Opinion: Taking a WAC-ky risk

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Jane Hutton/The Occidental

At the beginning of the fall semester, I was sitting on the AGC steps after dinner when my friend Cady told me she was attending an event to meet the womxn’s ultimate Frisbee team, “WAC.” When she asked me to come with her, I nearly laughed in her face, and anyone else who knew me then would laugh too. In high school, all my time outside of class was dedicated to theater and music, not running up and down a field trying to catch a disc. I never played a sport for all of high school and could never imagine playing one in college. But I went with her, mostly because I wanted to meet new people at the beginning of college.

The new people I met at the event quickly changed the course of my first year experience. After implying that I wasn’t sure ultimate was the place for me, I distinctly remember someone saying:

“It’s a silly sport. We run around, and we have fun. It’s for everyone.”

While those words seemed insignificant at the time, they rang in my ears for the days to come as I anticipated the first practice. Even though I was still on the fence about joining WAC, I promised Cady I would at least try the first practice and see how I felt. To my surprise, the first practice was actually fun. While I wasn’t necessarily good or knew what was happening on the field, I didn’t feel like an outsider. The day for the second practice had quickly arrived, and I found myself once again on the turf.

About six months later, I look back at my choice to join ultimate with pride. While it definitely took some convincing, I participated in something I was terrified to try. Growing up, I resented sports and would have been afraid to try a new one. And, honestly, every practice, I still walk out on the field with anxiety, knowing I don’t have the same athletic experience or background as my teammates. But the fact that I can now participate in this once completely foreign sport and feel confident enough to keep coming back every week is an accomplishment.

WAC is different and special from past clubs I’ve experienced — mostly because of its culture and community. While this may sound like a given, since all teams form some sort of community, I think WAC’s is unique (yes, I may be biased). WAC is hardworking. They care about doing well and building strong players. And yet, I never feel a negative sense of competition or fear of failure. Since we’re a club sport, we can have fun without the pressure of rankings or prizes. One of WAC’s rules is not to say sorry for a bad throw or a missed catch but instead to use positive motivation to bring out our best selves. I aspire to do better every week, not because I necessarily want to impress someone or score points, but because the positive mindsets of my teammates push me to do so.

The friendships I’ve built with my teammates are another thing unique to the culture of a club sport. We aren’t forced to come to practice every day — anyone could easily quit at any moment. But we show up each week for each other. Every practice is fueled with laughter and supportive cheers from our teammates on the sidelines. Even outside of practice, the support I feel from WAC members is continuous. Everyone has different academic interests, hobbies and backgrounds, and we hear about them each time we’re together.

One of my fondest memories with WAC was at a tournament that almost no one could attend because it was before Thanksgiving break. With very few players able to substitute in and out on the field, the players there were exhausted. We weren’t doing well either, and I don’t think we won a single game that day. But that didn’t matter to us. We were working our hardest with the few people we had. It felt exactly like how one of my team members described ultimate to me at that first event: running up and down the field and having fun. Our spirits never lowered, and, as a team, we became stronger that day.

Looking back, taking the risk of joining a sport at the beginning of my time at Oxy has inspired me to think and act outside the box. While the past version of me would have never thought I would be playing on a club sports team in college with tournaments and weekly practices under my belt, I somehow pushed myself to try something completely unfamiliar and enjoy it. If I could do that, I knew I could conquer a lot.

The worst that could happen when you’re trying something new is that you’re bad at it or genuinely dislike it. But, I learned to lean into the joy that it brings me and others instead of comparing my skills to someone else’s, even when I’m not naturally good at something right away.

WAC’s loving and warm community taught me how to believe in myself enough to do something scary. And when you’re running up and down a field trying to catch a disc with your friends, how bad could it be?

Contact Eliana Joftus at joftus@oxy.edu

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