Women’s Ultimate Frisbee Interview with Ghost (Alina Stechert) #PlayLikeAGirl – Part 2

Long time no see! Writing this year has been for me as reliable as Polish railways (not reliable at all!). It’s been quite a while since you read the first part of the interview with Ghost. Check it out to refresh your memory, or if you want to learn about her perspective on women’s Ultimate coaching. In the second part of the interview, we talked about playing Ultimate in India, cultural differences, fun and competitive Ultimate, and how it is to be an introvert on a team.

Your Ultimate Frisbee journey started in India. Could you describe what it looks like from your experience?

I was there 5 years ago. The Ultimate scene might look very different now, but I was surprised back then how big was the community there. The city where I lived (Chennai) had three, and at the end of my year, four teams practicing at the same beach. That meant there were beach ultimate practices every day and then pick-up games in the early mornings every weekend. An amazing way to start Ultimate, and so many people to learn from! I felt welcomed in all the teams but eventually decided to become a part of Chakraa, one of the oldest club teams in India. Despite some serious language barriers, they always did their best to include me, teach me, and also take me to a bunch of tournaments and personal celebrations over the year. That’s also where the story of my nickname started, by the way.

The practices were quite intense, especially for someone like me, who had never done much sports before in their life. Chennai has so many incredible players, and it was very inspiring to see how much dedication and hard work they all put into the sport. I also learned about a sad side of the Ultimate story, because despite how good the players and teams there are, a lot of players don’t have the means to travel to international tournaments. I think that’s part of why the Ultimate scene in India might be thought of as quite poor and underdeveloped, but that’s a misconception for sure.

As someone new to Ultimate (and let’s be honest, new to sports in general), the female players of Chakraa and the other clubs in Chennai were especially inspiring. While their culture might not be very encouraging for women to speak up, they made the Ultimate community into a place for them to be loud, opinionated, and respected. They push for more women to be heard and better respected. I felt like this has a positive effect on all the players, even outside the sport. It was certainly good for shy, introverted me to have some of these incredible female players to look up to when I started playing. In many ways, the impressions I got from them, still influence the way I play and coach today, which I am very grateful for.



Teams tend to vary in their inner cultures and vibes. You had the chance to play on a few teams. How difficult is it for you to get into the culture of a new team as an introvert?

It’s a struggle, for sure. Some of my best memories in Ultimate were made with teams I had never even heard of before I went to play a tournament with them. The discomfort and emotional effort that come with playing in a new team for me is very real. But I’d say it’s worth it. Ultimate is definitely a place for me where I can be myself and connect with people much more easily than I usually could in any other social setting. I mean, I hate making small talk, but you don’t have to do that if you’re on an Ultimate field. And there is Ultimate to talk about, right?

Discovering different team cultures, and the team’s collective and individual personalities can also be super interesting. Hello, this is the psychologist in me speaking! The way a team communicates internally, the way the players view and treat each other, and their individual and collective goals very much shape the way the Spirit of the Game (SotG) works for them.

Comparing India and the Netherlands for example. The team cultures are very different just from how individualistic the Dutch culture is and how much more collectivist the Indian one is. In the Netherlands, a lot more attention is paid to the individual players and their skills. You practice your running form, your hucks, your breaking of the mark, your strength, your speed, etc. At the end of a tournament day, you reflect on your performance, that layout D you did, this amazing throw you threw, that disc you missed, that throw you threw away.

From my experience in India, everything was much more community-focused there. Everyone is picked up where they stand, and then the focus is on team strategies, playing together, using everyone’s strengths to the team’s advantage, and reflecting on what the team could do better or did well. This also makes a lot of difference when teaching new players. Do you teach them because your team needs more female-matching players so you can compete in tournaments, or because you truly believe that Ultimate is a special place? You’re excited to welcome them into your community and teach them what the sport has taught you.

Ultimate has helped me become a much more self-confident and strong (physically and mentally) woman. It has helped me understand myself better, and to get over my introverted self every once in a while. It has also made me much more focused and serious about sports than I ever thought I would be.

You are more on the goal- or skill-oriented side of Ultimate, which seems to sometimes go against playing Ultimate “just for fun”. I sometimes get the impression that for some of the very competitive players, there is no space for casual Ultimate. If you’re not entirely competitive, you can’t be respected as a player. What’s it like in the Netherlands?

In my own team, the problem was more the degree of commitment different players have for the team. In this more individualistic Dutch culture, it is very difficult to get the same degree of prioritizing the team from all players. At least from what I’ve experienced. It’s not so much that people are more focused on winning, and the competitive side of ultimate. It’s more difficult to actually get people to be so much into the sport that they are willing to make some cuts off their personal lives to join the team as much as the few really committed players do.

Another problem arises when the experienced players of a team don’t get the chance to play very competitively. Self-taught teams, like most student clubs in the Netherlands, heavily rely on their very good players. They teach the newer generations. So, if these players are not very interested in teaching… If they’re just in it for the sport… Well, it’s understandable that they would go to a different team or even a different sport eventually. If you have a large dichotomy of expectations in terms of commitment and competitiveness in your team, the club eventually loses players who need a higher level of competitiveness.

There are also a lot of cultural and interpersonal differences in what it means to be having fun at sports. Or what competitiveness looks like. Much of our idea about Spirit of the Game is based on Western culture. I’ve had experiences where these ideas clashed within teams. Some cultures express passion and love for the game much louder and more direct than we might be used to here. Managing these differences on the field can be challenging. I mean, who am I to tell a very loud, serious, and winning-focused player that that’s not how spirited behavior looks like?

women's ultimate - Alina at practice - introvert on a team

How would you describe your mindset towards Ultimate matches and winning?

I personally don’t care that much about winning or losing most of the time. I would much rather lose a good and challenging game than run over the opponent with an easy mindless win. Maybe this is the coach in me talking, but when I made mental notes of everything the opponent did to beat us, and I got some inspiration for what to work on at practice for the next couple of weeks, I would consider it a great game, independent of the result. But I also understand if people are very competitive and they just really enjoy winning. And of course, if you represent your country at Europeans or World Championships, it’s a whole other story as well.

Either way, I understand why it can be annoying for players, who are very much focused on athleticism and game outcomes, to constantly hear about how it’s more about the spirit and the learning experience. I just personally don’t think that winning should be more important than equality or inclusion. It can’t be done at the cost of other players trying their best.

I’ve personally had some of the best games with my mixed team when everyone let go of their expectations. You know how there are sometimes games that you know you’re gonna lose anyway? But you decide to at least give them a good fight and do your absolute best? It was such a unique game experience. Everyone had much more space to try things and focus on how to grow as a team. Don’t mind the score, it’s just about playing well. Looking back to a game with your head held high. Being proud of all the work you put into it and the new things you learned. That’s the goal I usually go for.


Back to the topic of being an introvert on a team. Ultimate Frisbee isn’t the kind of sport, you’d suspect introverts of playing. You have to get out of your comfort zone, meet a bunch of new people, and go to tournaments that scream extrovert vibes. For example, I went for the first time to Sandslash (a beach tournament) with a pick-up team. I didn’t speak for two days, because I had a hard time picking on the vibes of the team. What are your experiences as an introvert in Ultimate? What’s the most challenging?

Spirit of the Game is the thing I love most about Ultimate, because of how people respect each other and welcome everyone. At the same time, I often feel that this respect and openness also means that you have to be extroverted to be perceived as spirited. I don’t think anyone will congratulate me on my great spirit if I am my introverted self. I can be outgoing and extroverted for a while but it’s exhausting.

Recently, I’ve been coaching my indoor team without playing myself, and I swear, talking to people on the sideline all day was so much more exhausting than playing. I also have ADHD, which makes this even more difficult. Paying attention to all my players, the game, every person’s individual playing level, and their coaching needs… All the while making small talk about past tournaments I can barely recall, with a person whose name I can’t seem to remember. I needed two or three days to recover from one indoor competition day. No one sees this, right? But if I don’t come across as the extroverted, funny, supportive coach that I am, people will tell me that I’m unspirited, or not encouraging enough.

The same goes for tournaments. You have to be outgoing and extroverted for two or three days, get mocked for not joining the party for longer than 20 minutes, and then sit at home wrapped in two blankets watching TV series in paralysis for the next three days to recover from all the people and noise.

In Mixed Ultimate this is even more the case than in Women’s, because women constantly have to make enough space for themselves, so we can play and learn. That’s a lot more difficult for introverted women (if they don’t have their friendly neighborhood extrovert with them at all times). You have to learn how to speak up for yourself and get people to like and respect you. I like to take a moment to put together what I want to say and reflect on whether it’s really valid and important to contribute. By that time the subject might have passed already, or everyone already agrees with the louder and faster person.

women's ultimate frisbee interview Played-Sunbeam-with-the-organizing-team

Matching the energy of a team can be a challenge. Becoming a part of it isn’t always an easy task when you’re an introvert. It’s extroverts who are the life of the team. You need to seize opportunities to let others get to know you. Finding topics you can talk about while triple-checking them for relevancy is exhausting in itself. What’s your experience like with team life?

I usually need quite a long time before talking to anyone about anything other than Ultimate. It’s great if there is at least one person who gets you and understands that you’re introverted. You know that extrovert who pretty much adopts you.

My biggest, or at least one of the biggest struggles, is with remembering names. I always feel like it’s very disrespectful to forget people’s names. Still, I’d say there’s a good 20% of people in my team whose names I don’t know. I don’t really talk to them because I can’t even call them on the field. It’s already well beyond the appropriate time to ask for their name again.

Another one is that when I’m coaching, people sometimes talk while I’m trying to explain things. My brain just can’t deal with that. It’s evening. I’m off my ADHD meds, I can barely get the concentration together to talk in full sentences, and I need everyone to be quiet. My team must feel like they’re in elementary school sometimes. And I probably come across as way more annoyed than I want to be. Players have literally told me that they think I’m too serious at practice. It’s actually just my ADHD brain not being able to handle their distracting behavior. I want people to learn things, and I need people to shut up and listen when I talk. Otherwise, I can’t remember any of the words I wanted to say.

The whole concept of being an introvert in team sports is kind of ironic. Introverted people focus strongly on their skills as well as on the team’s performance. Then the world’s telling you that, as an introvert, you should do only individual sports. Introverts need team sports to get out of their shells and to interact with people. Individual sports often keep you in solitude. How did a team sport help you as an introvert?

I’m so grateful for Ultimate because if someone had told me a few years ago that I’d be teaching a sport to other people, I would have probably laughed at them. In many ways, it helped me to improve my self-confidence and talking abilities. I still think it’s difficult, especially in a sport where ‘how outgoing you are’ is literally scored by other teams. I’m not sure, how to include this in the Spirit of the Game… I sometimes wish there would be a more introvert-friendly version of it.


Also in terms of neurodiversity or mental illness, I think it can be very difficult to adhere to the common picture of spirited/extroverted/open that we usually have in mind. And of course, different cultures look differently at spirit. Or spirited behavior looks different in different parts of the word. I hope there’s gonna be a bit more attention and conversation about this topic in the future. Ultimate players are such an awesome and diverse group of people, but I think that all of us can improve our awareness and appreciation of interpersonal and cultural differences.

Thanks for reading. I hope this glimpse into introverted Ultimate Frisbee player life gives you a bit of an interesting insight. Don’t hesitate to share this interview! You can follow Alina in her adventures on her Instagram! Do you want to share your Ultimate Frisbee adventure? Don’t hesitate to write to me at introverted.ultimate. 🙂

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