • Guest

          It sucks just as much for the guys, since your team now lives or die on the attendance (and skills) of 2-3 people.

    • Lady Guest

      I play in Seattle. This is an issue. It's an issue from pickup games to hat league to elite levels. I co-captained a mixed team last summer. I touched the disc a lot because I handled, but I saw so many of our women cutters get looked off in favor of deep hucks. Thank you, Kenny, for this article.

    • Luigi

      I also live in Seattle and it has been bad enough for me that I am seriously considering this season to be my last. I am fast (faster than a lot of men), always open and have good hands and I've lost count of the games where I didn't touch the disc once. I am tire of devoting gas/time/money to something I don't even get to participate in.

  • Beetle

    This happens in mixed futsal (indoor soccer) and I'm sure in many other sports. Thanks for this discussion – being ignored on the field can really sap the fun out of turning up, especially for social games where participation is the whole point. At social games, skills vary regardless of sex and not all the men will be better than all the women, but this problem persists, even though a social game should be about every player having a go anyway.

    I did notice that some of the best male players WOULD actually pass to the girls. I wonder if they'd reached a level far enough above the other guys to understand that the latter weren't skilled just because they were male, and treated all the mere mortals equally, also understanding the flow a game enough to know it was worth passing to any and all of us anyway (or in the case where they were good enough to dance around the opposition on their own, that that wasn't the point!). Maybe, given the example of these best players, guys who don't like to pass to girls should ask themselves whether they really are all that good themselves, if they haven't yet reached that level of understanding of the game!

  • Danny

    My impression has been that this isn't necessarily so much about the gender of the receiver and more to do with the desire to make the big play. It's not just wanting to pass to guys, it's wanting to huck to guys who are breaking deep on a low percentage throw. At a pickup and intermediate level there seems to be a growing disdain for short passes regardless of who is receiving. And as my experience has been that women tend to be far more dangerous with the short play requiring more rapid direction changes and control in the throws, they tend to play in the area of the field that is more often overlooked.

    • Michelle

      I would challenge that assertion. I have sprinted to the house for many a deep look. I have seen other women burn their defender and be completely open in the end zone, only to be looked off by a male handler. Perhaps the handler didn't feel comfortable with the throw or felt the timing was off or got tunnel vision for another player. But at some point, after seeing this happen time and again, I think we must admit the simple fact that open women are looked off for being women. The best way to change this is to simply be aware and to guard our thoughts. Just because a cutter is female doesn't mean she is less competent in the deep game.

      • Guest

        "Completely open" is always relative. You may dominate your defender entirely, but if there's any chance that a guy who will sky you 95+% of the time will be able to get there, it's a risky throw.

  • Great article, Kenny!

    One thought, though, is that I think your article is most relevant and important to men who are playing with women, either in rec leagues or mixed teams of all caliber. As an elite women's club player, I have been trying to express to my friends who are men who play frisbee the ways in which they can be allies to elite women's frisbee and the development of women's ultimate (and therefore all ultimate) on a systemic level — how they can be allies when they're just spectators, not players.

    Parts of your article do talk about breaking down gender privilege and can be directly be applied to how to help the development of a more gender-equal, gender positive sport of Ultimate. I think that's key to how we can move the community forward off the field as well as on the field. I think that's how we can move to stop using the arguments that "men's ultimate is just more exciting to watch than women's" and that "develop men's ultimate first, and the women's development will follow" and to better conversations about how Ultimate can be more innovative and exciting in its development rather than beholden to a history / culture where prejudice is learned.

    Would love to hear more about your thoughts of how men can be allies from the sidelines as well!

    • Kenny Wiley


      Your critique of my essay is spot on. I wanted to narrow my focus, and lots of points–especially yours–did not take center stage. I have seen a few articles address the "higher levels" of ultimate and the inequity there. My thoughts regarding how to be an ally from the sideline are as follows:
      The first thing we can do is speak up for women's ultimate around other men. Joe Baz, one of the players with whom I collaborated in writing this, does this well. When we held ultimate parties, he shows women's highlight videos and live streams as much as men. Our mixed team was enthralled with all the videos he put on.
      Next, challenging the notion that "nobody" watches women's sports. Indeed, a women's league could be a tough sell at the present time, but the US soccer team, swimming, and women's tennis are easy examples to combat that notion. Millions watched the NCAA women's title game that "nobody saw."
      I find watching mixed and women's games incredibly captivating, and I'm far from alone. Speaking up about that in a way that doesn't ignore that men's and women's ultimate are different can help lessen the stigma around it. Some guys think that "real men" shouldn't watch or support. That's just not true, and everyone needs to speak up that one guy and his friends do not speak for everyone's tastes.

      Also, I wish so badly that professional ultimate was a mixed league. I think it would prove to be incredibly marketable. Watching the best players, women and men, compete on the same field at the same time would make us different and get the game noticed.

      Thank you for your kind words and your critique. I'm glad this is being shared widely and hope the conversations keep going.

      • Guest

        I completely agree with your last point re the Pro Leagues. I really wish that the Pro leagues had started as mixed leagues. Imagine the likes of Nancy Sun, Alex Snyder, Octavia Payne, Sandy Jorgensen, Anne Mercier, etc etc playing out there with the Rush, Breeze and Spiders top end players. It would be AMAZING and set us apart from all the other sports that the pro leagues are competing with, as well as open up a whole new audience of women who would come watch when they know women are involved!!

  • One Woman's Story


    Last year I LOVED my mixed team, because we ran through our women so much. Objectively our women were much stronger than our men, in comparison to the other men and women on other teams (aka our women were better than other women on different teams but our men were worse than other men), and we definitely won games we might have not won otherwise by heavily relying on our women. We would often call for 4 women 3 men, and then have all 4 women cut. It was AWESOME! For the first time in my life, I felt appreciated and valued by male ultimate players. I had had so many frustrating pickup and hat tournaments up until that point, where guys just would not throw to me.

    Fast forward to this year…first tryout for the exact same team. During the first point of the first scrimmage, three different men (all new to the team) looked me off on 3 completely open cuts. As I cleared at the end of the third cut and I was so confused! Then all of a sudden the realization "Oh right, I forgot. This is how it usually is. These men are new, so they have to see me do something cool". The 3rd guy hucks it to noone, but luckily the other team also turns it in quick succession. I see a deep cut opportunity, but I hesitate. Is it worth it for me to expend the energy, when they are just not going to throw it to me? Suddenly, one of my teammates gets the disc on an up the line, and I go for it. At this point, I have waited too long. I am only marginally open. But he hucks it huge anyways, and I sky for the score. As I start to walk off the field, I hear him say to one of the newbies "See! She's got that all day. Throw to her!" For the rest of practice, I can't keep a smile off of my face.

    Guys, you have a huge impact on the playing experience of women. You can literally make it or break it. To me, there is no higher compliment than when I am totally respected by a guy. I wish it wasn't so rare.

    • Sarah

      This is such a great point. I am a female player and I've always felt that I have to prove that I can contribute on the field. I am fortunately married to an awesome ultimate player who knows my capabilities and doesn't hesitate for the chance to throw to other women, but I definitely feel that he is my advocate in a mixed environment. I thank my lucky stars that he's there to "validate" my playing abilities but I wish it didn't have to be that way. I know that if I was on the field on my own and he wasn't there, I would definitely have a harder time, unless I was playing with other male players that knew and trusted me already.

  • Dana

    This attitude Wiley addresses starts young in my experience. In high school as a female handler I was throwing to girls 2, 3 times as much as the male handlers on our team.

  • Tommy Li

    I played mixed for the first time last year and there was a learning curve. Coming from playing men's, it took me a while to learn when women were open and when they were covered. For example, I would never throw to a man who's defender is 3 feet behind him because he would get layout D'd. With women, that same shot is open. You also have to adjust your throw selection- its harder to throw space throws to mid level women than it is to midlevel men. It took me about a year of club practices to really understand the spacing of throwing to women and I consider myself a strong thrower. I wonder how long it would take a casual or a league player to pick up this skill?

    If men aren't throwing to women because they want to make the big play, I agree that sucks. Some men don't throw to men on under cuts because they want to huck it. I don't want these guys on my open team either. But otherwise, I don't think it's as simple as saying "just throw to the women." There is a learning curve and a lot of male league or mid-level club players aren't actively working on acquiring the skill.

    • Slick

      I agree that it is an adjustment, but I don't think it is an excuse.
      I too have to adjust my throws to throw to men, in exactly the opposite way you described. Sometimes, especially after playing just women's for a while, I find I throw to men too softly/slowly, throw to tight windows, or even throw behind them (particularly on small dishes where they got to that space faster than I thought). Is it a difficulty? Yes! Do I have to work at adjusting? Yes! Do I therefore throw to guys less or not throw to them at all? Obviously not. In my opinion, that is often the excuse used, but it is not a valid excuse.

      • Daniel

        I think that's an unfairly dismissive response. Calling Tommy's observation an excuse implies that he is actively searching for a reason not to throw to women, and I don't think you have any evidence for that. While it's good (or maybe not — have you asked your teammates?) that you can work through your own adjustments by simply turning it over a lot, I think you would better represent your position if you didn't ascribe to malice what is quite reasonably attributed to muscle memory and training.

        Tommy, FYI I have the same problem. I'll throw to any open person, but my split-second open/not open judgment is poorly calibrated for playing with women. I always feel badly when my thinking brain catches up and tells me "yeah, you just looked that person off."

        • Slick

          I think you are reading far too much malice into where there is none. Using the word "excuse" does not at all mean that I am actively attacking him. In fact, I wasn't referring to him at all. I was referring to the league and mid-level players that he was initially referring to (many of whom do use it as an excuse, I have heard it many times). In my opinion, it is absolutely better for especially league players to throw a few more turnovers than to not throw to women because "Wah, sometimes I mess up".

          • Daniel

            In that case, I think it might just be beside the point. There is actual retraining that has to occur — see Lou's recent articles on this site about thinking/doing brain and how training enables more efficient doing pathways than conscious thinking. I'm not doing high-level risk/reward calculations, I'm reacting based on trained experience. I'm not going to unlearn that in a single league game. So how do you tell the difference between someone who's learning, like me, and someone who just wants a reason not to throw it?

            As an aside, I've competed in the last seven club nationals, and I've observed that players who don't throw to women on purpose are pretty much all bad at ultimate. May be different in other areas, who knows.

          • Michelle

            I think the idea that men fear throwing to women because they don't know how is not "beside the point". It is, in fact, the entire point. The idea that you fear a woman might not catch the disc because you haven't "re-calibrated" yourself to throw to women is unfair, since women must adjust to this imbalance as well.

            Whereas many women must deal with being looked off because their handlers don't know how to throw to women, there have been comparably fewer claims that "My female handler won't throw to me because I'm a guy and she doesn't know how to throw to guys."

            I also feel the "I don't know how to throw to women, so I don't…I'm sorry!" argument isn't a valid justification for not throwing to women because it does not account for the fact that every time you play with new people, you are constantly adjusting your throws. For example, when attending a hat tournament where game 1 is the first time everyone meets, everyone must adjust their throws. Yet, cutters are still being thrown to.They might not always be perfect throws, but you try. So why is it the moment gender is brought into the question, it suddenly becomes so much more difficult to let go of the disc?

            Overall, I think Slick's point is that, while Mr. Li's justification is understandable, we should not resign ourselves to the idea that we just have to wait for all men to adjust their throws until they feel comfortable throwing to women. If we do that, women will be waiting forever; at some point, you just have to take the leap of faith, trust your teammate, and throw the disc.

          • buuuuuuut

            girls drop it more than boys.

          • Slick

            Inexperienced athletes drop it more than experienced athletes. I highly highly doubt that on the elite level, women drop it more than men. Feel free to show me the actual statistics to prove me wrong, as opposed to making blanket statements that are part of the problem.

          • Anonymous

            Disclaimer: I completely agree with this article, just trying to do some fact checking.

            I don’t think anyone has ever taken actual statistics on gender and drops, but I have played with both elite women and elite men, and I’ve noticed that elite women drop the disc far more than elite men by a large amount. I am very confident that a review of games at last year’s Club Championships would reveal this.

            I would chalk this up to hand/grip strength, ability to save discs (laying out) and hand-eye coordination (although this I’m not sure about, I’ve googled for studies and find some that say that men are better, some that say that women are better).

          • Stat man

            Here are stats for the 2012 U.S. open.
            Just the summary of turnovers for each division:

            For the women's division:
            1191 total turnovers.
            6.04 turnovers average per player

            For the mixed division:
            1000 total turnovers
            4.71 average per player

            For the open divison:
            795 total turnovers
            3.75 average per player.

            It is abundantly clear that women turn it over more than men.


          • buuuuuuut

            Can't take credit for finding the stats, but they sure do help to prove my point

          • No, these statistics don't make your point. The stats are for turnovers as a whole, not for drops. Your sexist claim (made, you admit, without a factual foundation), was that "girls drop it more than boys."

            These statistics could just as easily lead one to conclude, "See, the statistics prove it. Elite women ultimate players are much better at defense, as judged by the number of turnovers induced, than the elite men."

          • buuuuuuut

            I presume you have watched ultimate. Hopefully you have had the opportunity to watch low, mid, and high level women/girls in the ladies' division, men/boys in the open division and womengirls/menboys in the mixed division. If you have had the chance to watch these levels of ultimate, you will quickly see, and I know you probably hate to admit it (to yourself, me, others, etc…) that women/girls drop the disc more often than their men/boys counterparts.

            Notice, I didn't say they proved anything, but rather helped prove. And yes, those statistics could be used to conclude the point you brought up, but you and I, as well as many, many other people, realize that point isn't accurate.

            It's unfortunate and accurate, but not sexist, to say that the disc is more frequently dropped by female players.

          • samldiener

            I have watched a lot of ultimate. I think we both agree that there are a higher number of average turnovers in women's games than in men's games at the same relative level of competition. But more drops per se?

            We might define a drop as a disc thrown to a player that a reasonable observer would conclude "should" be caught, that hits the hands of the intended receiver, but is instead dropped. Drops are usually due to last moment gusts of wind, players starting to look upfield for the throw before they've controlled the disc, and the catch-all, lapses in concentration. Defined this way, I certainly haven't noticed more drops in women's games than in men's games.

            Either one of us, or both of us, could be suffering from confirmation bias (see… on this one, so I don't think we'll convince each other on the factual claim itself.

            But I want to take this another step. Let's hypothesize that at this moment in ultimate history that you're factually right on this claim. What should a mixed team do if they had data that showed this was true for their team? I would argue that the best answer would be to conclude that women on the mixed teams aren't getting enough reps catching the disc, most likely because of the very sexist throwing practices under discussion in this article. And the solution would be to throw to women MORE so that the rep count imbalance is rectified and the putative "drop disparity" can be eliminated.

            This is a scaled-up version of the problem a team faces after an individual teammate of any sex drops a disc. Do you stop throwing to them? If you look them off, not only do you undercut their confidence and their motivation to cut, but you invite the other team to poach off of them onto other players. I would argue you throw to that person again in order to do the opposite: express confidence in your teammate and make sure the other team has to cover them. If there are technical problems with their catching, you work to help rectify those problems during practice.

            Even if your hypothesis is correct, what would your solution to this problem be?

          • Daniel

            Who said anything about fearing throwing to women? What I'm talking about (and what I suspect Tommy was talking about) has to do with *reactions*, not choices. That's specifically why I referred to Lou's writing about thinking vs. doing. (

            Again, my own experience is that by the time I have consciously processed and recognized the fact that a woman (or any pair of slower-moving players) is open in a way that looks different from a faster-moving player, it is simply too late. Unless you think I should I should throw the disc to a person who is no longer there strictly for form's sake. Of course there's nothing specifically gender-driven in this, other than the law of averages. Of course unfamiliar players, regardless of gender, will be harder to throw to. That's exactly what we're talking about — how on-average greater physical differences increase the on-average difficulty of adjustments. This is such an uncontroversial idea that people have a shorthand for it — "chemistry".

          • Michelle

            I can see I am not going to change your opinion. And obviously, I can't force you to throw to girls. But as long as you continue to defend your actions and make snarky, insincere suggestions like "throw[ing] the disc to a person who is no longer there strictly for form's sake", you will be unable to see the injustice being done here.

            All I can do is implore you to have some empathy; please, think back to any time you've made a solid cut only to be looked off and magnify that by 13 points. Think of what it would be like to work so hard on the field and not be rewarded, again and again. Perhaps then you might be a little less defensive and more supportive of the fight for equality.

          • Daniel

            I can see that this is a frustrating conversation from both sides. And I'm sorry that read as snarky — I can see how it did. It was not actually insincere: I think there may be training value in throwing to a person who is no longer there strictly for form's sake (I think volleyball players are taught to dive for balls even after they have already hit the ground in order to decrease recognition/reaction time, for example) This might be an effective strategy for e.g. early-season mixed team practices: "For this scrimmage, throw the disc as soon as you recognize that a cutter is or was open, even if it's too late." It probably doesn't work for league teams. My own frustration is that it seems like you're rewriting my words with more emotionally charged ones, and I don't want words put in my mouth that misrepresent my intent.

            Maybe I can turn the question around? I enjoy playing with women and will never not throw to women on purpose (I want to play good ultimate, and throwing to open cutters is good ultimate). Nevertheless, I often mess up and react too slowly, which frustrates me. If you're my teammate, how do you help me make this transition more quickly? I understand it's the internet and you'd probably handle it differently in person, but right now your answer would seem to be some combination of "just do better" (not helpful, I already want to do better), "this guy is a misogynist jerk" (I don't think so), and "shame him until he realizes the error of his ways" (okay maybe mixed is not for me). On the other hand, I think if you talk to me after a point and tell me something like "If I have a step on that in cut, I'll be able to hold that cushion — you can hit me there," I'll get better.

            I know that as a woman you've had to deal with a lot of frustration on the field. It's understandable for you to assume the worst about men you're playing with. But even if it's justified, it may not improve the situation for you or your teammates. There are plenty of men who want to play good ultimate but aren't interested in being made to feel shamed or like jerks when learning to play with women. I want to be clear that this is a question of practicality and effectiveness, not of whether you're right or wrong to feel the way you do.

          • Dan, I'd just like to say well done. Give yourself a pat on the back. You've never looked off a woman because you're sexist, only because you didn't realise she was open in time. Congratulations, in this respect you are not an asshole…

            Now we've cleared up with the whole ultimate community that you, personally, are not an asshole, is there any chance you could consider the possibility that when women say that they get looked off even when wide open, they mean WIDE open?

            As in, my 62 year old mother who's only seen one ultimate match in her life would realise they are open.

            So open that even if their defender was someone as awesome at frisbee as you (with your SEVEN club nationals appearances), that defender would be miles away from putting a bid in.

            That happens. That's what people are complaining about. and that's why you shutting down female players with "Hey! You haven't considered how the MEN might feel when you call them out! They shouldn't be made to feel shamed or like jerks!" has got me angry enough to write this completely over the top post.

            Other people have been reasonable, you haven't listened, so I've tried not being reasonable. Have an honest, unbiased look at the next mixed game you see, especially if it's a casual league or a pick-up game. You might be surprised by what you notice.

    • I agree that all the problems you listed are things which make learning to successfully throw to women non-trivial. There IS a learning curve and a lot of (I would say most) male players aren't actively working on acquiring that skill. As it happens, I feel like these reasons account for only a very small part of the reason why mid and low level guys look off women, but for some guys, you're right.

      But even if we give men who look off women the benefit of the doubt, I think that it absolutely IS as simple as calling them for not throwing to women, and that's why I loved the article. How long is it going to take a casual/league player to learn the skills you describe? I'm not sure, but I know that time will be an awful lot longer if they never practice them.

  • Joey Knutson

    As part of my Honor's Project this year (I'm currently a senior at Knox College) I watched 5 elite mixed Ultimate games online and kept track of all the throws. Women were thrown to significantly less often than men (men were proportionately thrown to about 2.5 times as often as would be expected). This isn't a ton of games, but there were over 2000 throws to look at. The big catch was that it wasn't just men who threw to women less often, but women too. On average, in a 4:3 men-women mixed game a guy that had the disc threw it to guys 2.5 times as much as he threw to women and a woman with the disc threw it to guys about 5 times as much as she threw it to women, although you would only expect her to throw to guys twice as much (since she could throw to 4 guys or 2 other women). Some of this can definitely be attributed to having more male handlers on a team who should get thrown to more, but the problem is not just that men don't throw to women when they are open (that is a big problem too, don't get me wrong). The way people are being raised to think about sports has a large impact on both men and women not throwing to women when they are playing mixed gender, and there should be a strong focus on the things already in place that demean women's sports (I won't go into detail on all of these things, but a super cool book to read about gender in sports is called "Playing With the Boys: Why Separate is Not Equal in Sports" by Eileen McDonaghand Laura Pappano, in case anyone is interested to learn more about it). This article is really great to see.

    • Matt

      Did you factor in the fact there are more men on the field than women when playing mixed (usually)?

      • Matt

        yes, yes you did…oops

  • Lady Guest

    Another way in which ultimate can be sexist: the creation of MLU. To my understanding, back when we just had elite club teams, it seems like there were often corresponding women's teams for each city. Where's the WMLU? Where's the ESPN(W) coverage for that? I don't follow many teams outside of my city and the teams my friends play for, but it seems like with the rise of the MLU, the elite women's game has been pushed aside. If only the MLU had been designed mix…then we'd have a revolutionary professional sport.

    • Joe

      What if a WMLU isn't economically viable? Should a women's league be run by the MLU at a loss, even if it prevents the MLU from succeeding as a business venture?

    • guest

      The MLU and/or the AUSL ( or whatever) need to be mixed leagues. It would be the one thing that truly set them apart from other sports and would raise even greater national attention. The sport of ulitmate has never been like all the other male dominated sports, it's roots are in progressive counter culture…we owe it to the world to show them how a top quality mixed sport can be played on a professional level.
      Anyone who suggests a mixed game isn't as high a quality game as a male game ( 'open' is anything but) doesn;t really have a grasp of sublties or the spirit of the game.
      Having the leagues male only was a short sighted mistake on the creators of the MLU

      • #impressed

        This is a great, new, unconsidered idea. What an original thinker you are! All you need to do is invest $50,000 or $60,000 to start the league, get owners to buy teams and convince people to play and pay to watch it. Such an easy concept. Why has nobody else tried this or thought of this. Checkmate, atheists!

  • Whatever

    "If you don’t want to throw to women, play for a men’s team. If you want to play mixed, then play mixed."

    Or maybe if you're a women and want a good chance at getting the disk, play for a women's team.

    • Sarcasm

      Brilliant solution! So all the women that want to be thrown to will play Women's and all the women who don't want to be thrown to will play mixed! Because there are so many women playing mixed right now who actually don't want to catch the Frisbee at all…

    • Long time player

      Even a big city like Seattle, with a huge Ultimate population, only has two women's teams.

      So . . . not an option for many of us. And you're completely missing the point. Why play mixed, if you don't respect and want to play with women? Don't feel you're good enough for men's only?

  • Love love love this article, thanks for sharing!

  • hhh

    Isn't this the sport with the dogs?

  • ltfb

    Hey Kenny! Thanks for the awesome article. I share your sentiments and am enjoying reading some of the discussions in the comments section (I especially appreciate Mr. Li's comments and some of the discussion thereafter). I think it frames the argument more around skills than gender. Also, I think I played pickup with you in Denver last Friday. I enjoy hucking, but I distinctly remember throwing to a girl for at least two scores. It was awesome because she was open. Perhaps we will meet again in the field.

    • Kenny Wiley

      I love ultimate and play regularly, so I suspect we will meet again on the field! I certainly hope so. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • Has anybody ever done stats on whether there is a (statistically) significant difference in number of throws to women thrown by women vs. thrown by men?

    • FD88

      See above comment by J. Knutson

  • Hayley

    This is awesome thank you! I liked that you addressed the unconsciousness in bias based on gender, it's not always a blatant disrespect. I would also say that men get priority over a field, especially at tournaments where a TD makes a scheduling mistake.

  • Chris

    Clearly anyone who is being sexist toward female ultimate players has never played with Sadie Jezierski. That right there will ensure that you never believe women cannot be as good or better than men at ultimate.

    • Ridiculous

      I mean, come on man. This type of argument is as dumb as saying that men should be thrown to more in casual play. In casual play, distribute the disc. Women will never be as good as men at sports.

      • Sarah

        Define "good." If you mean higher average body weight and size, then yes men will always be better at that. But "good" in ultimate can also mean fast, smart, strategic, disciplined, spirited, and reliable. One of the things I love about ultimate is you don't have to be the biggest one on the field to have the advantage. Small, scrawny people can do amazing things and can be much more of a force multiplier than the biggest strongest player on the field who can huck it the farthest and run the fastest. "Women will never be as good as men at sports" is a testament to your lack of understanding of true athletic ability and what that means.

    • bob

      So which open team is she going to play for? Clearly if she's better than guys she could make an elite level open team right? Or are you comparing the best woman with guys who play in bad pickups?

  • Anna

    Wow. This article is awesome on so many levels. I don't know a thing about Ultimate but replace that word with almost any other sport or even career related issue and the sentiment applies. Thanks Kenny for such a thoughtful contribution. It's people like you that will make the world a better place.

  • Simon

    What an awesome article. This was sent to me by a female player that I have been trying to mentor to the best of my limited ability. I have played Ultimate for 26 years and this article best describes how I feel that female players are regularly mistreated. I will be sharing this article with anyone that will read it.

  • seth

    scenario 1: you've got a team full of rookie women, much worse than their opponents
    scenario 2: you've got a team of awesome women, much better than their opponents

    this article appears to say that scenarios 1 and 2 should be treated the same.

    perhaps better: take a better look at your women, you might be missing a competitive advantage they have. many men have been missing this, because of dumb factors other than competition.

    • Sarah

      But why shouldn't they be treated the same? The point is that a player is a player. If you have a female rookie that needs to learn, then blame it on her being a rookie, not because she's female. If a guy rookie sucks, do you then say that guys are terrible players? No.

      • Truth

        Yes. If a guy rookie sucks, then I do say that he is a terrible player.

      • seth

        we're saying the same thing: a player's worth is determined by how good they are relative to their competition. to equate 'female' with 'worse than opponent' would be an error.

  • Guest

    Kenny, you are completely right on this. I'm a guy, and although I played college and club in the past, nowadays I like to just chill and have fun, so I captain a rec league team. Our team has been around for a couple of years, but the start of every season seems to be a rush to find enough women for our mixed league. I know that there's a weekly women's practice/ pick up game in town that is well attended, so clearly there is an interest in playing. Perhaps the reason teams struggle to get women is because they are too frequently overlooked in play. Sometimes we're recruiting and I'll mention that a female player is new, and I'll hear this as a response: "it's okay, we just need bodies". (implying that we only need women to fit our 4-3 requirement, and our women's experience/ talent level doesn't matter, since they aren't important anyway.) I hate hearing that- it's a definite red flag.

    That being said, on OUR team one of our best cutters is a woman— she's not incredibly fast or tall, she's just smart and knows how to get open. A lot. So she's often our primary option on offense. In our league, talented women are the deciding factor between champ and chump.

  • Mike

    Here are stats for the 2012 U.S. open.
    Just the summary of turnovers for each division:

    For the women's division:
    1191 total turnovers.
    6.04 turnovers average per player

    For the mixed division:
    1000 total turnovers
    4.71 average per player

    For the open divison:
    795 total turnovers
    3.75 average per player.

    It is abundantly clear that women turn it over more than men.

    • Sam

      No, it's not. You have to account for how many throws total it takes to earn a point. Men and women play on fields of the same size, but women's throws (hucks) don't travel as far. So, it takes more throws to score a point. What matters is the ratio of turnovers to touches.

      • guest

        to make the claim that women are just as good of an option, given the fact that their average throwing distance is smaller, you'd have to show that women complete a significantly higher % of throws than men – so much so that it overcomes the smaller distance numbers (more throws, more risk). this could be true, you just haven't shown it. but you haven't shown average throwing distance is smaller either.

        • Sam

          You're right, I haven't looked up average throwing distance for men versus women, but it seems obvious to me that men, on average, can and do throw farther.

          Women don't have to complete a significantly higher % of their throws overcome the risk or earn the right to get thrown to. Once a woman is on the field, consistently not throwing to creates a risk of her defender poaching off to D throws to other receivers or create other problems.

      • Mike

        What matters is the ratio of turnovers to points.If women's games are generally longer that would account for more turnovers. Involving the amount of touches is the pointless. If it takes them more throws to score, and they turn it over the same amount as men, it means teams are more likely to turn it with women on their teams because it will take more throws to score.

        • Sam

          Saying "women turn it over more than men" is different than saying teams with women on them are more likely to turn the disc over. Teams with women on them are probably playing other teams with women on them, and so should be compared to… other teams with women on them.
          When you write women turn it over more than men, you seem to be implying that throwing to women is a risky option, or that women have worse disc skills and decision-making abilities than men. This isn't true.

          • Stat man

            If you are familiar with the concept of statistics you would know that it allows you to compare things numerically and draw conclusions from them. Comparing turnover rates in mens and womens games is a perfectly acceptable use of the field of statistics. Saying the two datasets are incomparable is laughable.

            Furthermore, women are generally not as fast or as strong as men, and I would think that this would make more difficult catches less lilkely for women to catch, as well as dynamic throws in windy conditions which requires extra amounts of wrist and forearm strength.

          • guest

            This is similar to comparing turn-over rates for a dynamic, many touches and showy throws handler type and a deep cutter who looks primarily to dump the disc. Yes, the handler will average more turn-overs, but that doesn't mean he's less valuable or not worth getting thrown to.

          • clear as day

            comparing women's ultimate to men's ultimate, and simply looking at turnovers, gives everyone a very clear picture of which gender turns it over more often.

      • huh?

        how can you say that it isn't clear?!?!

        1) look only at the open and women's division (so there is no confusion of a male vs. female turnover)
        2) compare number of turnovers.
        3) the division with more turnovers turns the disc over more.

        Nearly 400 more turns in the women's division, and you want to start worrying about the hucks that travel the farthest?

        • Hannah Calkins

          OK a couple of things, as I'm guessing based on your incredulity you don't work with data too much:

          1. You don't get to just ignore a data set (mixed) because it doesn't support your conclusions. Well, you can do that, I suppose, but then you're a shoddy researcher.

          2. AGAIN as has been pointed out above, we really need to know how many touches there were on the disc. Example: if a women's team uses 20 throws to score and turns it over 2 times in that 20 throws, and a men's team uses 4 throws to score and turns it over 1 times in those throws, looking at OVERALL turnovers, yeah, women have more (<– you may recognize this as the argument you are making.) Analyzing those numbers, though, we would say that women turn it over 10% of the time they throw, and men turn it over 25% of the time. So, statistically I should want to throw to a woman.

          3. Without more evidence to understand the cause of the turnover, we don't even know that we're making the correct conclusions here. Alternate conclusion: men suck at defense. Women are really good at generating turnovers because they are so much better on D, and men have fewer turnovers because they suck at it. How can you say that isn't clear?!?! 1. I looked at the numbers from open and women's. 2. I compared the turnovers. 3. the division with the most turnovers is best at defense. obviously.

          • huh?

            Ignoring the data set for mixed is not ignoring a necessary data set. Those numbers make it very difficult, as has been correctly pointed out, to distinguish between a female/male turnover. By looking at the data sets that eliminate that confusion, we are able to get a basic look at the amount of turnovers that are in male games and the amount of turnovers in female games (at the us open).

            When taking statistics in basketball, they don't care if it takes 2 passes to score, or 22 passes. However, they sure care how many times (not percentage of times) the ball is turned over. Yes, the more passes that are made may make it a higher/lower chance of scoring/turning it over, but I'm not looking to talk about how efficient someone is. I am looking at which division/gender turns it over more. There is no, absolutely no way, to say that the women's division at the us open turned it over less than the men's. And I would MUCH rather have a team that only turns it over once when trying to score, rather than twice, regardless of amount of passes and percentages. Less turnovers is always preferable to me.

            And we don't need to have more evidence about the turnover. A TURNOVER IS A TURNOVER. Whether it was d'ed, dropped, thrown away, etc… is still a turnover. I am not saying that women don't have better percentages, or what not. I am pointing out that there are more turnovers in women's games, which means, that women turn it over more than men.

            And you are 100% right that you could look at those stats and say that the men's division sucks at defense, but you and I, as well as anyone else who has watched or played a substantial amount of high level ultimate, know that is not the case.

          • huh?

            I am curious, because you are comfortable working with data sets, what the almost 400 more turnovers by the women's division is attributed to?

          • Hannah Calkins

            We don't know, which is one of the points I was making above… you can't just take data without context and say, "here's what it means." Because without context, the data can mean a lot of different things. Context is important. Was it windy that day? Were the women playing on cross-wind fields and the men playing up wind-down wind? Maybe! It would make a difference in the numbers. But also maybe not. No context. We don't know. A pro of looking at the mixed data is that at least we know all those players were under the same conditions at the same time in the same place.

            And looking at % of turnovers to touches IS a useful metric here. The argument originally being made was, "I wouldn't throw it to a woman because I know she's more likely to turn it over." The logic behind this consideration is:

            If I throw to this receiver, what are the chances the receiver will then throw a turnover?

            Based on the scenario discussed previously, if the receiver is female the chances of throwing a turnover are 1 in 10. If the receiver is male the chances of throwing a turnover are 1 in 4. Statistically, a female receiver is the safer bet.

          • huh?

            I agree the original issue was that "women are more likely to turn it over". However, the question is not "what are the chances the receiver will then throw a turnover?" The question is, "will she catch it and then successfully complete a pass?"

            If it's windy for the women's division, it's windy for the open division. Yes, perhaps there were some crosswind fields, some upwind/downwind fields, but teams rotated field sites for the weekend. To me, the mixed data is not a pro because you aren't able to accurately assign "blame" for a turnover. With the separate gender data sets, we know that each turnover is either a result of a male or female.

            The disparity in turnovers between the open and women's division is huge. I am not arguing that men are better, nor am I arguing that women are. It is not simple, but it is apparent, that at the us open, when comparing the women's and open division, women turn it over more. That is, and has been, my point all along.

            I believe that if you were to look at data from the triple crown events, that at each stop, the women's team had far more turnovers than the open teams. Does that mean they are better at d? If you want to conclude that, go ahead. It still means more turnovers.

    • Hannah Calkins

      Looking exclusively at the mixed stats you're using from the 2012 US Open (since mixed is what this article is about) lets break it down a little further:
      -CLX had 112 turnovers. 76 of those were attributed to 11 male players, 35 attributed to 10 female players
      -CLX men were responsible for 68% of the overall turnovers averaging 6.9 turnovers a person
      -CLX women were responsible for 31% of the overall turnovers averaging 3.5 turnovers per person

      I wont write out every team's statistics (but I do have them if you like!). Every single mixed team had significantly higher turnovers amongst the male team members both as a % of total turnovers for the team and as an average number of turnovers per person (to adjust for there generally being more men on a mixed team than women). The team with the most parity was Slow White, with the men responsible for 58% of turnovers and avg. 6.75 turnovers, and the women with 39% and avg. 5.4 .

      (note: not all totals add to 100, since there are a few turnovers attributed to "unknown" players by USAU. However, even if every one of the unknown player turnovers is attributed to a woman, the lack of parity does not change significantly.)

      This analysis still suffers from the problem Sam pointed out, which is that we really would want to see ratio of turnovers to touches. Still I just wanted to point out- the statistics definitely do not make it "abundantly clear" that women turn it over more than men, at least not with out further information.

      • Mike

        The most telling statistic is still comparing the mens and womens division because we know that the touches 100% men and women respectively. WIth regards to the mixed team stats, I would assume the men get more touches and attempt riskier throws than the women.

      • Mike

        You're right about lack of stats. Even with touches stats it is hard to judge the reason for the turnover. Probably watching mixed film (a lot of it ) would give a good idea.

  • Uzoma O

    Been playing ultimate for over 7 years. have not once seen this as an issue in anything other than low level pickup and leagues of the same level. If there is generally a handful of players that fit this description in mid-high level pickup, then that doesn't last long before they get called out on it.

    There is also a few other discussions that need to be held here in that same regards in the context of gender equality. But i do agree that women should not be disregarded based on their gender. Both women's and youth ultimate will have a huge impact on the future of the game. To deny that or attempt to singlehandedly limit that is to deny the progress happening in the sport of Ultimate.

    • Sarah

      Are you male or female? If you are male, then not knowing is seeing this is probably understandable – talk to some women that play (mixed and ask them what they think. If you are female, then congratulations, you are of a rare few.

  • Bob

    I throw to women never.


  • andy

    Talking about giving unsolicited advice…

  • Lesley Z.

    Thank you

  • seriously though

    I just wish everyone here could get over themsevles.

  • Reverse Bookends

    I read a comment about a mixed teams that ran through their girls and won because of it, simply because their women were comparatively better than their men. Is it sexist for a team with better men to run through their men? What can I do as a handler/teammate to make sure that weaker girls that aren't really ever open get more involved on offense?

  • Dear Lord

    Advice for winning an Ultimate Match: Don't throw to ANYONE who can't catch.

    Do we really need more articles covering this topic? It's been beaten to death over the last couple months.

  • Von Matterhorn

    ok so I have a few issues with this article. First off I think a lot of it depends on what kind of ultimate you are talking about. I'm going to differentiate between the three major groups I think comprise ultimate: elite/near-elite club teams, low to mid-level club teams, and pickup games/general for fun leagues.

    1. elite/near elite club teams aka teams who have the goal of getting to nationals and have a reasonable chance of accomplishing that goal. Honestly I'm not sure this is worth discussing. If they didn't utilize their girls well they wouldn't be at this level. I think most would agree this article isn't particularly applicable or aimed at elite level ultimate players. Also I've never played at this level so I don't particularly know the dynamics so couldn't really put together an argument at all.

    2. Low to mid-level club teams. I guess this could also encompass some of the more competitive summer leagues, but in my experience most of these leagues play much closer to pickup in terms of both intensity and skill level. So I'm going to focus on low-level mixed club teams, which is still actually a relatively high level of ultimate by the way.

    Just based on the article, I'm going to guess the author has never played mixed club. The difference between a really bad mixed team and a team that consistently makes it to regionals is how good their girls are. Good girls are much rarer than good guys, and the skill differences are generally more pronounced (this is nothing to do with actual males vs. females it will be present among any group that has a smaller sample size). So in my experience girls actually played a larger roll than guys did in general. In general though, guys were controling the disk more, not because of sexism but because you generally want the disc to be in the hands of the person who has the best throws, and typically guys will be better throwers just because of sheer strength. But I think if you look at the number of scores each gender has that there would be more scores by girls at this level, despite the fact that most of the time they make up 3/7 of the players on the field. This might not be entirely true due to more deep hucks being brought down by guys (and a guy doesn't have to be as open deep as a girl does to throw to her as a guy can come off his man and get the D on a girl easier than vice versa). But I would almost certainly think that if you look at end zone situations, that girls would be scoring most of the points, and you certainly wouldn't see any girls getting looked off.

    3. and finally I think what is actually the target audience of this piece, people who play in bad pickups/hat tournaments/noncompetitive leagues. I think the major issue with this piece is that your target audience is this group yet you tried to use arguments that would apply to the above groups. First off, let's look at any pickup or non-competitive game ever, and see the percentage of short throws to deep throws. Even in pickups with no girls at all, if there is an in cut that is wide open and a deep cut that will be a 50/50, the 50/50 is going to be thrown way more often than not. This leads to more people making out cuts in general, and unfortunately when there are multiple people making out "cuts", generally you are not going to be able to find a girl deep and even if you do the odds of guys being able to catch up to it and make a play on it is extremely high.

    Let's also look at another thing, and that is the average girl vs. the average guy who shows up to this kind of game. Neither one is going to throw it very well, but I think it's hard to argue that the average guy generally is going to drop it less than the girl, and is probably going to have a better throw once he does catch the disc. Another big thing though is that when a girl who plays in these kinds of games IS good, people catch on extremely fast. When I was in another city over the summer I played with one girl in particular who was just insanely fast and could outrun almost all the guys there. Guess how often she got thrown to? HINT: a lot. Now I agree it's not fair to a girl who is good to be lumped into her gender group, but the bottom line is that when all you have to go on is gender, the guy is going to be more athletically inclined. Whether that's due to inherent sexism in our society and how we treat boys and girls growing up is beside the point.

    (too long, this is part 1)

  • Von Matterhorn

    (part 2, entire comment was too long)

    But then yes there are guys who just ignore girls, I noticed this at my last hat tournament. One girl in particular was getting open because she was really fast, and a lot of guys kept looking her off and instead trying to force something to a guy. After one point I went up to the guy and let him know "hey, [girl's name] is getting wide open every point, try to look for her and hit her next time". So with that note I definitely agree with the author what should be done when it happens, I just don't think it happens nearly as much as the author claims, and when it does it is only at low-level pickup games. That said, this is where most people who don't play in college start, so it is extremely unfortunate that not only are there some good reasons girls don't initially get thrown to, but also sexism they have to deal with, and this could potentially turn them off from the sport. But honestly I think going to pickup games is generally a counter-productive way to learn the sport for anyone of either gender. So many people learn the game from pick-up and just develop some really awful habits, and I've seen people who have been playing ultimate for 20 years in pickup games who play worse than most 2nd year college players. So honestly the advice I'd give to the girls who are trying to improve but struggling to get thrown to is to see if there's a low-level club team, women's or mixed, that you can maybe practice with. You probably won't be able to play in tournaments until you improve a good amount but that's where you'll improve to the point where you'll be able to play with guys who aren't going to constantly look you off, and you will be an integral part of the offense if you are good enough.

    And finally one more issue I had with this article, and that is that it was focusing way too much on helping them fit in and like the sport and such. Maybe it's just because I've played sports my entire life, but a much more convincing argument for me would have been how not throwing to them hurts the team and your team's chances of winning. Looking off an open cut is the difference between gaining yards, resetting the stall, and being able to open up more possibilities up-field and having to look for a dump, maybe force a throw and risk a turnover. In ultimate you just can't afford to look off open cuts if the team is a similar skill level to you.

    And sorry one more point, I also disagree with you talking about thinking girls need advice and that being bad. Obviously it's sexist and bad if you think you're better than girls thus qualified to give them advice, but as a guy I welcome any advice I can possibly get, be it from a girl or a guy. Now I assume where you're coming from is the macho guys at low-level pickups giving girls really bad advice that revolves around getting out of his way so he can make a play, and I agree that is bad. But in general I welcome advice from anyone, and if I do see something I think I can help someone with, I'm way more likely to give them advice if I think they'll take it well and are working hard versus if they're just there for the glory (aka the typical guy at those games that wouldn't throw to girls).

    Anyway sorry this is absurdly long and I kinda rambled a bit but I think in general you took something that happens from time to time at super low-level pickups and hat tournaments and acted as if it was a problem institutionalized into mixed ultimate. It's just plain not, and if you play at a higher level I promise you it will go away. I got mad at one of the girls for our college team telling one of our rookies about how if they play club they should play women's not mixed because at mixed guys wouldn't throw to them. It's just plain not true and any team that doesn't utilize its girls effectively is going to struggle to win games.

  • pooner

    My question: if it is disrespectful to look someone off because she's a girl, is it also disrespectful to often throw to someone because she's a girl?

    As a league organizer I am always trying to recruit and retain women, and I am often guilty of the latter.

    • honestly

      at this point I would rather err in the direction of throw to women too often than too infrequently

  • Read React Think

  • We have many leagues in St. Louis. A rule that was instituted for fall league a few years ago (in a 5/2 ratio league) was "no more than 5 men" for any given point. Each team started out the season with plenty of women, some experienced, some new. There were some teams that were notorious for looking off the women, and geeguesswhat, by the time playoffs rolled around, those teams were showing up 100% male–and wanting to play that way.
    I've watched this particular scenario play out numerous times since I started playing in 1980: Guy not used to playing with women overthrows to a woman. Next time, throws to a woman with a wimpy trash throw that gets D'd. Third time, doesn't throw to woman. Most of us have a smaller window to which a disc can be thrown; in general (not always), we are shorter and slower. The onus is on the thrower to make a more accurate throw. I can't be taller, but you can throw better.

  • Kev

    I’m really surprised to see this, as I just started playing this September in the UK for/with my university team. I started along with a lot of girls and I’ve never really experienced this with either the club team I’m training/playing with nor the university teams…

  • Chris

    Obviously the same one you play for “Bob”.

  • Candace Hoefert

    Such a well written article, as a woman coming from a soccer background this attitude that men have towards women goes across the board. I first noticed it when I was playing league games for soccer and how it seemed necessary for me to have to prove myself first in order to play. Now as an ultimate player I can tell you it is exactly the same thing. All fine and dandy to have to prove myself in a mixed team, I feel that everyone has to prove themselves but when you do your team KNOWS it and should use you (of course they don’t often) however at pickup it’s beyond frustrating because it’s never always the same group. Even when there is ONE new guy there we have to prove ourselves ALL over again. Guys please take us seriously, and hey if there is a woman who is a rookie, how is she going to get better without touching the disc? How are good players supposed to become great if they aren’t able to touch a disc. Give us a chance, and maybe we’ll give you one.


  • jddj

    Could totally see that happening, as it does in most sports. We started a team at our college and had several girls who weren’t defended by new players… they soon learned that those girls were day one players… right after they’d catch a full field score

  • MagicPhil

    So we’re fighting sexism with sexism then are we? What’s the point of blaming all men? I’m tired of being labeled the bad guy. Its natural for people with self esteem issues to blame themselves, but speak for yourselves dude and find more constructive ways to address issues like this.

    • Jerry McIntire

      What sexism in Kenny’s piece? Hard to imagine a more constructive attitude than what he’s displayed. The idea is, let’s treat all players like they’re not the bad guys.

  • Interested in the data

    Joey, did you publish this somewhere?