Womxn break for league of their own

Catie Graves, Staff Writer

The Austin Torch, Austin’s first semi-professional women’s ultimate frisbee team, is leading the charge for equality in women’s sports, according to Colleen Kepner, the team’s general manager.
For last year’s season, the Torch and the other teams around the US and Colombia organized matches. This year they have an organization to run the games. The Premier Ultimate League (PUL) is the first women’s ultimate league. They use the word “womxn” to show that the PUL is for all women, including transgender women and non-binary players. The PUL can now help the Austin Torch and other women’s ultimate teams plan out games for the 2019 season. Kepner said the Torch was created out of the necessity to show women in sports.
“This team was ignited in 2018 by the Austin Ultimate Community in an effort to promote womxn in ultimate and showcase them to an audience that wouldn’t otherwise get the opportunity to watch fierce, elite womxn in action,” Kepner said.
There is a growing movement around Austin to introduce girls to ultimate and encourage them to pursue athletics. Torch player and ultimate coach Cara Crouch said she hopes to improve visibility for women in sports.
“I just hope that they see it, they realize that they can be a semi professional, a professional athlete, and that it’s just as valuable as males playing and male professional sports,” Crouch said.
Sophomore Elyse Hall plays for the LASA ultimate team, the Vertikills. She said ultimate is empowering for women of all ages and the Torch furthers this.
“I think the Torch is doing a really great job giving representation to girls and the athletics community in general,” Hall said.
Kepner said the goal of the Torch, beside giving women a chance to play high level ultimate, was to have role models that girls can look up too.
“We want to showcase role models whose worth is based on strength, skill, hard work and grit,” Kepner said. “We hope that they’ll also see the incredible teamwork and collaboration that can emerge when womxn share a common goal and build relationships around that sense of purpose.”
Ultimate is a relatively new sport, having only been created in 1968. Since then it has been mostly male-dominated. Crouch said since ultimate is so new, there was a chance to change the male ubiquity so often seen on a sports field.
“Ultimate was in a unique position to create a women’s league and set a precedent for other sports and other leagues,” Crouch said. “There was definitely a need for women to be represented on that professional sports level, and [ultimate] is a great sport to do that.”
The PUL was created by a group of women who wanted to showcase more women in ultimate and show that professional women’s ultimate is on the same level as professional men’s ultimate. Kepner said this means the PUL helps codify the rules, oversee games and assists with finances and planning.
“My favorite thing about it, though, is the way that all of these brilliant minds are working together, even when they’re also going to face each other on the field, and fighting for gender equity in our sport,” Kepner said.
Furthermore, Kepner said by shedding light on amazing female players, they are helping to establish women’s ultimate as a professional sport.
“The PUL is demonstrating that professional womxn’s ultimate can be successful, especially when smart, motivated women get together and collaborate to make it happen,” Kepner said.
The PUL, Austin Torch and other amazing women’s ultimate teams around the country give women and girls the opportunity to play, practice, compete and advocate for women in sports. Crouch said she hopes the sport will keep on giving young girls role models.
“My hope is that womxn’s ultimate continues to grow and continues to be taken seriously as a sport and as equally as men’s and it grows in all facets, not just in a professional way but also in clubs and in schools and then in all levels of club,” Crouch said.
Hall said she also hopes to see ultimate grow. Entities like the PUL and all of the women’s teams can help encourage girls to play ultimate and therefore help teams, clubs, and other frisbee organizations attract more female players.
“I personally love ultimate, but I really would love to see the community grow,” Hall said. “It can be kind of intimidating, especially in places where there’s a low number of girls in the programs because it’s hard to go out there and play with all the guys if there aren’t other girls you’re playing with.”
Ultimate is a sport without referees. This means players call their own plays, keep everyone accountable, and enforce “Spirit of the Game,” a rule in Ultimate to keep everybody playing fair. Crouch said ultimate is very powerful and can cause change.
“I feel like it can change the world for the better and I feel like the more womxn playing it the more empowered they are,” Crouch said.