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Dan “Stork” Roddick on Gender Equity in Ultimate

Dan “Stork” Roddick is a friend and mentor and is widely considered the Godfather of Frisbee. Stork is in all of the frisbee hall of fames (Ultimate, Disc Golf, Freestyle, and Frisbee), has been playing and growing the sport for more than 50 years, and is still actively involved in playing, growing, and guiding the direction of the future of frisbee.

For this reason, I reached out to Stork for his thoughts on the topic of Gender Equity and what follows below is his email back to me. I have not edited his reply so please understand that this is his opinion and is based on many years of experience, effort and dedication to the sport of frisbee.

I’m a fan of using our game as an opportunity to show human possibilities and explore alternatives to conventional sports. I hear the argument that games are “best” when played at the highest possible level of skill, but I think that mentality can have significant risks. That attitude can bring serious human costs. Big time college sports are a good example. In my mind, college presidents should use their power to collectively dial back the emphasis on these sports to protect their student athletes. Shorter practice periods, less campus isolation/ deification of athletes, more balanced spending are all things that would reduce the current spiral of competition.

And…the key thing is that the quality of the competition would not actually suffer. It’s all about parity. If no colleges had athletic dorms and separate dining and fewer scholarships, the playing field would remain level and equally exciting. The proof is clear. A competitive high school game can be a fantastic event. The absolute quality of play is secondary. Nobody needs college play to be at the highest possible level of skill.

Truly, only the pro leagues benefit from this hyper-emphasis on the college game. It makes their farm system better…that’s it.

If many areas of emphasis were uniformly dialed back by the college presidents, I am absolutely certain that the Alabama/ Auburn game would still be exactly as compelling for all involved… at much lower human cost. See the Army/Navy game as additional proof. Year in and year out the service academies get it done with much more reasonable balance. It’s all about parity.

The same considerations are true for ultimate. It’s really a secondary issue that a great men’s team could beat a great mixed team or a great women’s team. Who cares? I guess that a team of genetically-altered players/cyborgs could crush traditional humans, but do we go there, mindlessly pursing the highest possible level of play? Again, the benefit-to-cost seems a clear loser to me.

Bottom line…I’m in favor of whatever playing arrangements provide legitimate opportunities for all who wish to play. If that means separate, but equal leagues, so be it. If it means mixed games, that’s fine too. Do remember that I’m the crazy fellow who wants to promote race-walking ultimate for players who are past their jumping days, but still want to mix it up. It will sound better as you get older.

Anyway…I think that we run significant risks when we remove female participation in any aspect of our collective lives. Historically, the results of male-only or dominated activity have often been catastrophic. At best, men-only activities are just less interesting. But…again, this is just me. People can and should play as they want to. However, we should be aware that if our decision-making process is biased against progressive arrangements, our results may be sub-optimal. That is, if the method of making decisions is flawed and/or biased, we should expect decisions that reflect those shortcomings.

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