May 17, 2019
In this week's edition:
Cultimate by Katiana Hutchinson
Supporting All Teams in a Program by Daniel Bowler
This Week in Social Media
College Students - we want you!
Black lives matter. Inertia is a property of matter. Size matters.
The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement is a divisive one. It challenges the status quo. It refuses to turn the other cheek. It shows up to every opportunity to the microphone where working ears will be present. It was founded by black people and black people only. It is run by men and women. It is exclusive. It is inclusive. It’s mission is to “build local power and to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities.” There are chapters around the United States and it’s fueled by the generous donations of its donors and by the vigor of its devout community organizers. It is often times considered to be the second wave of the Civil Rights Movement in antebellum America. It’s members are steadfast in their convictions, unapologetic in their practice, and loyal to their leaders. For many Americans, this movement is a nationwide cult.
The reason for the formation of this cult is because as a Black person in this country, one cannot stand alone. No way, no how. For members of the black community involved with BLM, they look to its leaders, its three Black community organizers: Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi. This feeling of belonging, as natural as it is, leads many of its participants to disdain those who are not involved. Think of the Civil Rights leaders during their movements in the 1960’s. Think of the Bernie Bros who are devout followers of Senator Bernie Sanders. Think of the MAGA hats. (On second thought, get that filthy image out of your head at once!)
This need for support can be translated to all aspects of life, including the collegiate sports level. We find clubs, groups, bands, teams, cults to better protect ourselves when the task before us seems too great to go at it alone. Needless to say, ultimate frisbee is a cult as well. If this makes you wanna pack up and leave, don’t go until you’ve tried some of the Kool-Aid (commonly known on Colorado Kali as “Juju Juice”) - just one sip.
For Colorado Kali, our coaches are the ones who inspire us, who we dare not criticize, let alone ask personal questions to, and they are in positions of power in the club scene in Colorado. It is safe to say that we will blindly take direction from them. The coaches on Kali are the ones completely commanding our cult. (Quick! Someone give me a Bible because me and my right hand will gladly swear on Claire Chastain’s subbing system.)
My name is Katiana and I am Kali Cult Member #10.
Cults thrive on mob mentality and the reduction of individual thought. They embrace a collective belief system, rely heavily on the direction from a leader or leaders, and might even request for you to recuse your once mighty role in order to carry a mission that is more selfless in nature. They demonstrate loyalty to their participants and they stand by their leader(s) at all times, believing it to be foolish to cite opposition.
How does your leader contribute to the way you view your team identity? For instance, does your leader open up spaces for players to communicate their concerns? Does your leader emphasize equal playing time? Does your leader bench its best players and throw games to win back door victories? Does your leader commit themself to a certain decorum when engaging with coaches from other teams and the on field observers? All decisions dictate to what extent each individual player will feel valued on the field and off the field, and therefore, reinforce a team identity. Why does identifying your team identity matter? Because the team culture is dependent on one’s personal and social identity, sense of self-worth, conviction. Teams, cult-like by nature, require a transaction between its players, by which players sell a piece of their individuality in order to buy into completely new order.
While many cults can be innocent and structured, often times, the cult strips a part of your identity, to make room for the collective whole. When you look at your team and its culture, does this unspoken agreement bring you closer to the player you want to become, or further away?
This agreement can take a while to process. However, teams that that nurture inclusive, honest, and self-less environments, tend to thrive at a more consistent rate. Look at my cult - been drinking juju juice since ‘369.
When I reflect on my journey through ultimate frisbee, I’ve been asked to make steep sacrifices (okay, okay, it was in no way a strain on a single muscle in my body) in order to appease this new order. There was an abundance of physical obstacles present - a crazy roommate, or a lousy nighttime driving job, or a Megan Ives - that tried to get me to change my gait. Folks, my velocity was not about to change. For the longest time, my internal inventory of inertia caused me to fight back all these forces, for I was an object at rest. Hell no was I about to do anything more than stay at rest. But my cult leader said, “Hell No”, only like much louder and more forceful and with more gusto and won. She refused to see me fall by the wayside and not live up to the potential. She defended me when my place on the team was up for consideration. She saw me for the player I could become and challenged the status quo and determined that I was worth the extra time. I was worth it. I mattered.
She requested that I demonstrate more commitment to team bonding, that I hold myself accountable for the division between training time and recreational time, that I wholly embrace my role on the field. She recognized my need for a gang, a team, a cult to have that support to be stronger in my own convictions, to have a reason to push myself, to depend on, to grow with. She wanted me to become a more selfless player so that my team could thrive, not as individuals, but as a united front.
My identity before Kali was good for no one, especially myself. My membership to this exclusive group of goddesses has molded into an player whose first priority is to contribute to a healthy team culture and to build upon the relationships we hold between ourselves as players and with our leaders. My withdrawal from my introverted ways and acceptance into this cult gave me the power of ten women. And of course, I should have known, there are power in numbers. Afterall, size matters. Never forget.
P.S. Thanks for the toast Ives. And thank you Claire for fighting for my place in this cult that is Kali.
Congratulations on graduating from grad school. I’m inspired. STP.
Supporting All Teams in a Program
When we talk about supporting our teammates, what does that mean? After thinking about that question this week, I know my personal take: being invested in their success and demonstrating that investment in active ways. As I plan my road trip from DC to Austin to support my teammates on Northeastern’s A-teams (I consider them teammates), I’ve been thinking a lot about the ways I show my support for them. In the past month and a half, I was at 3 different New England tournaments to watch my A-teams compete, and have averaged at least 1-2 per season since starting school at Northeastern. I’m vocal and get hyped on the sideline. I’ve shot photo & video and edited highlight reels for both teams over the past year and a half, and now I’m going to be on the road for 24 hours to do the same at Nationals.
I know my reasons for doing this and I’m humbled that they asked me to experience the tournament with them. I’m proud of these teammates. They are the players in my class (shout out $uper $ecret Rook $quad) who have nabbed their first bid to nationals, something they’ve wanted since freshman year. They are the friends who started with me on the B team that ground their butts off to earn their spot on the A team. They are the leaders, just like my roommates, who are the ladies I’ve watched pour hours into running their team’s season as captains. I feel like the A-team’s support for us lacks actual investment, the kinds of investment that our developmental teams show for them. This makes me wonder, do they share the same pride when our developmental teams succeed?
The last time I played at a tournament where more than two A-teamers came to watch was my first year captaining, back in the 2017 spring season. At the time, I was proud they were there to watch our roster play at a higher skill level than developmental players at Northeastern had ever shown before, and I felt like it might be the beginning of a strengthened relationship. I wanted my rookies each year to not see A-team players as people they just hung out with at the occasional party. I wanted to help grow a mutual respect, a shared empathy for each other’s work regardless of its intensity. I’ve heard that “A-teams spend so much time together, they’re always going to be closer” so many times, but that doesn’t mean we can’t strive to build stronger bonds between players on different levels.
We’ve been working to build these bonds between the Northeastern teams, and I’ve felt a positive change in the culture as a result. This season, we switched from a Groupme-based program to one that uses Slack - it allowed us to maintain those individual team chats, while making space for players to get to know each other across team lines in public channels. Teams, no matter the level, post their tournament results and get vocal support from players across the program. In the same way that I had always congratulated my teammates playing on A, it also meant a lot to me when I started to see players from the A-teams congratulate developmental players on campus. That hadn’t really happened before, in part because A players didn’t know what was happening in the developmental season. I started to hear A-teamers talk about developmental players in positive ways that weren’t centered around their potential to make next year’s A roster. They were becoming more invested in these teammates regardless of whether they had the potential. A-team players can actively follow developmental teams’ social media accounts and interact with them to show their support. These changes made the whole program feel more connected than it’s ever been during my time as a Husky. That being said, there’s still work to be done.
There are things we as a program can all do if we care to be the kind of community that supports all of its players. Social events where teams mix don’t just need to be parties - many of us have the tendency to stick with the people and friends we already know well at these events anyways. Programs can consider mixing gatherings that may have previously been split on team lines, like game nights or A-team dinner (again, Slack, with its dedicated channels for particular interests, is a great way to do this). A-team captains can recognize their position as a role model, and encourage their teams to show up for the developmental teams. Coaches don’t need to be a stranger to their developmental teams! Try coordinating with their coach (or whoever is in charge) to make sure you are both teaching the same systems/drills so that the team isn’t developmental in name only. Give players the tools to compete for a spot on your roster the following year. Some of these approaches are already in practice at Northeastern. We still should be striving to do more though.
None of these suggestions mean anything if you, the reader, don’t think it matters - after all, it’s not like everyone on an ultimate program needs to be best friends. What I do think, based on my experiences at Northeastern and from players elsewhere, is that we’re letting an incredible opportunity slip through our fingers. How great a feeling is it to have people on the sideline cheering for you? The feeling of getting back to school after a long weekend tournament, and someone approaching you to legitimize your hard work, (amidst a sea of people who will never care about college ultimate frisbee)? Our lives will always be better with the active support of those around us. I know this year I felt those positive effects, and it gave me hope for the ways in which college ultimate programs can strengthen the bonds among their community, through active support of all players in the program.
Hey College Students - we want you!
Thankfully, Spirit of the Game teaches us to speak our mind and stand up for ourselves, which we want to embolden here. We at Upwind are working to build resources designed for college students, the largest group out of USA Ultimate memberships. In order to make these resources impactful, we want to hear from you on your current ultimate experience and what you might want to know more about. We are also building a College Student Ambassador Network and would love for you to sign up and participate! Any questions you might have, fill out the form, and we’ll get back to you.
All college students, regardless of gender, race, class, sexual orientation, etc. are invited and encouraged to participate.
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