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.
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.