Last year will go down as a banner year for women’s ultimate. We witnessed a seemingly rushed but brilliant assembly of the All-Star Ultimate Tour, which in turn produced a hell of a performance. Such a collection of speed, moxie and athleticism on one field (nine times over, have you) demonstrated that as far as talent goes, the present state of women’s ultimate is electrifying. As far as the future, we can only hope it provides newfound opportunities.
While there’s yet so far to go in the way of women’s opportunity, we have certainly come across an era of burgeoning awareness and advocacy. Men and women alike are stepping up to close the equity gap. The latest to toss his hat in the ring is Reid Bacon, rookie of the AUDL Dallas Roughnecks.
The promotion of women’s ultimate has long been an important aspect of the sport for Reid Bacon. While playing for Trinity University’s Turbulence from 2011-2015, he collaborated with a small faction to develop the university’s first women’s team, Altitude, now competing in DIII. Now Bacon is in the early stages of his professional career. And while his personal blessings are on an upswing, his desire and ability to give back to his community has also increased. Once again, he’s focusing on impacting women’s ultimate in a big way:
In partnership with the Dallas Ultimate Association, Bacon’s salary will be donated to a women’s club athlete in the community with demonstrated financial needs. All applicants are asked to provide the following:
-How ultimate has impacted her life
-How has she or will she give back to the ultimate community in DFW
-An explanation on why she would benefit financially from the grant
The inspiration originated in a video entitled “Voice” by Sam Harkness (Seattle Cascades and Sockeye), in which Harkness called for top male players to be more outspoken about gender equity. Bacon, like Harkness, realizes the incredible privilege and accessibility he has is not provided to all. And like Harkness he is proactive in the face of inequity. When contemplating how he could use his own voice in the movement toward closing the gender gap, Bacon wanted to ensure that any gesture was as genuinely impactful as his last. So he’s offering up the very thing that qualifies him as a professional.
“I started thinking about things I could do to use my voice, use the fortunate position that I’m in to give back. This was honestly the first idea that I had,” according to Bacon.
Reid has well experienced the financial burden of club ultimate, including travel, team dues and uniforms. When reflecting on his ongoing club career (Austin Doublewide and Houston HIP), he loses count trying to pinpoint the exact cost per season. We came to the agreement that it was at least “a few thousand or so,” not including meals and lodging. The costs mount tremendously as season after season flies by. You’d think he would be looking forward to seeing some of that money come back his way for all his years of commitment to this life. Instead he’s looking to relieve that burden for someone within his community. This comes at a critical time in Dallas-Fort Worth, where the ultimate scene is making a major push – through clinics and youth expansion – towards bringing their women’s ultimate on par with the premiere cities. …. In terms of dollars and cents, Bacon couldn’t even tell you what his final salary will be at season’s end. His final payout is in part tied to the financial performance of the franchise this season.
“I feel like I’m blessed with the ability to not need the money that I’m going to be making from playing frisbee. Just playing for free is good enough for me. Just being able to travel with 20 of the coolest guys I know and play frisbee at the highest level,” according to Bacon.
Last year’s tour has certainly had a hand in his drive for advocacy. Most of his knowledge on women’s ultimate is admittedly, regionally based. But with the exposure brought on by the tour, he’s been made increasingly aware, and in awe of a nation filled with powerhouses.
“I think the All-Star Tour did fantastic job of selling. I was watching the DC Scandal game and they’re monsters. It was incredible. Seeing them at that level is awesome. I think people have to recognize that they are just as athletic as we are. I don’t think [women’s ultimate] is something that really needs to be changed except people just need to recognize it and appreciate it.”
As for his own state, he’s found some play time here and there with some of the best. When recalling playing indoor in Houston with the likes of the Forth sisters (Katey and Bex, Austin Showdown) he endearingly referred to them as “filthy”. He considers Showdown’s Sarah Levinn one of the best Texas has to offer.
“I think she’s probably quicker than anyone I’ve ever seen, man or woman. Her footwork is incredible, just her ability to plant and change direction is crazy. She’s definitely one that I would point to in terms of exemplifying frisbee in general. Being as competitive as possible but respecting your opponent,” he said.
Back home in DFW, Reid Bacon continues to work toward developing the next generation of All-Stars. His donation is just his latest way of doing so. While the grant will only consider members of his own community, he hopes nationwide, professionals and others with ability to do so, will follow suit and consider making substantial efforts to provide for the communities that raised them. Perhaps financially, if they can find it within their heart and ability to do so. Despite the encouraging signs of closing the equity gap, why not be proactive in the change instead of waiting on gradual progress?
“I’m hoping others do find themselves in a similar situation, where the extra money doesn’t really impact them that much…they can reach out to their local communities and see if they can give back a little bit. We have a unique opportunity at this point in our sport’s development.”
Additional info on the Reid Bacon women’s club grant and the Dallas Ultimate Association can be found at dallasultimate.org. Applications are due April 30th.