Why I Coach Girls Ultimate

by | February 6, 2014, 10:33am 0

Photo by Christina Schmidt - UltiPhotos.com

After graduating from college with a teaching license, I knew that I wanted to coach ultimate while teaching.  I grew up playing pick-up ultimate at camps and with my Boy Scout troop (as an aside, my scoutmaster brought ultimate to the University of Virginia), but I never played competitively until I realized that I was too small to play right tackle at a Division 1 FCS school.  Instead of football, I chose ultimate and fell in love with the sport.

After acquiring a job at East Chapel Hill High, I began helping out coaching the team.  Like most “open” high school teams, we had a handful of girls who played alongside the boys.  The girls enjoyed playing, but there were many times that they would be looked off despite being wide open, or were forced to guard boys when other teams did not have any.  Some of our girls thrived in this type of environment, and one has gone on to great success at Tufts.  However, most of them were unable to develop completely to reach their full potential.

I wasn’t aware that this potential existed until December of 2012[footnote number=”1″]This is a test footnote.[/footnote].  East was headed to Tidewater Tuneup, the last major east coast youth tournament of the fall, located outside of Norfolk, Va.  None of our girls were attending with East, but rather with Durga, a girls team started at Chapel Hill High (our cross-town rival) in the mid 2000s.  Durga had become a club team with players from four or five different schools.  They were looking for a coach to help them out for the weekend, and I decided to take the opportunity.

That weekend was incredible.  Despite bringing only seven and a half girls (one was injured) we went undefeated, winning the tournament.  It wasn’t the winning that was so intoxicating, but rather the amount of fun that the girls were having.  I had never seen them play with such joy.  They flew around the field like lions chasing gazelles, laying out for blocks and hucking the disc with an almost reckless abandon.  With boys on the field, their true ultimate selves had been dampened, but on their own they were unleashed, able to play the game the way they were meant to.  They were having pure unadulterated fun running around a small field in rural Virginia.  It’s hard to describe the emotion of that weekend, but I think that watching your best friend fall in love would come close.  Seeing a person find happiness and fulfillment in something outside themselves is an awesome experience.  Being involved in the process makes it just a little bit sweeter.  I was filled with this emotion while watching seven and half girls tear around the ultimate field for a couple of days in December.

In the following days I found myself transfixed with the amount of fun that the Durga girls had shown while playing with each other.  The fixation grew into an idea of taking Durga and turning it into something more.  I conspired with the other local high school coaches to combine all of the girls from our teams together into a single-gender girls team that would be able to practice and compete on a regular basis.   We eventually formed Saga (socially awkward girls association) with the goal of eventually forming single-gender girls teams at each of our respective schools.  We went on to have success at tournaments throughout the year, culminating with a win at Southerns, but the true value of what we have built goes further than simple winning or losing.  As a mother recently wrote, we have built a tribe for these girls to be a part of that will allow them to be themselves on and off the field.  A tribe that will allow them to access their full potential both as ultimate players and as women.  I coach girls because I want to help give them the experience of being a part of the tribe, to help them find the true potential that is hidden within.

There are obstacles to growth of single-gender girls teams, and I certainly haven’t figured out how to solve most of them, but taking that first step of giving girls the opportunity to really play is a great start.  My hope is to inspire anyone coaching girls on an “open” team to see that there is great potential for those young ladies and work to unlock that potential by working to provide them single-gender opportunities.  It requires a lot of work, but the rewards are indescribable.

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