Inspired by the team exercises on EMU’s website, Shakedown Ultimate of Chicago opened an early-season practice with a brief discussion of gender equity. Multiple players expressed interest during the tryout process in initiating equity conversations and in ensuring that we made it part of our team culture. In the interest of maximizing daylight for practice, we hard-capped it at 15 minutes. The topics for discussion are summarized below:
1. What is equity and what is equality?
Multiple players suggested definitions or interpretations of equity and equality. One of the captains described the graphic of different sized boxes required for players of different heights to see over a high fence.
2. How does gender inequality show up on a mixed field?
Both men and women gave specific examples of experienced or perceived on-field inequities. Issues included:
- Looking off open women
- Differences in the nature of criticism that men and women are likely to receive
- Skying or cutting off one’s own teammate
- Women feeling the need to prove themselves in order to be trusted with the disc
- Getting frustrated when a woman makes a mistake
- Men get leeway for being new to mixed; women don’t
3. How do we address these particular issues?
Rather than rely on assumptions, ask individual teammates how and when they prefer to receive feedback.
We agreed that at an individual level, effectively addressing these issues requires awareness, responsibility, accountability, and ownership. We need to listen to and respect teammates’ experiences, if and when they don’t align with our own.
- What does an “open” woman look like? Recognize athletic differences. If throwing to women deep is tough for you, practice. Own it. Communicate.
- Rather than rely on assumptions, ask individual teammates how and when they prefer to receive feedback. Stop and identify why you’re giving the feedback. Is that particular feedback appropriate for their skillset or style of play? Would this feedback improve their next on-field point, or should it wait?
- Learn how individual players move and work together on the field, rather than looking them off or creating the potential for dangerous plays.
4. What does this mean for Shakedown?
Shakedown is committed to making all players feel included and valued as teammates. This requires us to be open, forgiving, and receptive. by identifying outlets to voice and address concerns. By holding each other accountable, we are working to build an environment of trust and respect.
We are happy to have initiated this conversation early in the season and hopefully establish a framework that is accessible and useful for the entire team.
Discussions like this help to make the implicit explicit and turn shared frustrations into opportunities for team development.
Over the course of this season (and beyond), Shakedown hopes to continue to engage in conversations around gender equity and to help provide players with the context and language to make these discussions a natural part of mixed ultimate!