Andover Athletics Brings Inclusivity With New Sport: Girls Ultimate

This year is not only a step towards a normalcy in terms of the Covid-19 pandemic, but is also a step forward towards a more inclusive athletics program. The 2021-2022 school year welcomes the first ever Andover Girls Ultimate program in the fall. Although the competitive season will continue to take place in the spring, athletes will train and practice over the course of the first academic term to improve their skills for this coming ultimate season.

According to Head Coach Scott Hoenig, he is excited for girls, as well as non-binary, genderfluid, and transgender individuals, to finally have an opportunity to have their own program.

“I feel excited that for the first time… we have a Girls Ultimate program in the fall. That’s pretty cool. I’m just excited that we have that opportunity for girls. It’s also open to any student that identifies as genderfluid or non-binary, or any other self-identifying terms… I’m excited that that’s an opportunity [for people] in case they might be a little hesitant to just come out to interscholastic Ultimate spring,” Hoenig said.

According to Sakina Cotton ’24, the sport is more than just a team of players, but also an inclusive space for everyone.

Cotton said, “Like Coach Hoenig said, it’s for people of any gender or people that have been oppressed and just not represented in the sports area. So just having an inclusive space like that where you accept all types of athletic bodies and levels of Ultimate experience is really great.”

Hoenig’s favorite parts of the program are the values that the team upholds, from sportsmanship to responsibility to “the spirit of the game.”

“I love the sport itself; the strategy and the skill associated with it. I also love the fact that it’s a self-affiliated sport, which means that it relies very heavily on something called ‘spirit of the game,’ where each player has a responsibility to know the rules and to make calls and to show respect for opponents and good sportsmanship. That’s something that really sets the sport apart and that’s something that really excites me about Ultimate,” said Hoenig.

Cotton appreciates the style of the game, where the players are responsible for the refereeing of the competitions as well as building a team-first environment.
Cotton said, “For me, I just like the teamsmanship, how people have to work together to communicate on the field. There’s no referee, so it’s a player sport, like you have to work with your teammates and people on the opposite team. It’s easy to just get to know everyone and have a good time playing.”

For Sarah Barton ’24, not having to focus on a single position on the field is enjoyable as she gets to try multiple positions throughout the course of a season.

“It’s really nice how you can do everything. In other sports you have positions but in Ultimate, you’re offense and defense, you’re both catching and throwing and running, so you can do everything. There’s no specialization,” said Barton.

Hoenig notes that while Ultimate is a team sport, every player has their own goals to work towards and skills to refine. He is looking forward to being there to support the work of each player on the team.

Hoenig said, “Each of the students in the program have certain goals for what they want to get out of it, and so I look forward to being a part of that and helping reach their goals. As we look ahead to the spring, I hope to build on what we started last spring, which was for the first time in many, many years, we had enough girls in the program to have two interscholastic girls games.”

Anyone that wants to join the team in the spring is encouraged to do so, as the environment is welcoming to all levels of players, according to Hoenig.

Hoenig said, “We’re trying to be really welcoming and generally, the sport is very welcoming, so just give it a try. Everybody is at all different levels in the program, so it’s okay if you’re totally new to it. Hopefully, you’ll be able to find some fun. Bottom line, that’s what it’s all about, it’s about having fun. So, I say, just come out and give it a try. Grab a disc and throw it around.”