WHAT COMES AFTER THE VISION TOUR? A REPORT BACK FROM SEATTLE
BY ALYSSA KELLY, APRIL 13, 2017
Approximately 125 members of the ultimate community attended the USA Ultimate Vision Tour last Tuesday, April fourth at RenFitness Gym in Seattle, WA. Most attendees were from Seattle, with some representatives from neighboring cities. This stop in the tour served as a test run for a new format. Due to publications by Chip Chang after the Minneapolis stop of the tour (reflection and intended speech), members of the board of directors decided to change the format to one with a greater focus on gender equity. Rather than offering 6 breakout sessions including one on gender equity, they cut some of CEO Tom Crawford's speech to enable time for everyone to participate in a gender equity breakout session prior to self-selecting into one of the remaining five topics later in the evening. The format was changed with the intent to hear voices passionate about equity in all of the breakout sessions, and for people who would not normally select into that topic to engage in discussion.
Beginning with Hana Kawai's inspirational speech and continuing throughout the night were themes of inclusion, access, education, and critical reflection. Privilege is multi-faceted and Kawai challenged everyone to think critically beyond gender to include race, socioeconomic status, resource access, and education. Her speech was timed immediately before the gender equity breakout sessions. Conversations in those small groups expanded into conversations surrounding oppression of all forms and action items included fighting discrimination beyond sexism. Later in the evening, participants in the elite ultimate and youth ultimate breakout sessions challenged USA Ultimate to commit to their desire for diversity with action. In order for the community to shift to broader representation, access needs to be at the forefront of decision-making. While responding to a question about the USA Ultimate Foundation, Crawford stated that he never wanted a youth player to have to miss a national team tryout due to financial hardship. One of the breakout session groups challenged this statement, arguing that many of the kids hitting socioeconomic roadblocks will never have access to the resources to make it possible for them to even become elite enough players to be invited to those tryouts. Equitable change needs to be not only where it is visible (the elite level), but also where it is broadly meaningful. The amount of money spent securing travel and lodging for one athlete to try out for a national team can be season-changing for a local team with limited financial resources.
The conversations that took place during the Seattle stop on the Vision Tour were a foundation for everyone in attendance to reflect upon and grow from. Many attendees expressed doubts about whether USA Ultimate would repeat this act of engaging with the community or that it would correlate to action. Whether or not these things come to fruition, there is plenty of room for creating positive changes now - even in Henry Thorne's proclaimed "center of the ultimate universe". The Seattle ultimate community challenged USA Ultimate to think critically about policies on gender equity and diversity, however one topic that was not broached in the full-group speeches or reports from breakout sessions was that of transgender or gender non-conforming athletes. As Kawai said in her speech, "Know that you are missing perspectives." In conversations of equity and diversity, a common refrain is that representation matters. Considering ultimate as a relatively progressive culture - and Seattle in particular - the silence on this topic was loud. It goes to show that there is a lot of work to be done and progress to be made. Across the country, Vision Tour or not, let's keep investing and engaging.
Alyssa Kelly is a guest writer for Upwind Ultimate out of Seattle, WA.