Written by: Zahlen Titcomb, idea maker at Bamboxers.com, co-founder of Five Ultimate, Strategist at the All Star Ultimate Tour, and co-owner of the Seattle Cascades
This article was written by a guest writer. The opinions expressed in the post belong to the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Ultimate Project.
Exciting news in the world of sports today, and it’s not another domestic violence case, elaborate stadium built on the public’s dime, or blatant denial of fact-based criticism. The USA Women’s national team has filed an action against the US Soccer Federation over equal pay. Even for the staunchest men’s soccer fan, it’s hard to begrudge the team of incredible athletes who have brought in national fame, a world cup title, and $20 million more in revenue than the men’s team. And that’s just last year’s accolades.
So, what? So, heck yeah! I stand with the women’s soccer team and all the other voices out there speaking up about gender imbalances in sports. Fighting inequity is an uphill battle, especially for traditional sports built on a male-centric idea of athletics with long established biases. That’s where fresh thinking, progressive ideals, and a clean slate give Ultimate Frisbee an interesting advantage.
Ultimate is in a prime position to tackle issues like gender equity as a younger sport growing at lightning speed. Some of the founding principles of ultimate give the newest national pastime an interesting opportunity to become a leader in shaping gender equity in athletics. Alongside single gender leagues, ultimate is played co-ed all the way up to the world championship level. Pure sportsmanship is built into ultimate, BY DESIGN, through the widespread system of self officiation that 99% of the players adhere to. These are qualities built into the game when ultimate first started to come together as a sport in the 60s, a time when our country and the world was voicing significant disapproval of the prejudiced status quo that had presided over society for centuries. Today, we live in a time where those similar voices are strong and well, and we are mobilizing in new ways to rekindle some of those battles in a freshly active generation.
While we are undoubtedly facing some of the same challenges that other high level sports organizations are up against, we have a unique opportunity to forge our own road, write our own future, beat our own drum, or dare I say, pick our own flight path. We are already making great strides with the popularity of organizations like Ultimate Peace, the USAU supported GUM programming, the All Star Ultimate Tour, and the individual and collective voices in some of the pro teams.
I challenge the public to take this opportunity and run with it. My hat is off to Hope Solo, Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe, Becky Sauerbrunn and Alex Morgan for taking a brave dive into a battle that shouldn’t even be a battle. I hope that this settles in favor of what is right, and that it brings equal pay and, in general, gender equity to center stage. In September of 2015, I had the pleasure of speaking about ultimate, gender in sports, and youth participation at FIFA headquarters in Zurich to the executives of women’s soccer national governing bodies from the countries of the world. The dialogue was bright and optimistic, but I was surprised that the nature of some of the biggest challenges from the audience were problems that ultimate has either overcome, or is making quick and inclusive strides to conquer.
We are in control of our own future in the ultimate world, and I hope that we can be on the right side of history and support USA Women’s Soccer team for #equalplayequalpay. Because we are built on a solid foundation of inclusiveness, sportsmanship, and a cooperative value system, I work, play, breath, sleep, and support ultimate. I’m not doing everything right, and I don’t have all the answers, but I smell progress, and I’m chasing it.
Zahlen is a sibling by birth, an idea maker by nature, and a social entrepreneur by religion. The oldest of five, Z grew up playing disc sports around the world with his siblings. He captained the ultimate team at UChicago back when it was cool to listen to Dave Matthews Band. He was a local boss (without the tattoos) of developing ultimate in China for many years. Zahlen believes ultimate can make the world a better place, and works daily beside his brothers and sisters on Five Ultimate, The All Star Ultimate Tour, the Seattle Cascades, and TUPO to boost the sport he loves.