Sunday, July 10, 2011

University of Kansas:: A Midwest Perspective

I still remember the first time I met Tasha. It was February 2008. Tasha was captaining Kansas and I was captaining Texas and TDing the tournament we were playing at in Missouri. Snow resulted in us losing both our primary field site and backup field site during the day on Saturday, and after spending all of Saturday night trying to find a way to pull Sunday's games off, I walked out of a coffee shop with a revised schedule, only for it to start snowing again. The next morning, my team capped off a rough weekend by losing to an in-region team we had never lost to before, and a coach, upset with his team's schedule ripped into me, reducing me to tears. A few minutes later, I walked over to Kansas and tearfully told Tasha that her team would have to have a double bye because the coach was taking his girls home. Tasha smiled, told me it wasn't a problem, and offered me a hug. We've been friends and collaborators since.

There is a small, but growing, circle of women's ultimate leaders in the South Central Regionwho have worked hard over the past few seasons to build both their respective teams as well as the overall state of women's ultimate in this part of the country. We have a listserve, we've held meetings at tournaments, and these leaders and teams form the backbone of every new tournament and endeavor Without Limits has undertaken in the South and Midwest over the past few years. Tasha is an integral part of this network and group of friends. She was one of the best players in the South Central before coaching Betty last year, and she is a co-captain and co-founder of St. Louis RevoLOUtion, a second year women's club team. In this post, Tasha shares her perspective on the state of women's ultimate in the Midwest, as well as how she feels Without Limits has contributed to her team's development.


You’re probably heard it before—the interior of the U.S. is often behind the coasts. I’ve heard it with a number of things, including ultimate. We started playing later, we don’t have as many players, we adapt to new styles of playing later, etc. I’ve also heard many players say the talent in the middle of the country isn’t that of the coasts. In my short ultimate career, I’d have to say—I think those comments are fairly accurate. I’ve been playing since 2005 and the teams from the coasts are so impressive to me. I wondered all too often, “How do they do it? How do we get the opportunities that they have?” I’m slowly learning that it takes dedication, creativity, organization, and collaboration. I think Without Limits is all of those things, and more.

In the last few years, I’ve observed a number of teams the Ozark Conference and the South Region grow tremendously. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this growth occurred at the same time as competitive playing opportunities like D-II and D-III Centex and Midwest Throwdown started catering to the lesser known teams. The reason our game is improving is because of these opportunities! In my opinion though, it’s so much more than just the games at each tournament. Yes… those are awesome because our teams get to see what high-level Women’s Ultimate looks like. But it’s the socials, the skills clinic, the guest coaches, and all of the incredible tournament amenities that put WL tourneys on the map. It’s the empowerment of other teams to start running their own successful tournaments. It’s paying it forward, and it’s inspirational. These are the things that are connecting female ultimate players on a deeper level.

I’ve been involved with ultimate at the University of Kansas for almost 6 years now (whoa!). We’ve been so fortunate to get the chance to compete at a number of Without Limits tournaments. After each tournament, I could sense the excitement in my team. It was bittersweet, but I had to miss Centex this year because I was on a rotation in Montana. When I talked to our players and captains after Centex, I heard so much about what they learned from their guest coach, Cara Crouch. The girls couldn’t stop talking about her! Throughout the reason of the season, the lessons (both on and off of the field) she taught my team persisted in our huddles. Same with Midwest Throwdown in previous years—my teammates were really excited to share what they learned at their own skills clinics. I believe the Bettys are still trying to find their identity—there has been a lot of transformation since my first season, and they are still trying to figure out how to achieve the goals they set for themselves. I think the exposure to ultimate via projects like WL has very much benefited us on our journey. Us aside though, WL has clearly made a huge impact in our Conference and Region. Each year, teams are becoming better. Each game is harder, and at the same time, each game is more fun. It’s been incredible to watch, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

1 comment:

  1. Tasha! What a wonderful writing about Ultimate in the Midwest. I can definitely appreciate what you are saying about there being so many less opportunities for players and how important it is for programs and tournaments to be scheduled in places where it is a challenge to get smaller teams more exposure to the game. I love reading how players get fired up for weeks and months following a good tournament, how they go on and on about the people they meet and the overall amazing experience! These experiences help players and teams want to learn more and get more involved in the Ultimate world:)Kudos to guest coach Cara Crouch for leaving such an impression on your team too. Great story and thank you for sharing it!
    Michelle, I felt your pain as you described what it was like to have so many things working against you while you were organizing/TDing anddd captaining ...made me want to cry actually because I can picture exactly how that weekend played out however I could also relate to how it felt when you forged a new friendship with another 'Ultimate soul", to establish camaraderie. The feeling that can lift any spirit and give you the strength to keep on task regardless of all the little things that seem sooo BIG while they are happening. I am personally so appreciative to you and all the people in the Ultimate community that continue to promote and develop Ultimate throughout the US. The ripple effect is definitely at work in regard to Ultimate and I am glad to have been introduced to this very special sport by my daughter and then realizing what a rich history we have had in Ultimate in my community. It makes me happy to hear of, read about and witness firsthand at tournaments how people like you, Tasha and countless other players contribute to promoting Ultimate Frisbee, how natural it is to want to share the game, give back to the ultimate community and most important to recognize that every ultimate player has something to contribute to the community! :)