Photograph Courtesy of Peter Varadi
Berkeley High School’s (BHS) mixed Ultimate Frisbee club, Uproar, recently took their squad to the 2017 Western Youth Regional Championships in Spokane, Washington, where they respectably placed third.
The weather conditions during the tournament made playing difficult, especially for Uproar, the only team that wasn’t from the state of Washington or Canada.
No members of the team had played a match in the snow before, which presented a challenge during the championship.
Pepe Tekpa, a handler in Uproar said “Coming from California where it doesn’t snow, it was tough getting used to it.”
Despite this, he thought that the team performed fairly well, and that playing in different weather made the team more focused on communication and being confident after the tournament.
Co-captain Noah Ball-Burack added that one rewarding aspect of the tournament “was playing teams from Seattle and Vancouver that are higher level than the Bay Area teams. I think we learned a lot as a team from playing them.”
There are only a handful of co-ed sports teams at BHS, but no team at BHS is more actively promoting gender equity than the Ultimate Frisbee Club.
This is the first year that BHS’s Ultimate Frisbee Club has had a mixed team. Currently, there are thirteen females and sixteen males playing for Uproar, with either four females and three males or three females and four males playing on the field at any given time during a match.
This organization is mostly due to Uproar being a part of the Bay Area Disc Association, which has gender requirements for all mixed division teams to achieve as much gender balance as possible during matches.
Gender equality is a frequent topic of discussion within the team’s members in an effort to unify the team on the field, and has been discussed a few times in a formal setting. Uproar cutter Logan Gade stated that the team has had no significant problems with inequality.
“A lot of mixed teams struggle with gender equity and treating their women fairly, but our team has had a lot of conversation surrounding the issue, and because of that, we’ve been successful in maintaining an equitable team,” she said.
In addition to being able to play with close female friends, Ball-Burack prefers the culture on a co-ed team because many of the gender norms and sexism that can exist on men’s teams are less prevalent.
“I think mixed ultimate presents challenges to a lot of men who have biases, consciously or subconsciously, about women in sports. This is a really positive and necessary way for us to grow as people and teammates,” he said.
Gade echoed the positive aspects of a co-ed team.
“While there tend to be issues with gender equity, by addressing those issues as a team you educate people who might not be aware,” she said.
Tekpa said that diversity still remains an issue within the sport of ultimate. There are currently only three African-American people in the Ultimate Frisbee Club, with Tekpa being one of them. According to Tekpa, “The lack of diversity on the team is a big problem. When I got into high school, I realized that the number of colored students playing was decreasing.”
While the sport of ultimate continues to deal with diversity issues, BHS ultimate is at least beginning to combat gender inequity.
Gade hopes that the team will continue to dominate the Bay Area league and win the 2017 California High School State Championships this winter. Above all, she hopes that the mixed program will continue to promote gender equity through the sport.