Women’s Ultimate Frisbee Interview with Ghost (Alina Stechert) #PlayLikeAGirl – Part 1

In this new installment of Women’s Ultimate Frisbee interviews, meet Alina Stetchert, nicknamed Ghost! Have you ever wondered what happens when two introverts meet? It’s a conversation, which could be turned into a whole saga. To make it super short in Part 1, we talked about beginnings in Ultimate, team organization, coaching a Women’s team, and what it’s like to be a female player.

women's ultimate - Alina Stechert on her tournament travels

Before we jump straight into the interview, meet Ghost! Born in Germany, but living in the Netherlands, she’s a Research Master’s student (Genetics in Behaviour and Health).

Apart from Ultimate, her hobbies are: making music, drawing/design, ballroom dancing, baking, caring for all her plants, and finding new temporal hobbies. The latest ones are ballet and sewing.

Ghost started playing Ultimate in 2017 with Chakraa Ultimate Chennai. Her favorite format is beach ultimate and she prefers being a Handler. Due to her ADHD, she occasionally gets distracted from catching a disc, because she loves watching the airplanes that fly over the field. Her current team is Panic Ultimate Leiden.

She loves playing Mixed and Women’s Ultimate, coaching, and designing team merch. Alina’s involved in her team’s social media outreach and organizing their tournament – Chemical Pleasure. If you had the chance to play against Panic at EBUCC 2022, Alina was the designer of the team tees!

The first question, which always comes to mind, is pretty simple but essential. How did you start with Ultimate Frisbee?

My high school had a club, but I never joined it. I just knew that it existed I wasn’t a sporty person at all, so I didn’t join. When I started a volunteer year in India, for some reason, I decided this was the time to find a sport. I went online and searched for an Ultimate team in Chennai, the city where I was staying. I found three and texted all of them asking about coming to training. They all said yes, so I joined different teams for their practices and in the end, stuck with one or two, regularly joining their practices with tournaments and everything.

In a matter of a few months, I started playing Ultimate and became a person who does sport at least three or four times a week. They took me to a bunch of tournaments all around India as well, which was nice. When my year there came to an end, I chose my university solely based on the fact that it had an ultimate team. I’ve been playing there ever since. It’s very odd to suddenly realize you’ve become an athlete and Ultimate just took over your life.

Women's Ultimate Frisbee Interview - Alina Stechert with a pink frisbee she got as a birthday gift in India

Could you tell us more about how do the teams in the Netherlands function?

Our team is a part of the University Sports Center. In the Netherlands, we have both club teams and university teams, but I think we have more university teams. I think it’s nice because it’s all under the roof of the Sports Center. So, you don’t have to pay for the club itself. You have to pay for the subscription to the sports centers, and then you can basically come to practice, and pay a small fee for being able to join competitions.

The downside is that many of our players are international students and are only there for their studies, or an exchange year, and then they leave. Lots of people get very excited about the team and the sport and then they leave after three months. You’ve just taught them how to throw and where to cut and then they’re gone. This happens all the time.

Our team has a lot of people just coming through and some older people staying. We also have a deal with the university that we can have some amount of people who aren’t students anymore. Then of course it’s a bit odd for people who come to the sports university team and there’s a bunch of old people playing there as well. I’d say it’s a bit unbalanced. The entire structure of our club is based on students volunteering their time to organize the club. We don’t have any coaches that are getting paid or with coaching training. It’s a bit difficult sometimes.

How does your team approach team and training advertising?

When we advertise our club to new people, we have to really figure out how to advertise this to them. For some people, you have to advertise it like it’s such a fun sport, a nice community, and the sport is awesome. You don’t have to be super fast or athletic, we’ll teach you and you can practice. Then to the already sporty people, who are searching for a new challenge, you say it’s a really serious sport. There’s a lot of running, and it’s really heavy on the athleticism side. Both are very true, but it’s a very thin line. Knowing who to give which version is tricky. Some people will just turn around and leave if you tell them that they have to run a lot.

How did you start playing Women’s Ultimate?

We have different seasons in the Netherlands where we usually play one outdoor season, mixed and then there’s another season for open/women’s ultimate. I started playing in the lower-level open team. In the second season of my first year in the Netherlands, I played mixed. Then for the indoor season, we had enough female players to compete in the women’s category. At that point, it was quite exciting because I don’t think our club had a women’s team before. So we started that and had a women’s indoor team ever since.

I enjoy playing women’s a lot because it’s just very different from playing mixed. If you’re used to playing mixed with some very loud alpha males, it’s nice to every once in a while play women where that position can be taken over or split up between the women who usually struggle to get their word in. 

At the beginning of last year, we finally had enough women together to play women’s ultimate, instead of open. I thought that was super cool. I was very excited and I really wanted to coach to make sure everyone had a great time. We had quite a big women’s team. Then again, people had to study, went on vacation, had other commitments, were just not feeling it that day, etc.

We still managed to have barely enough players for each of the competition days. I was so sad and disappointed because I really did the best I could to support and coach all the women. I just thought that maybe I would get a little more appreciation for all my work and in turn have the players do the bare minimum and come to the competition days. Not a very positive takeaway from coaching so far, it just takes a lot of energy. 

Women's Ultimate Frisbee Interview - First tournament with Bing Bong Besties

How would you describe your experience with coaching a Women’s Ultimate team?

I was very excited about coaching for a while. Because I was the “unsporty” person for most of my life. I get this hesitation and insecurity that most female beginners have when they first start Ultimate. So, I am always trying to make the team and the sport as welcoming as possible for them, explain as much as I can, and create a practice environment free of judgment. I want to be a role model for anyone who thinks that sport isn’t for them, Ultimate is too complicated, or that they started sport too late in their life to become good at it. Those are all thoughts that I had when I started playing, and I proved them wrong. It’s a great opportunity to show women how to grow in confidence, and how to work with and respect their bodies. So, coaching women’s Ultimate for me isn’t just about teaching people how to throw, but to empower women through sport, and teach them how to be proud of themselves. 

On the other hand, right now I really want to just play again. Being in charge of the women’s team is a lot of pressure because if I’m not coaching, I have the feeling that no one else will do it. That puts me in the position where either I’m coaching the women’s team or we don’t have the women’s team. It’s difficult, also because I really want to play in the women’s team. But coaching everyone all the time is exhausting, you have to pay so much attention to so many things all the time, which can be challenging if you also have ADHD. And it’s also so many extra responsibilities. All the planning, like do we have enough people; how do we get there; does everyone have uniforms; etc. Or, I don’t do any of this and just play open. But that really feels like I’m letting my team down and failing my goal to empower the women I meet in our team.

What do you find most difficult in Women’s Ultimate team coaching? What’s the biggest obstacle?

I’m torn between two answers, one is getting people to come to practice and the other one would be teaching things that I’m not very good at. For example, I am a handler and I do not cut, pretty much ever. I’m not very fast and I get overwhelmed when there are too many people around me, so the handling position is just the better fit for me. Teaching cutting to people is therefore challenging for me. Sure, I can teach the basics, but not like I could give you throwing practice for hours.

But either way, people have to show up to practice before I can teach them anything at all. Right now, for example, we split our practice between our indoor teams, women’s and two mixed teams. On the days we split, I give practice to about five people. I mean, it’s a great practice for the people who are there, but it would be a lot more motivating if more players would have the same feeling of responsibility towards the team that makes me come to every single practice. 

women's ultimate - Coaching is difficult sometimes

Women’s Ultimate can be challenging considering many factors. Female players find it hard to speak up, but at the same time, some people tend to have strong opinions about the roles of women in Ultimate. How do you approach the topic of female players’ role in mixed teams?

To be fair, I think the guys on our team, have made at least some kind of effort to give the women a bit more space. We had a members’ meeting entirely dedicated to equality and inclusion. We were motivated by a team from Belgium. They released a document on how they had an entire month dedicated to making their practices as female-oriented as possible. They had a lot of exercises where, for example, you have to play to a woman before the disc could be thrown to a man again in games. Or only females are allowed to score, and more such extra rules and stuff.

It was actually a guy who posted this in my team’s WhatsApp chat as inspiration. I thought it was super cool. Our chat blew up. It was kind of comical to watch, to be honest. Everyone had an opinion and quickly most of the guys agreed that we don’t need this. The women quite carefully suggested that we could at least try and see where it goes, but no… The guys decided that we wouldn’t need to try any of the exercises because they knew we don’t have a problem with gender equality. We don’t need the document, we don’t need to have extra rules for our games, and none of this is necessary. 

We decided to make like a little questionnaire about how respected and how integrated our players felt in the team. I got to present the results at our next members’ meeting. It ended up being about whether or not we could have one single practice where we play with some of these extra rules. It honestly was annoying to listen to. Apart from a few guys who were very, very strongly opinionated on this one particular part, some of the other guys were starting to get the point. They put some thought into making the women more comfortable in the team. We established a ‘trust person’, and it’s become a bit easier since.

It might also be because the guys realized that they need the ladies if they want to play in any mixed tournaments. Most of them are slowly making a bit more of an effort to include the women, to teach them at least a little more, and to be a bit more respectful I guess. But it took some strong female characters to get there. 

women's ultimate - First outdoor season of women's coaching

It’s great how female players can develop in Ultimate structures into involved and confident members of the community. Even though our sport’s supposed to be welcoming and inclusive, guys in many teams are still hesitant to throw to girls. It’s an issue when the players don’t notice the problem or don’t feel comfortable speaking up about the additional obstacles female athletes have to overcome in Ultimate. What are your views and experiences with this issue?

Yeah, that’s true. I think it’s amazing to see how much women evolve through the sport, in confidence, in speaking their minds, and in telling other people about their needs. It might need some time and encouragement, but there’s usually quite the transformation, once they get a bit more into the game. This certainly was the case for me as well.

Once you get to play with different teams, these problems also are just more visible. Because I’ve played in so many different teams, I can now compare my own team to all the others I played for so far. For example, I was playing finals of a tournament with a team that had picked me up because one of their female players got injured. The team was amazing though. The guys had so much respect and trust in the women. There were even times when they decided on the line that this would be a women’s point now. It means all the guys would only do the bare minimum and play a supporting role. Probably the best-spirited, equality-focused, and supportive team I’ve ever played with.

 Women's Ultimate Frisbee Interview - Idon'tcarrotall with Dalahaests

women's ultimate - Alina at practice

Meanwhile, the team we played against was the complete opposite. One tall loud dude running the show and yelling at everybody (and not exactly compliments or encouragement). The woman I was marking was so afraid she wouldn’t catch the disc, cause a turnover, or for that guy to yell at her. I barely had to defend her, because she seemed almost invisible to the male players of the team. I tried to encourage her to make herself some more space. We gave the team lots of feedback on their spirit. I still think about that moment and about how many female players are afraid to speak up.

What I’ve also realized is that a lot of guys (again, generalizing here), have a very different reaction to making a mistake than women. From my observation, the female players’ first instinct will be immediate apologies, half a shame spiral, and fear of doing this again. For the guys, there’s nothing like it. I am genuinely curious how that works you don’t experience this spiral of shame every time you make the smallest mistake on the field. How is that possible?

It explains how guys can just be loud and ask for the disc and even if they drop it, it’s just not a big deal. Meanwhile, women might try being loud once and then they drop the disc and feel so bad about it. They’ll never want to do it again. I guess guys just have more space to make mistakes. As female players, we can’t really make a mistake, we just have to be better and better. Otherwise, we might feel like no one is going to value us as players.

To be honest, apologizing for dropped discs feels deeply encoded in our DNA. Many women’s players in Ultimate tend to do that, especially, when they’re starting out. The same mindset is rarely spotted with guys. How do you combat this with your Women’s Ultimate team?

At the first practice of the indoor season, I made the rule that saying “sorry” after you’ve made a mistake isn’t an option. I think it’s distracting, and it doesn’t teach you anything. I told my team that I don’t want to hear them apologize for anything. It was impressive how much difficulty my players had with this rule. Honestly, it was somewhat mind-blowing to see. It’s every second word a female player says on the field.


Then everyone had difficulty stopping to do this. It was even worse when we realized that we didn’t hear this word from the guys at all. We always play mixed games after our internal team practices so we had a direct comparison. Really gives you something to think about once you start noticing how much of a difference this makes. 

Would you say that this attitude influences the different play styles when it comes to women’s ultimate and men’s ultimate?

This fear of mistakes also leads to different styles of playing, I would argue. Probably, female players tend to put more thought into what they’re going to do next in terms of social consequences. The guys, well, they see someone open and they just throw the disk. As a female player, you’ll see that open person and you know you can throw that huck. But you’re not going to because you just might not do it right. What if you don’t? What if you throw it away? Then everyone will tell you to never throw deep ever again.

This has happened to me so many times. There’s this one guy in our team, the person known to huck everything at the first second. He throws the disc away during a competition on a very windy day and his reaction is “Ohh, I just have to throw it away a few more times until I figure out how the wind blows.” Everyone is fine with that. Then I throw one huck that doesn’t connect perfectly and get a wave of criticism and “Why didn’t you just dump it to the guy instead?”. As if no one heard his announcement earlier.

It’s very odd. I’m really wondering how one could even start to address this problem because it’s so ingrained in the whole team mindset. As a female player, you’re just judged so much harsher for any mistake, by yourself and by the team. 

Aren’t sequels what we live for? Check out Part 2 of Women’s Ultimate interview with Alina!

Hope you enjoyed this not-so-silent introduction to introvert’s thoughts on the loose. In the second part of the interview, you’ll learn what it’s like to be an introvert on a team and get a glimpse into playing styles between India and the Netherlands. Be on the lookout for the sequel to this interview. Part 2 is coming shortly! In the meantime, you can follow Alina on Instagram!

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  1. Pingback:Women’s Ultimate Frisbee Interview with Ghost (Alina Stechert) #PlayLikeAGirl – Part 2 - Women’s Ultimate Frisbee Interview with Ghost (Alina Stechert) #PlayLikeAGirl – Part 2

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