How do you build a team that values gender equity?

Every team has its own unique culture. Team goals, ways of communicating, a specific set of inside jokes, party habits – culture can be a key part why we play and love ultimate. But when not handled well, a team’s culture can also make people feel left out, uncomfortable, or devalued. Culture can make or break a team and season for individuals or the whole roster.

Social culture impacts men and women differently, so it is critical we talk about how to foster team culture that is inclusive, fair, and safe. But where to begin?

There are a lot of different ways to include gender equity conversations at the foundational stages of setting your season, and approaches to these conversations will differ depending on the culture your team already has established.

We want to share your ideas, questions, and resources on how to incorporate gender equity in forming your team’s culture. Use this google form or email us at to share what your team is doing or considering. Don’t stress about telling a whole story or getting it perfect – be honest, curious, and daring!

BIRDFRUIT – A 10 min exercise to understand equity and equality

During our final tryout, we took 10 minutes before warming up to help players get to know each other more and dig into a concept that is important to us. We shared that whether we know it or not, we’re all impacted by sexism on and off the field. And in order to have a team where every individual is supported and successful, we have to talk about the ways that sexism impedes us from accomplishing that.

We asked everyone to put on a little bit of a curious investigator mentality to notice how gender bias and imbalance comes up – and how challenging that will make us a stronger team together.

We recognized that this is a conversation women’s lived experiences are to be respected, and for men to bring an open mind to a new topic. We printed out a few copies of the graphic you can find in this article and did the following:

  1. Ask group if they’ve seen the graphic before.
  2. Split into a ‘yes’ group and a ‘no’ group (no judgement – we just want to make sure everyone is welcomed into the conversation, not matter where they’re at!).
  3. In each group, split into small pods of three or four and take five minutes to talk through these questions:
    –  ‘no’ group: (1) Articulate what the difference between equity and equality is, (2) Use this metaphor and apply it to ultimate, (3) If you have time, consider why the justice box is included.
    –  ‘yes’ group : (1) Apply this metaphor to ultimate, what are examples from each of the three boxes? (2) Explore the nuances of this updated graphic, people are the same height but the ground is different.
  4. Bring it back together and ask a few people to share out something new they considered or something that they want to know more about. Build on those ideas in the future!

For more, follow Birdfruit on twitter.

NOISE – Thoughts on evaluating on gender equity at tryouts

Noise Ultimate from Wisconsin shared a few ideas on twitter – they worked to be transparent through their tryout process on what gender equity looks like and how players will be evaluated. 

We share our core principle of inclusion with the players, leave it visible throughout tryouts, and talk about it as an evaluation criteria.

Players trying out for X should know that it is very clear when you look off open hands or huck into traffic vs the open under.

Refusing to commit to the dump, leaving a W handler stranded, jam upline vs. swing/break to middle, etc. These things ruin X offenses.

Hero ball is not efficient/effective. Bias can be unlearned, but show a willingness to play with all 6 teammates at tryouts!

For more, follow Noise on twitter.

BULLEIT TRAIN- A 10 min conversation starter for men playing mixed

During our second open tryout we decided that it would be important to have a short 10 minute equity discussion with the men trying out for us. Two of the main reasons we did this was because, 1) it gave us the chance to start discussions with 50 or so men that may have never been involved in an equity talk – we had so many ultimate players coming from different backgrounds that this was a great educational opportunity, and 2) it showed those individuals trying out that we fully believe in our core values and plan on bettering ourselves throughout the season by having conversations/activities like these.

For our discussion format, we had groups of ~10 men participate in a 10 minute conversation.

  • Intro: open discussion, no judgement, we want to give people an opportunity to engage with these ideas – everyone has room for improvement!
  • Warmup question: to get people thinking, we passed out excerpts from articles and had people share/discuss what it says and what their reactions are. These excerpts were from different articles written from individuals in and out of the ultimate community and were intended to be thought provoking.

Here are some of the questions we asked:

  • What does gender equity in ultimate look like on and off the field?
  • Equity is defined as “the quality of being fair and impartial”. How do physical differences between men and women affect a mixed team? Should they be ignored?
  • Mixed ultimate is a unique opportunity to compete athletically with men and women side by side. Why do you want to play mixed?
  • What makes gender equity in mixed ultimate challenging? What makes it rewarding?

Overall we think that this discussion was very important are glad that we took the time out of our tryout to have it. There were some things that we learned and would like to do differently. The top two ways we would like to change this discussion are to, 1) allow the conversation to be longer, and 2) have the discussion be lead by someone who is an expert in the matter and is able to keep the conversation focused.

For more, follow Bulleit Train on twitter.

TOOLBOX – An afternoon meeting & reflection on gender equity

Toolbox is a Seattle league team that has participated in DiscNW league since 2008, starting in C pool and rising to be a mainstay in A pool. We’ve also developed into a fun travel tournament team that has made it’s way up and down the West Coast and Hawaii.

We recently met to talk about gender equity, work towards a few actionable items, find a shared understanding of what gender equity means to Toolbox, see where we are now and what we want next season, gain a better understanding of our team’s culture.

Toolbox has a lot of growing to do in terms of ultimate and gender equity. To help facilitate this growth, the team decided on two items to work on for the rest of the season.

  1. Men taking a step back from things like calling lines, being center hub handler and calling plays.
  2. Having a buddy on the field that you can talk to for constructive feedback. These buddies would be cross gender and non relationship associated (we have quite a number of teammates in heterosexual relationships).

Read their full article here.


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