We all have a friend like Robyn Wiseman. A person who lives their cause. Sometimes that friend makes you feel incredibly lame and unmotivated by comparison, but usually they inspire you to get out there and exceed your own expectations.
Robyn is a hugely positive presence in the Madison ultimate community. Her ultimate CV is almost actually unbelievable (further supporting our theory that time turners do in fact exist!). Not only is she an elite athlete - a captain of Madison Heist and member of this year’s WUGC USA Mixed Team - she devotes a huge amount of her time to coaching for University of Wisconsin’s most competitive women’s team, Bella Donna, and Madison’s YCC U19 team. Robyn also organizes the Madison Ultimate Frisbee Association (MUFA)’s TRAIN program, a weekly skills clinic for area players, and acts as the Women’s Chair of the MUFA Board of Directors to advocate and organize for female athletes.
Phew. And she doesn’t even stop there.
Robyn is a driving force on the women’s side of the sport, using ultimate as a tool to make a very tangible difference in the lives of her players. We’re talking Ellen kind of empowerment. She brings this “bigger picture” way of thinking into coaching the young people on her YCC team, utilizing ultimate as a medium to consider complex and far-reaching issues like gender equity.
“On the field we emphasize that girls’ roles are equal in importance to boys’, ultimate is a tool to engage in a meaningful dialogue about gender equity for kids at a young age during a time when they are searching for who they are.”
As for the college-aged women she works with on Bella Donna, her coaching method is to encourage unapologetic assertiveness.
“I encourage my players to make a ton of mistakes, especially early in the season, so that they can push their boundaries and grow on and off the field.”
Robyn is not just good at teaching people to play, she cares deeply about the women she coaches, and the cause, namely gender equity in ultimate. Her work is a prime example of how much reverberating power one person’s actions can have within a community.
That community isn’t confined to just friends and teammates, either. Arguably one of the coolest aspects of ultimate is that it enables (and encourages) friendships between opponents. Of her experience at the 2014 Pan American Ultimate Championships,
"It really revitalized my love of the community in a bigger sense. It’s really easy for people to appreciate their smaller communities and their teams, but to really grow to love your competitors and connect with them helps make Ultimate unique.”
She couldn’t be more right. Everyone loves their teammates, but genuinely respecting and appreciating your opponents is something that is majorly lacking in most sports. Ultimate provides the opportunity for players all over the world to connect, and appreciate what each person brings to the proverbial table.
Alright, so if community is a collection of individuals dedicated to a shared cause, what connects ultimate players? For Wiseman, and players the universe around (I’ve heard the team from Mars is has been gearing up for worlds this summer), that shared belief is in the Spirit of the Game (SotG), which values love of the game over competition. SotG cultivates action and growth that benefits everyone. In Robyn’s words,
“It empowers our players to have an active part in improving the sport and working together to attain that improvement.”
The most motivating thing about Robyn though? She is really just a more dedicated version of every player, an example of the potential that each of us has inside, waiting to be coaxed off the couch and into action.
When you hear all of the work that Robyn does for the Madison ultimate community, the natural reaction is to grab your cleats and a disc and run out to change the world. I have personally felt that rush of inspiration many times in my life, prompting me to invest in soccer socks, a make-your-own mozzarella cheese kit, and most recently, a touring bicycle (thanks, Ivan).
Generally speaking, my ambitions far exceeded my motivation. That is what separates the organizers (Robyn) from the sock-owners (me): mad motivation skills. Lucky for us mere mortals, sock owning (a.k.a. getting started) is the first step on the path to living your cause.
Now if only Robyn also hosted self-help seminars for slackers like me.