Game 5 Reflections, Inclusivity On and Off the Field - Lauren Woods #22

We did it! We have arrived at the end of our first ever professional regular season. Leading up to this game there were a few different focuses and goals for the team - the main one collectively being “we want to make playoffs”. We knew we needed to win our last two season games to give us the best chance at maintaining our #3 spot. This thought lingered at the forefront of everyone's mind as we boarded our respective flights to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Can we do it? Can we win on the road? Our only other away game, and loss, was against the Raleigh Radiance. We performed below the standard we hold ourselves to as a team and knew that going into this game we would need to change something mentally in order to play our best without a home field advantage.

The Atlanta Soul offered us a rare opportunity to do so hours before the game. They held an intersectionality and privilege forum for both teams, where the goal was to focus on some of the in-between spaces (intersections) that are largely absent from many of today’s discourses. The topics we discussed were: how do race, gender, class, and other identities intersect? How can we become better advocates for racial, gender, and socioeconomic equity by understanding the intersections between these identities? How can we broaden our perspectives and utilize these tools to improve the ultimate community? (Shout out to Soul captain Shanye Crawford for the talking points and facilitating the event!)

Having the chance to engage with the opposing team and my own on topics that I feel are critical to truly becoming inclusive as a sport was a unique and rewarding opportunity. As a player of color, being able to share experiences, similar and different, was validating in a way that the ultimate community hasn’t always been for me. It made me feel closer to everyone I took the field with and I think that feeling was shared and displayed during our game spirit wise. Thank you Atlanta Soul for the warm and productive welcoming!

We parted ways after the workshop and prepped for a 6:30pm start time. It had been aggressively raining all day and we began to mentally prepare for a soaking wet game. But by the time we arrived at the stadium it stopped raining and was a delightful 70 degrees. The game was a nail-biter the entire time, with us leading, then Soul breaking back and securing a 2 point lead, to us fighting to tie it up at 12s and pulling ahead ever so slightly.

This was the game I was most looking forward to all season and it did not disappoint. Both teams played their hearts out and left it all on the field. It was awesome to see the hard work my teammates put into this season finally come to fruition in a way that it hadn’t before. Something clicked, the trust was there, the fire was burning, and the words of our coach Eileen Murray echoed through our minds: “selfless offense, relentless defense”. We came out with the win and clinched a spot to compete in the first ever Premiere Ultimate League playoffs!!

P.S. The AFDC, in partnership with Atlanta Soul and Atlanta Hustle are hosting the first ever Color of Ultimate showcase game in Atlanta on 6/22. The goal of the game is to bring awareness about the socioeconomic and racial inequity of the sport of ultimate. The game will highlight elite players of color and expose the sport to those outside of our community, encouraging more people of color to play ultimate. It will be live streamed and you can sponsor a player by going here. Players from all over the country and even as far as Colombia are flying in to play, so consider supporting this amazing event!

Eileen Murray