In its 21 years of existence, Zodiac has become a much-beloved tournament. What sets Zodiac apart is that it alternates every year between Rochester, NY, and Toronto, Ontario. This split allows two separate communities to come together every year and enjoy the sport of ultimate.
But this year, something else set Zodiac apart. In 2016, The Ultimate Experience took ownership of the Toronto contingency of the tournament–the founders of The Ultimate Experience wanted to take the event make it something even better.
Currently, Zodiac is the only event under The Ultimate Experience's banner that is not yet gender equitable. As of now, there are 9 men roster spots and 7 women roster spots per team, and the tournament plays a 4M:3F ratio.
The Ultimate Experience was aware that the switch to a gender equitable program couldn't be done in a day: they had to think about the history of the event and the ongoing participation. After much consideration, they found that the tournament was not ready to switch to a different ratio (4F:3M).
Nevertheless, The Ultimate Experience announced that for 2020 (the next time the tournament will be in Toronto), Zodiac will have 8 men's spots and 8 women's spots per team and they will be playing under WFDF Rule A (ratio changes every two points).
However, they found a way to take a step towards gender equity immediately: this year, all captains for every team had to be female. This meant that they were in charge of everything from calling lines to pre-game administration with the other team.
We wanted to know how this was received by the teams and how it was captaining, so we asked the captains for some feedback. Lisa Breton got back to us and this is what she had to say:
"I truly was hesitant to accept the role of captain. Even though I have played Ultimate Frisbee since the late 90s, I was always content letting others lead. Normally, those other leaders, in a coed situation, were mostly men, like 99% (at the exception of this touring year with Crux – huge push for gender equity on that team and female leadership). Had I not been gently encouraged into the role, I would not have accepted. I was afraid I could not remember the rules, or that I could not defend a decision or call on behalf of my team, or that (I know this sounds shitty) men would not respect or question my proposed strategies. The last one sounds harsh. But to explain, I noticed that women leaders tend to be outstanding and confident ultimate players. I rarely saw someone with my profile lead: mid-level club player, smaller in stature, goofy in nature, etc. However, we often see men with this profile take on leadership without a problem. In the same respect that men can turn over a disc more times than women before being corrected or told to “know your limits”. So, I was hesitant.
BUT - I had no reason to worry so much prior to the tournament. I had nothing but positive feedback and incredible support from my entire team. I stepped up and it turned out great. I surprised myself with my capability to defend decisions and calls (or get help from teammates when required) to identify issues on the field and propose strategies that actually worked!
With time to reflect, I wonder if it was the fact that our TD informed everyone in advance that captains were to be all female. So participants arrived ready. It allowed us to laugh at ourselves at times when you saw men wanting to speak first or speak on behalf of the team and they were gently told by others to wait for the captain. Lots of shoulder chuckling.
Also, having the TD communicate that it will be an all female captain tournament touched on the point indirectly (or directly) of the gender equity dialogue in our sport. We all understood why it was done. Besides having some nervous women “holly shitting” on Saturday morning, at our end, we did not need to talk about it at length. We all quietly understood."
The work The Ultimate Experience is doing for gender equity is amazing and if you aren't familiar with them, we urge you to follow them on social media to keep up with their progress.
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