Our Commentator Series continues with Jenna Weiner, who attended her first USAU Club Nationals as a first-time reporter/commentator!
After an unforgettable weekend in October at my first USAU Club Nationals, I took some time to reflect on that trip to San Diego, how remarkable it was, and how my place in the ultimate community has changed and evolved over the past two years. It’s been quite the experience these last two years and it culminated in an unexpected but awesome Nationals weekend in San Diego.
Working with Ultiworld
I had originally planned to attend Nationals as simply a spectator, encouraged by the closeness of San Diego to my home base of Reno, Nevada. Since I was initially traveling to Nationals by myself, I reached out to people I knew would be in San Diego for the weekend to see if there was anything I could do to help out with during the tournament.
This included the staff of Ultiworld, as I figured that working with Ultiworld would be a cool opportunity to hang out and be around the tournament close-up and personal. Somewhat unexpectedly, Ultiworld brought me right on as a reporter for the Mixed division and I spent the weekend on the sidelines and in the media tent working with the Ultiworld crew.
Now let me be clear: I had never done any type of reporting or sports writing before Nationals, let alone being on the sidelines tweeting for Ultiworld Live and doing post-game interviews. It was a totally new experience for me and one I am very appreciative of Ultiworld for allowing me to have. Throughout the weekend, all of the Ultiworld folks were more than welcoming and accepting and I can’t thank the editors and the other Mixed division reporters enough for helping me as I navigated the world of reporting for the first time.
There were two major challenges of reporting that I ran into over the course of the weekend. The first was simply trying to write up game or day recaps on a tight deadline, especially when one of my first drafts ended up as a very rough draft, but that’s what happens when you’re doing your first reporting at one of the biggest ultimate tournaments of the year and are simply trying to keep up.
The second is trying to live tweet multiple games at once, which I ended up doing for the first two days of Nationals. Nothing says “Welcome to San Diego” like showing up to the fields as the first round of pool play has already started and being assigned to cover two Mixed games at once, one of which goes to double game point and finishes 16-15. But it was a blast, and the opportunity to be on the sideline as a reporter and talk to players directly, one-on-one, was invaluable.
Introductions and Inclusiveness
My conception of what a sideline reporter should do: be present and carefully observing, but generally unobtrusive so as not to interfere with the players in the middle of the game. So of course it was quite a surprise to me when, while live tweeting the much-anticipated DC Space Heater-Seattle Mixtape game in pool play, someone walked up and introduced themselves to me.
It was none other than Jenny Fey, current star of Space Heater and formerly of DC Scandal, who I had just been trying to find on the field to talk to her afterwards. I was floored. My expectation coming into Nationals was that I would be the one introducing myself to people I looked up to in the community but instead, at least in this instance, it was the other way around. While this was certainly one of the most notable introductions I had over the course of the weekend, it was by no means the only.
One of the things that makes Nationals special is how it brings people and players from around the country to one spot for one weekend all together. This was my first ever really big, nationwide tournament, and it was amazing to get to meet folks who I had talked with before through Twitter or gender equity work but had never been able to meet in person.
Particularly stunning was the number of people, and who those people were, who seemed to know who I was. These were people who I looked up to as players and advocates for positive change in the ultimate community saying how they appreciated what I was doing, and not just with Ultiworld, but with gender inclusivity and transgender awareness as well.
It wasn’t until later that I realized how rare it is to have a sport like this, where the best players and leaders in the sport care about and support gender inclusivity and transgender issues, even when it doesn’t affect them directly. It’s something that I don’t often acknowledge as much as maybe I should, but I’ve come to appreciate how unique it is over these past two years since coming out publicly.
Two Years of Transition
It’s now been almost two years since I first came out to the world and the ultimate community in the spring of 2017, first in a Facebook post then in a Skyd Magazine article. When I wrote that post and that article, I had no idea the effects they would end up having on my life, particularly as I considered the likely discrimination and hate I would face as a transgender woman in the world.
Ultimate has proven me wrong on that initial thought time and time again as I’ve been welcomed by this community in basically all aspects of my involvement. Whether it’s locally with my club team, Reno Cutthroat, online through Twitter and other social media, or on the ground in San Diego with Ultiworld, the ultimate community has supported me throughout my transition process and encouraged me to believe that progress and inclusiveness are possible.
One of the more remarkable things that I’ve found during the past two years is how something like being transgender, a broadly marginalized category, can actually be helpful in opening up opportunities that otherwise wouldn’t be there. From writing the Skyd article, in which I was simply hoping to share my story, to being on the sidelines of Nationals, being trans and other subsequent experiences have given me opportunities that I likely would have never had as a mid-level player in a smaller ultimate community.
For that I’m thankful and grateful to everyone who has given me a chance over the past two years: Skyd, Upwind Ultimate, Ultiworld and many, many others. You all have allowed me to help make a push for gender inclusion in ultimate, at both a policy level with USA Ultimate, Disc NY, and others, and at a personal level through all of the amazing conversations I’ve had with folks from around the country.
Going forward, I’m hopeful that we can continue this progress that we’ve made at all levels of the sport and in many different communities. I know I’ll continue working to make ultimate more inclusive of all athletes, trans, non-binary, or otherwise, and be motivated by the many other activists working on large and small projects for positive change in our community.
It’s been an extraordinary last two years, capped off by an unforgettable weekend in San Diego at Nationals. Thank you all for being with me as I’ve transitioned within this community, and I can’t wait to see what progress and work we can continue to do together in the next two years and beyond.
If you've missed our other commentator series, you can check them out below:
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