Skip to main content
A little essay I wrote for another publication:

What Ultimate Does for Daughters

Feet come pounding down the field, shouts from teammates: "Go, go go!! Yess, you've got it!"

My daughter jumps, catches, lands, turns, taps the disc on the grass in the end zone and leaps into her teammates' arms.

For six years, I've sat on a sideline, in heat, rain, and wind, watching my children play other mother's children in Ultimate Frisbee. Those six years have coincided with tremendous growth for my daughter naturally, but the person into whom she has grown has been deeply shaped by this sport.
Whenever a parent of a daughter asks me what ultimate did for mine, I say three things: It gives them a voice, gives them a body, and gives them a tribe.


Since Ultimate Frisbee is self-refereed, the player herself has to make a call of foul or out of bounds or stall count. Her fellow players can't call it; her coach can't call it; and she might have to argue with the other player about her call. It might take her years to do that (it did mine). But when she raises her head and yells, "Stall!" it's all her. And here's the thing -- her take on the situation: a rule has been violated -- is assumed to be valid. She and the other player will stop the game, decide if they can agree on the call, and then their decision stands. It can't be overruled by outside agents. Even if they disagree, she gets to make that call and the game will resume either from that point or the one before it.


If a girl wants to play well, she'll spent a lot of time throwing a disc, running, diving, jumping, and generally working very very hard. She'll learn that if she places her fingers in just this kind of vee shape on the underside of the disc, it will curve this way, or that. If she balances on the balls of her feet, and swings an arm down, she's more likely to make that hand block. For a society that puts a lot of messages out for girls to focus on the outsides of their bodies, and what they look like, Ultimate is the antidote. It forces them to inhabit their bodies fully in order to play.  When my eldest daughter watched the girls on the high school team take the field when she was a skinny little thing, she'd sigh, and say, "They look like tigers. I want to be like that." And they did. That arrogant, stalking walk, the way they'd line up for the pull -- these were girls who had more on their minds than how they looked. They were there to play.


And those girls? They embraced the young woman my daughter was right as she was then -- no matter that she wasn't as tough as they were yet. The boys on the team formed the same kind of welcoming mob. Every tournament begins with an arm-linked circle. Every loss is met with supportive hugs; every win celebrated with joy. The Spirit of the Game, the idea that there is a higher ideal than winning, that fierce competition doesn't mean acting in unsportsmanlike ways, supports the players. My girls play with kids younger than themselves; they play with adults and against teams of college students. In each case, it's assumed that they are all the same kind of people -- Ultimate people. These kind of people are family of a kind forged by lots of work, lots of experience, and more fun than seems quite reasonable.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

I'm Too Sexy For My Shirt

Wingman use to call me many things. Obstinate. Overcritical. Certainly bitchy. I even recall on our wedding day that he called me "beautiful". But that was a one-time happening, and I don't recall him ever crooning Eric Clapton"s "You Look Wonderful Tonight" after that. So it comes as no surprise that he never called me "sexy".

And I get it.  When I went to school in NYC, a couple of my friends were stopped by Eileen Ford and asked to come to her agency to model.  They were cute, and one was even, in an exotic way, sexy even back then.  But not me. I was and always will be, fine with how I look.




There were some things over the years that got me noticed...like when I stopped dying my hair and grew it out to donate for a wig.  As part of a lecture that I did on The Avon Walk For Breast Cancer, I had my beautician come in and cut my waist-long hair short. The following Sunday at church, I was a Eucharistic Minister, which at a Catholic Mass is a re…

'Cause Baby You're A Firework. Come On Show Them What You're Worth

Five years ago today, I stood in a hospital room strewn with used syringes, rubber gloves and other medical waste, looking at the lifeless body of the man that I shared a life with for over 30 years. I should have been thinking of family, love and loss.  Instead, my first thought was, "Wow, I'm a widow now." Pretty pathetic in retrospect, and when Wingman referred to me just before I left him as "The Bitch", probably not too far off the mark.

But in time-warped speed just a half hour before that, I had already talked to the hospital twice, woken son #3 up to go over to the hospital with me, called Wingman's brother on the way, fought with a gimpy legged night watchman who wouldn't let us in the hospital, and finally took "that meeting" in a small private room where the doctor told my son and I that they did everything possible, but unfortunately (UNFORTUNATELY???) Wingman had passed. My brain was filled with what to do, who to call, …

But She Use To Have A Carefree Mind Of Her Own, With A Devilish Look In Her Eye

The first time I went out with Wingman, he remarked about how much I reminded him of his mother.  When we finally met, I just didn't see it: she was a tall, chain-smoking blonde, with a Lauren Bacall-esque voice, while I considered myself just an average size brunette with no distinguishable qualities.



She and I began our own relationship with stories about our lives, and she won every round of "Can You Top This". At 10 years old, she helped deliver her brother when her mother went into labor at home. Later, her alcoholic mother walked out on the family and was never seen or heard from again, so she dropped out of school to help. At 19, she and her husband eloped, and thought no one knew.  A photographer however, took a picture of them outside City Hall which became the cover of the afternoon edition of the NY World Telegram. (Oops.) A couple of years later, her very pregnant self drove her father and his equally pregnant girlfriend to City Hall in Newark to MAKE them get…