With the release of this article on Skyd Magazine arguing for making pro ultimate a mixed league, there have been a huge number of comments on Facebook, Reddit and Twitter. The author’s main point for making pro ultimate mixed is for girls to have female role models.
However, something is missing. There have been many opinion pieces, videos and discussions about gender equity in ultimate, making pro ultimate mixed and there have been a lot of ignorant and sexist comments made each time.
I think a helpful response to this is about ability. Not absolute ability but rather relative ability.
Absolute Ability vs Relative Ability
Relative ability in ultimate refers to the ability of one team versus the other. The relative ability of the players on one team versus the players on the other.
Let’s look at pro ultimate under the lens of ability. If you have a really good team playing a really bad team, the score will be lopsided and the game won’t be very competitive or exciting to watch. In this case, it’s two men’s teams playing against each other.
Let’s now look at the women’s gold medal game from the 2017 World Championships of Beach Ultimate (WCBU) this past summer in Royan, France. The final was USA vs Russia and Russia won on universe point. It was the most exciting game of the entire tournament with some big plays (1, 2, 3, 4). The men’s gold medal game wasn’t anywhere close to the excitement of the women’s final because USA outplayed Great Britain and the game was never that close.
If pro ultimate decides to go mixed, we’re going to see teams featuring the best men and women playing against other teams featuring the best men and women. So, although the absolute ability of those teams wouldn’t match an all men’s team, the relative ability of those mixed teams would be very close to each other, making for (in theory) very exciting games. You will always have mismatches and blowouts because ultimately every player won’t always perform optimally.
I would also argue that by going to mixed, the relative ability would increase because you would have the absolute best men and the absolute best women. This was my experience playing men’s vs playing mixed. My men’s team had maybe 10 great players and the rest were pretty good. However, my mixed team had 10 great men’s players and 8 great women’s players. So the quality of the players is much higher on a mixed team (as an example look at any of the rosters from The World Games 2017).
So for anyone who says that watching men’s is more exciting than mixed or women’s, remind them that the best game of the 2017 WCBU was the women’s final.
Why else do more people show up to watch college football than NFL football? NFL players are certainly much better players than college players. The relative ability still makes the sport exciting to watch. People care about who is on the field. Fans care about the story.
If pro ultimate went mixed, having women on the field would change the narrative. New stories could be told. New segments of fans could be reached. Girls would have female role models they could go to watch and meet and look up to.
There’s no reason to be worried about losing fans because the game quality wouldn’t decrease. I would expect that the game would be more exciting to watch and that the number of fans would increase. More opportunities for women in ultimate and more role models for girls in the sport. Win-win so it’s something that should be considered.