This past spring, When Riot’s WUCC planning committee shared the estimated cost of attending the World Ultimate Club Championships in Lecco, Italy, my heart sank. I knew immediately there was no way I would be able to commit to the trip. I was about to graduate from the University of Washington, and was living off of coaching and part-time work. I left the meeting feeling grateful that the tournament was months away. I felt like I could avoid my feelings of disappointment for a little while, at least.
The summer rolled around and teammates caught word that I was out for Worlds. Multiple teammates approached me, generously offering to lend me money to cover the trip to Italy. But without reliable income, I could not commit to any specific repayment plan. The season progressed, and I began to face my disappointment. Growing as a teammate and player over the next month was bittersweet, because I knew that I would be missing out on a key part of the Riot season. While I know that not attending WUCC doesn’t make me any less of a Riot, the thought of being a long-distance teammate come August was (and is) hard to digest.
During an intense weeknight practice in late June, I collided with a teammate just minutes before another teammate was concussed. The kind words and supportive actions that followed the emotional practice, including a teammate watching over me while I completed a workout the following day, brought me closer to the Riot family. While driving home from that workout, my teammate and I chatted about Riot, our season, and Worlds. At one point during the car ride, she said to me, “Your teammates wouldn’t be offering to help get you to Lecco if it wasn’t exactly what they wanted to do.” She was absolutely right, but without the ability to commit to a payment plan, I didn’t see how the trip was possible.
A couple days later, a teammate came up with a new idea to assist me in getting to Lecco, offering me an extremely generous payback period, and the choice to opt for the “pay-it-forward-to-a-future-Riot-or-another-woman-in-ultimate” plan. Unfortunately, the WUCC roster deadline had passed. The past two weeks have been a whirlwind of emotion. But most recently, I have been in awe of how the international ultimate community has come together to support me and Riot so that I may partake in the tournament.
This Monday, a teammate came up with the brilliant idea to contact each of the captains from the WUCC women’s teams asking for approval to join Riot’s roster in hopes that if all of the teams agreed to having me on Riot’s WUCC roster, I might be allowed to play. I followed her advice, digging hard to find the email contacts with the help of my dedicated teammates.
I received email responses within a half hour of sending out my requests. I am still waiting to hear from several teams, but in just forty-eight hours, I heard from MuD, Huck, Uno, Atletico, Qub, Iceni, The Copenhagen Hucks, Woodchicas, Cusb Shout, Brilliance, E6, Catarinas, LMS Ultimate, Cosmic Girls, Sin City, Showdown, Scandal, and U de Cologne; all have sent enthusiastic approvals of the late roster addition. Cat Phillips of Team Box (Australia) and my former 2012 Bigfoot teammate, Sophia Wagner of Brilliance (Russia) tracked down the contacts for several WUCC women’s team captains on my behalf, while Yuki Mori, one of Japan’s 2013 World Games team coaches, helped me contact and communicate with the three WUCC teams representing Japan:
Dear Shira Stern,
Hi, I’m Yukie Yamaguchi. I’m an Japanese ultimate player, play for MUD. I’m not team captain, but they are not good at English, so I send massage on behalf of them.
I received your message from your teammate, then translated to Japanese and told each Japanese women’s team captains.
Fuyuko Tazawa(MUD), Akina Fujikawa(UNO), and Yukari Kobori(HUCK) approve your request.
We all wish your request will be accepted and hope to meet you in Lecco!
– Yukie Yamaguchi #0 MUD (Japan)
Dear organizers of WUCC 2014,
On behalf of my team U de Cologne I am writing this letter in full support for Seattle Riot on their application to add Shira Stern on their WUCC roster despite missing the deadline.
We are looking forward to play against the world’s top women’s teams in Lecco. Therefore we are asking that an exception is made here so that Riot will be able to bring their best players. This will be for the benefit of the entire Women’s division.
Looking forward to a great tournament in Lecco!
– Sara Wickström #44 U de Cologne (Germany)
Iceni fully support Shira Stern’s request to be added to the Riot roster for WUCC 2014. Financial difficulties should not be the deciding factor in whether a player participates or not, and in circumstances such as this when those financial barriers can be overcome we think a small number of exceptions can be allowed.
Shira is an established member of Riot, not a last-minute pick-up, and Iceni had the pleasure of playing against her at US Open earlier in July. We would be thrilled to see her play at WUCC 2014.
– Lauren Bryant #6 Iceni (U.K.)
I play ultimate for a number of reasons, and the past fews days tacked another dozen or so on my list, affirming that this is the sport and community for me. This experience has highlighted the willingness of the ultimate community to organize to get behind a single player, and the generosity of the people involved in the sport. If my efforts to play with Riot 2014 in Lecco don’t come together, I will be bummed. But my hard work has paid off in unforeseen ways. Seeking the approval of the thirty-one WUCC women’s teams has exposed me to the incredible international support system that is women’s ultimate.
Thank you to all who have supported me in this process, and hope to see you in Lecco!
Shira Stern | Riot #10
UPDATE – 7/17/2014, 10:30 PM PST
The wonderful folks at WFDF got back to us and Shira is going to Worlds! What a relief, what a thrill! Thank you everyone.