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Ultimate all-star Jenny Fey wants more inclusivity in the sport

Ultimate all-star Jenny Fey wants more inclusivity in the sport
In honor of National Girls and Women in Sports Day on Feb. 5, Savage is highlighting some of our favorite female athletes in some of our favorite sports throughout the week. First up: Jenny Fey, a top-tier ultimate player who's been playing for nearly 20 years. 

There's a good reason everyone in Ultimate knows Jenny Fey's name. She's made Club Nationals 13 times and won once with Scandal. She represented the U.S. on the U20 Girls Team in 2004 (silver in Finland), the US Mixed Beach Team in 2015 (bronze in Dubai), and the US Women's Team in 2016 (gold in London). She's played for seven club teams, mostly in the DC area, including DC Scandal (2009-2013 and 2015-2017) and DC Space Heater. Here at Savage, we've been lucky to know her since her college days at the University of Mary Washington. When she's not on the field, Jenny teaches high school literature, linguistics, and psychology in Arlington, where she lives with her partner and toddler. Take it away, Jenny.

Savage: How did you get into playing ultimate? What drew you to the sport? 
Jenny Fey: I was first exposed to a chaotic but epic version of ultimate at sleep away camp in middle school, but my structured ultimate experience really started in 10th grade. A group of students from a couple of Arlington high schools had been playing pick-up together for a few years, but had just recently started playing formal games as part of the local league (WAFC), where a certain gender ratio was required. This one mixed gender team planted the seeds for what is now a huge and highly successful Arlington youth program that spans many schools (YULA). Anyway, a few of my friends had already started playing and they recruited me as a sub one weekend; I had an incredible time and never looked back.

The sport is really ideal for me as an athlete... I always loved sprinting but was never a fan of long distance. I had a natural throwing ability and good hand-eye coordination, but was not so good with my feet, so I didn't excel at soccer. Everyone loves a disc in flight, but I was also really attracted to the cooperation elements of ultimate, the playing to a score component which demands strong play throughout a match, and the sense of community and camaraderie I felt with the folks I was playing with and against. I have loved giving back as a coach over the years as a chance to share my appreciation of the game with others.

Savage: Is there anything unique about being a woman in the world of ultimate? How do you think being female in this sport compares to other sports?
JF: Being a woman in sports offers definitive challenges and ultimate is not exempt from those. There hasn't been a ton of financial or conceptual investment in women's sports historically. Title IX is not even 50 years old yet. Any criticisms of women's sports are meaningless to me until we've committed heaps of time and money into telling women and non-binary folks that they are athletes.

On the other hand, a lot of people in ultimate have spent time thinking and talking about gender in recent years and I think we are on a relatively good trajectory there. It's an important issue and one that we need to keep talking loudly about, but currently my thoughts have been with race and class in ultimate, with widening the sense of inclusivity in the sport, and helping more and different people see themselves as potential players of the game.

The barriers for entry to playing ultimate are fairly low, but the barriers to playing ultimate in a high-level way are pretty high in that most forms of elite play require lots of travel and personal financial investment — something I hope can change going forward.

Savage: Thoughts on bringing more women into ultimate? What are your hopes for the future of the sport? 
JF: I absolutely want more women playing the sport, and I think ultimate communities demonstrating a commitment to equity is key there, but I think the most important investment all adult players can be making is in the youth scenes around them. I want to see more kids picking up the sport at younger ages, especially girls and players of color, and sticking with it. That's the growth I care about most.

I think it'll take a lot of individuals making their way into schools, camps, and after school programs, sharing their love of the game, offering sustained coaching support, and helping to promote the sport with institutions who may not think much of it or have any sense of it at all.

Eyes on the game are awesome, but I am more psyched about future eyes on the next generation of players. If tons of kids fall in love with the sport, it's hard to imagine not finding a way to get it showcased on bigger and bigger stages. 

Jenny Fey via Ultiphotos
Photos provided by Jenny Fey via Ultiphotos
Savage: Who are some of your favorite female players in ultimate?
JF: My heroes in women's ultimate transcend the on-field game, though the GOAT is my estimation is Miranda Roth who beyond inspired me when I was a younger player with her athleticism and head for the game.

I have massive respect for a ton of women working in the sport, on and off the field, and in many cases doing both, and I won't be able to name them all, but some that come to mind include Dom Fontenette, Tiina Booth, Michelle Ng, the folks at the PUL including Maddy Frey and Angela Lin, Leila Tunnell, Ren Caldwell, and Erica Baken. My favorite all-around current players to watch right now are probably Lien Hoffman, Elizabeth Mosquera, and Carolyn Finney.

Psst: Shop the Savage Women's Mystery Sale featuring discounted jerseys, shorts, and discs this week only. 
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WestCoast Women's Pro Ultimate takes off running

WestCoast Women's Pro Ultimate takes off running

Professional women's ultimate frisbee has officially arrived in Southern California with WestCoast Women's Pro Ultimate, and Savage is proud to be outfitting the Los Angeles 99s and San Diego Wolfpack as they kick off their inaugural season. Check out their official collection of ultimate frisbee jerseys and shorts in their team shop, and read our Q&A with the 99s' Felicia Yang below.

Savage: Tell us about your background in ultimate.

Felicia Yang: I started playing intramurals as a freshman at USC. My very first tournament was Sean Ryan Memorial in Santa Cruz. I had a terrible time and vowed that this tournament would be my last. The next week practice rolled around and I needed a break from schoolwork, so I sucked it up and went back. I ended up finding ultimate to be a fun way to get exercise, relieve stress, meet new people and take a mental break from the college grind. It took some time after college to commit to the club scene, but now I'm hooked and ultimate is a huge part of my life.

Los Angeles 99s ultimate frisbee women's

Savage: What's the part you played in bringing WestCoast Women's Pro Ultimate to life? 

FY: I was very disappointed to learn about the attempt for a similar event in 2018 that didn't come to fruition. I believed that the Aviators and Growlers ownership had genuine intentions of creating opportunities for women to play and be seen, and needed a hand in bringing those intentions to life. They didn't get the help they needed last year, and I saw this as an opportunity to take action and contribute my logistical organization skills to promote change. I believe that if I care enough about something—visibility and opportunity for women in ultimate in this case—then I need to put forth my best effort to make something happen. Otherwise, I don't have a right to complain that it doesn't exist. 

Savage: Who are some other key players we should know about? 

FY: Katie Killebrew is a long-standing leader in the ultimate community. I first met her while playing at USC and she was one of the most welcoming, inclusive, energetically loud people around. She's dedicated much of her time toward coaching and captaining women's ultimate in Los Angeles over the last decade. She's one of the people who I constantly see taking action to contribute to a cause that she cares about, and I admire her dedication.

Many of the other women on 99s and Wolfpack have also dedicated time toward coaching and captaining. This includes Jenny Norris, Lizzy Cowan, Sheila Robles, Ali Webster, Amy Lee, Linda Venema, Lisa Shipek, Sheliemae Reyes, Simrit Khalsa, Stacy Tran, Allison Brown and Annie Kean. How amazing is it to see how much these women care about the community and what they're willing to give back. I know I missed people too, so apologies for that.

Savage: Why do you think WestCoast Women's Ultimate is important? 

FY: There's been so much momentum behind empowering women in our society recently. As an engineer in a male-dominated aerospace industry, showing that women belong in sports is just as important as demonstrating that women are equally capable in an academic, professional, and engineering setting. Visibility of diverse people in all of these fields is imperative in continuing to push for more equity in our society. This pro series is just one step in pushing toward a future society that is more inclusive and provides equal opportunities to a broader range of people. Women in other sports have been amazing role models in paving a path toward better representation, from Venus Williams in women's tennis, Ronda Rousey in MMA, the 99ers in women's soccer, and Becky Hammon in men's and women's basketball.

Savage: Tell us about the educational component of WestCoast Women's Pro Ultimate.

FY: The most important thing right now is shifting the mindset around women's sports and showing everyone that they are just as entertaining and impressive to watch as men's sports given the same level of resources and development. When we aim high and create an excellent product, then we are more visible to different populations including children. This will give people something to strive for, and will shape the future of ultimate and of women's sports.

Savage: How do you hope this will evolve?

FY: I hope that professional ultimate can become sustainable in general.  How amazing would it be to have resources and income to offset the cost of playing at high levels? The benefit of professional leagues is to grow ultimate and make it more accessible for people to watch and play, but growth comes with some downsides that I think the community needs to be wary of. Visibility is great for growth and equity, and I hope the ultimate community can maintain its closeness as it becomes self-sustainable.

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7 Questions with D.C. Scandal

7 Questions with D.C. Scandal

Scandal is the #5 ranked women's ultimate team based in Washington, D.C., and Savage is proud to call them a Savage Select Team. We took a few minutes with Keila Strick to get the skinny on this scandalous team.

1. Savage: How does your team prep for a game? 

Keila Strick for Scandal: Long-term prep includes track workouts, gym, practice, scrimmages, film review. Short-term prep is different for each player.

2. Savage: What's unique about your playing style as a team? 

Scandal: We are patient. We’re process- and goal-oriented. We never get too caught up with our losses, but instead learn where and how we can improve for when it matters most.

We side stack, which isn’t the most popular offense, but I guess it’s becoming more mainstream.

 3. Savage: Who are some of your MVPs?

 Scandal:

  • Amy Zhou (D-line cutter)
  • Lindsay Soo (D-line cutter)
  • Nada Tramonte (O-line cutter)
  • Jessie O’Connor (handler)

4. Savage: Can you share some highlights of your time playing together?

Scandal: This could be a long list… I’ll stick to three.

During practices and some games, we do “animal spikes” after a score. In big games with big scores, you might hear somebody on a team shout out an animal and the person who just scored celebrates by being that animal. Molly Roy is particularly talented with her shark spike.

Our team is fast. It’s always fun watching Lauren Allen and Ingrid Petterson run through D people.

We’re also tall. Kelly Ross, Lindsay Soo, Hannah Boone, and Danielle Byers dominate the air.          

5. Savage: What's your favorite place to play ultimate? 

Scandal: It’s pretty sweet playing in DC and looking over and seeing the Washington Monument, Capital building, or White House.

No turf, please.

6. Savage: How does your team celebrate a victory or mourn a loss?

Scandal: To celebrate, we get margs. To mourn, we get margs.

7. Savage: What's your team's hype song? 

Scandal: We actually have a collaborated playlist where each person added their favorite hype song. One that stands out to me: Missy Elliott, "Work It."

 

 

 

 

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Checking in with 2018 Callahan winner Jackelyne “Kobe” Nguyen

Checking in with 2018 Callahan winner Jackelyne “Kobe” Nguyen
USA Ultimate recently announced the winner of the 2018 Women's Callahan Award: Jackelyne “Kobe” Nguyen. A member of UC-Berkeley's Pie Queens, Kobe quickly went from being a completely inexperienced rookie to being one of the leaders in the sport of ultimate. Thanks for answering our questions, Kobe!

Savage: How did you get into playing Ultimate?
Kobe: Ultimate was an unexpected treasure that made its way into my life. Before ultimate, I played basketball competitively throughout high school, even reaching the state championship finals one year. After getting into Cal I immediately looked into joining the club basketball team, but it didn't exist. I knew I still wanted to play a team sport so I looked into rugby and ultimate: the 2 sports known as things to try in college. Logistically, Pie Queens had their first practice before rugby's, and after that practice I had never felt more supported by any group of women who barely knew me. They took the time to teach me how to throw, catch, and constantly high five after I did anything, good or bad. Their warm spirit and community is what kept me in this program and what has led me to love each and every aspect of this sport.  

Savage: What do you love about the sport?
Kobe: Definitely the community. I've made all of my close friends through ultimate regardless of the division I'm playing in. The great spirit that holds as the foundation of this sport is what drives my excitement and passion to be a part of the ultimate community. Not only is the spirit amazing, but also ultimate itself is a unique sport where success comes from an entire team rather than an individual. That feeling of crushing a defense with all seven people touching the disc to score is one of my favorite feelings. Plus, ultimate is thrilling because of its balance of calm and collected play and athletic and hype plays that can happen within a single point. 

Savage: How do you train? 
Kobe: Nothing too fancy here. I do track, lifting, and field workouts outlined from each team I've been a part of. Whenever we would have tourney week I'd make sure I can get some extra pulling or throwing reps before practice. Something that my roommate and I would do during track workouts is role play our last sprint as a universe point scenario. "Pie Queens with the D, she picks it up, hucks it to space. Will she make it to score and win the game?!" This last sprint typically ends with us pretending to sky each other and crashing on the nearby grass. 

Savage: Any tips for young girls just starting out in the sport? 
Kobe: As cliche as it sounds, don't give up. Whether you're starting in mixed or women's, as much frustration you may get whether it's not getting thrown to or not feeling like you can throw, keep trying! Never feel like asking a vet to throw is bothersome because they are just waiting for you to ask. And if you feel like some of your throws aren't game ready, make 100 percent cuts or play out of your mind defense, these pieces are just as important. Women in ultimate is a growing movement, so you have a whole community of women to back you up if you ever feel down. 
 
Savage: What's your ultimate Ultimate memory?
Kobe: So many memories to choose from! I would say a collection of events that happened my sophomore year on Pie Queens. After graduating, a ton of seniors the year prior that expected to make Nationals, our program figured that the next year would be a rebuilding year. Tournament after tournament we started winning big games and playing well, which ended up with us earning a bid for the Southwest. Our team was ecstatic and didn't know what to do as none of us had gone to Nationals ever before. Going to Nationals that year felt like a dream as the success of our team came from everyone on our roster. To top it off, Marisa won the Callahan and as a mentor, teammate, and best friend to me, I have never felt so happy for someone who I knew deserved it so much. That entire year set the Pie Queens program on great footing to continuously be a program that strives on building its players and providing an environment for people to love the sport as much as we love each other. 
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