I was recruited by Michelle Ng and Without Limits to write about my experiences in my final season of College Ultimate. 2011 has many possibilities...let's see how they pan out. E-mail me (robyn-fennig@uiowa.edu)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

About Me, What I Want (My Post Titled "Dang It," Expanded)

My first weekend spent with SOL.

I began playing Ultimate about four years ago at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire for a small women's college team named SOL. I knew nothing about the game. I knew nothing about the passion that would grow inside me over the next few years. In four years, the team went from literally non-existent to able to compete with and beat some of the best teams in the country. This post is dripping with the effort, excitement, flexibility, creativity, tears, sweat, and dedication I gained from learning how to contribute to a successful new Women's Ultimate program in a small university in northwestern Wisconsin.

I bet most of you do not know where UW-Eau Claire is. To answer some of the questions I have gotten over the years. No, Eau Claire is not in Canada (the "Wisconsin" part of our name indicates that). No, we are not the Bella Donna B team (I've answered that one in many pre-game disc flip huddles). See this map to orient yourself: CLICK ME!

I picked up with Cornell's B team at Southerns...

Also, some people are surprised to know where I went to school. Over the years I have picked up with so many teams at so many tournaments...I can't keep track. So, yes, I went to undergrad at Eau Claire. Now I'm in Iowa as a grad student.

Women’s Ultimate continues to rapidly grow every year in Wisconsin. In the past three years, Wisconsin has seen the development of four brand new women’s teams at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, University of Wisconsin-Lacrosse, University of Wisconsin-Madison (Atropa) and University of Wisconsin-Stout. The state has also witnessed the re-generation of a women’s team at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Finally, co-ed Ultimate programs are developing at both the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. Programs around the state continue to cultivate interest in the game we are so passionate about; however, the practice facilities are sub-par to really encourage program development.

The times I have spent during the indoor season building an ultimate program on a basketball court at UW-Eau Claire were some of the most challenging, yet, rewarding times I have experienced with the game I love; however, indoor season poses unique challenges to new Women’s Ultimate teams during November through April. Overcoming these problems is key to the success of future growth of Women’s Ultimate in Wisconsin. At the moment, no one entity has been largely successful at helping these new teams develop.

My first tournament ever: High Tide '07 Hat Team (Team White White)

From my first hand experiences, I have seen a lack of interest necessary to reach out to developing teams. I have experienced being a brand new player who got mocked on the sidelines when I did not know what to do or what the proper interpretation of a rule was. I have seen other teams mock new teams for their ignorance and inexperience against high caliber teams. (In fact, I've been on a team that's been mocked before, during, and after playing a game...) I want to be part of the solution. I want to overcome this growing disparity inherent in the Women’s Ultimate community. If new teams cannot turn to us, then where will they go?

I was lucky enough to be part of something big, something important, something that I could buy into and belong. This experience has been invaluable in the shaping of the type of player that I have become. I want to do whatever I can to prevent a new player to get laughed at for not knowing that they could contest a foul, or yelled at for making a dangerous play. I want Women’s Ultimate to develop into something that promotes mutual respect, where teams support each other, and take an active role in success of a new team. All it takes is encouragement and interest.

There are organizations out there that attempt to bridge this gap, but I do not see their efforts successful in states that experience winter for over half of their season with practice facilities limited to a basketball court. Big name players at large universities cannot directly relate to the struggles of establishing a sustaining team or program while they themselves have little-to-no ultimate experience unless they, themselves, have done so. Very few voices of that sort are being heard. I hope to create a network of support and idea sharing between successful Women’s Ultimate players in the Midwest who have shared this experience.

Giving teams the opportunity to focus on skills development early in the fall season is a primary focus, in my opinion to overcome this struggle and promote growth. Specifically, I am proposing the creation of an annual skills development weekend for these newer, smaller teams at the time that will be beneficial for them. The event, still in planning stages, aims to provide these teams with the opportunities that will benefit the development of newer and smaller programs.

I originally wanted this to be in spring, prior to the USAU Series. But I have decided to take an opportunity to go to Boston to give a presentation the weekend I was planning on hosting the event. I mentoned this in my interview with Skyd Magazine. I emailed, called, and texted my friends at other schools. To my surprise, I got an overwhelming amount of  response...people loved this idea. People wanted to be part of this. Soon I was getting calls, e-mails, and texts about it. People wanted to help. People wanted to donate time, energy, etc.

The more I sit and mull the decision to postpone the event, the more I realized that fall is more beneficial for an event like this. Realistically, I will be getting in contact with teams over the spring/summer to help get their input and answer any questions they may have....as well as secure a low-cost, centrally located field location.

UWEC Intramural Champions: DA

I am looking for people who would be willing to serve as mentors and coaches at this event. If any of what I said has peaked your interest. E-mail me!! If you just wanna chat about how ultimate has impacted your life, I love that. I love hearing that. Because I feel so incredibly lucky to be part of this community. Out of all the sports I have played, this community is the best. It feels like home.

I realized. I may not be the best at the game. I may not be the fastest, or have the best throws. That's okay (it doesn't mean I don't stop trying and working my butt off, because frankly, I do). What I do have is a thirst for the game and the community. I want to share this with other people, and I want them to share this with me.

Enough for now.


  1. Now I know why you wanted my email a while ago...of course I'll support a clinic. You also make it sound really wonderful because of the passion behind what you're writing...arguably the most important part behind a successful player (in my perspective). Yes...I agree to the Fall season being the better option. I expect to hear from you then:)

  2. Gibbs- I'll probably get a hold of the folks I want helping out in the summer. I want to give captains and coaches a chance to chat (i.e. plan what they want out of the practice sessions on the first day). We'll be in touch :)