The goals of the UAP Tournament and Tourism trip to Egypt were simple. I wanted to bring some North Americans to Egypt, help them learn a bit about the culture through the eyes of other ultimate players, and then facilitate their enjoyment of the natural beauty and rich history Egypt has to offer.
The project changed in scope and purpose about three times since its inception, and yet managed to come out more beautifully than we could have hoped for.
This project would not have come to fruition without the support, encouragement, and planning help of Tarek Saleh and the Flying Disc Invasion. Last year they mentioned that they would like more European and North American teams to come to Egypt so that they could match up against and learn from more diverse and developed playing styles. Truth is, it’s difficult and expensive for Egyptians to leave Egypt. And Egypt has so much to offer beyond ultimate. It is simply a place everyone should go once in their life if they can.
Ultimate players love other ultimate players. Everywhere in the world, I’ve heard and felt this idea that having this small sport in common binds people together in meaningful ways. And yet the ultimate bubble does not allow us to completely escape the problems of the world. Issues of gender, socioeconomic, and racial equity very much exist. Global economic trends and shifting politics affect who gets to visit whom and how much financial sacrifice has to be made to do so.
With all of these tensions in mind, we set about with the hope of having a meaningful, mutually beneficial ultimate and cross-cultural exchange.
Our itinerary included a womxn’s only frisbee clinic, a tournament, and a tourism trip.
We had three hours on Saturday morning in very windy conditions with a group of about 35 players of various skill levels. Planning for these events can be challenging. How many people will show up? What’s the level of play really like? What kind of learning style are the participants used to? What do they expect from the event?
In these types of events, players want to learn everything and coaches want to transfer as much knowledge as possible. With so many variables, it’s critical to keep the mission clear and the plans executable. My main objective in a large clinic setting is that every individual learns and remembers one new thing they can apply to their game. It was also important for us to use the local leadership already in place to help us facilitate the event.
After talking with local players like Donai, Nour, Selma, and others, we realized that the primary desires were to help women in the community gain confidence in taking on more of a role on the field. Not just being a cutter to the endzone, but taking on the roles of primary cutters and primary handlers. The second desire was for a greater understanding of horizontal stack cutting and structure.
With this in mind we did the clinic in two parts.
Part 1 we focused on a few throwing games inspired by Brett Matsuka and John McNaughton’s Creating Throwing Modules in our UAP Skills and Technique program. These games had a few simple rules that our facilitators could modify according to what they felt was appropriate for the groups they were leading.
This activity communicated a few things. First, in order to get better at throwing, you need to get out of your comfort zone and be willing to make a bunch of mistakes. These games purposefully create difficult throwing options and quick decision scenarios. It’s easy to get in a lot of reps. Because it is presented as more of a “game” than a drill, the attitude was fun, playful, exploratory. This is a good mindset for motor skills learning. During this activity, everyone learned to throw a scoober - which was the first time many of these players had tried. Results were impressive considering the windy conditions.
The second activity involved throwing stations facilitated by our UAP Tournament and Tourism participants. We had stations for pulling, hucking, breaking the mark, and basic throwing. Players chose what they wanted to work on and got the opportunity for some individualized instruction.
We wanted to provide a lot of time for players to simply match up against us and get repetitions in a horizontal stack. We tried to keep talking to a minimum between points. So we gave some very basic instructions and played for about 45 minutes. Each team had facilitators to do some individual coaching and provide a few tips.
Mainly, the importance of playing together was just...playing together. The games really felt like a celebration of ultimate and of one another.
In the last 15-20 minutes of the event, we huddled up for a short chat. We shared our stories about difficulties and opportunities playing ultimate as womxn in a mixed environment. We shared a few tips for self-advocacy and how to improve as individuals while supporting each other. We shared a few tips about recruiting. It would have been nice to have more time for the sharing of our stories, but I hope that will continue over time. Perhaps in our WhatsApp group or as folks connect over Facebook.
Here are a few reflections on the event from a few participants.
For the tournament, we happily welcomed a few Egyptian male players to join us and fill out our numbers. It was very kind of them to take some time away from their regular teams to take a chance on playing with a bunch of strangers and hoping it would be fun. Because of the morning clinic, we knew a few players from each team which was an added bonus that you don’t usually get to enjoy in an international tournament experience. So how were the games? Our team ranged widely in experience from one player’s first tournament to players who have played in various national and world games tournaments. We lost many universe point games and gained many friends.
Egyptian ultimate is in an interesting place. It has grown rapidly over the past 5 years. Players are committed to improving. The community has several good leaders helping to push the sport forward. Many players are tall and athletic. I am excited to see what this community will bring to the world scene over the coming years.
Obviously there are many challenges. Gender equity is one of them. I am glad to see some efforts toward addressing gender equity issues head-on. I heard from many players who feel that once they have more women playing, the gender equity issues will probably resolve themselves. It is good to see a commitment to shifting to true mixed (4/3 vs 5/2 or 6/1) play. And I think this will help in recruitment efforts and in creating space and motivation for women to have larger roles on the field, that they are clearly ready to have. However, I worry a bit about the coming heartbreak if/when increased numbers of women participating are not sufficient to resolve gender equity issues alone. Still, I am optimistic that the leadership will be ready to cross that bridge if and when they get there.
Visa acquisition for global tournaments and financial resources are even larger barriers to international participation. This is one of the reasons that I felt so strongly about bringing a North American contingent to Egypt. Sadly, I know for the friends I have made there, it is much easier for me to visit them than it will ever be for them to visit me.
I hope more North American and European teams will consider organizing teams for SWIFT 2021. The level of play will not disappoint. You will be warmly welcomed and there is so much to see and enjoy in Egypt if you can spend a few days there before or after the tournament.
I’ve only spent a short time in Egypt, but one lesson I have learned is that things are done based on trust more than timelines. This can be maddening for those of use used to planning things in advance. But I’ve come to see the benefits of a culture where people somehow can make things happen on short notice. If someone says something will be done, it will be.
In fact, one of the main aspects of this project – the tournament! – shifted locations from the resort town of Hurghada to Alexandria. But it was this change that allowed for a shift in the schedule so the womxn’s clinic could happen. So, things don’t always go as planned. But they usually work out well, sometimes better than the original thing you aimed for.
I enjoyed being able to be a bridge for several folks who said they were excited about Egypt but found it a bit intimidating as a destination. I felt one of my primary roles was simply to communicate expectations and remain calm in the organized chaos. I must have said “Trust the process” more than once as that became the name of our photo sharings folder.
Our tour included the Pyramids, of course, and many sites along the Nile River. I will spare you the boredom of looking at another person’s vacation photos.
It was not the destination that made this trip unique, but rather the company. There was an application process for this event. My first pass of asks was all to UAP members. And I imagine there was some self-selection of people who were willing to trust me with their money and time despite not setting up a slick website or trying too hard to oversell the event.
The chemistry of the group was only enhanced by having a local Egyptian player and friend, turned translator and food orderer, along for the journey. Having him along was invaluable not just for smooth, yet creative logistics; but also for having at least one local perspective on what was going on around us. We also were unfortunately exposed to the double standard of how native Egyptians and foreigners are treated both by the tourism industry and by their own government. For now, I’ll just say “it’s complicated.” And something we would not have otherwise been exposed to.
To be honest, I do not know. This year’s trip was so perfect it is difficult to imagine having an equal experience. But, I love a challenge, so I might try!
If you would like to be considered for a UAP Tournament and Tourism trip to Egypt for SWIFT 2021, please fill out this form. If/when we start putting together an itinerary, I’ll be in touch.