Ball: Ultimate Can Do It Better

Thoughts from the USAU Board candidates

This article was written by DeAnna Ball, one of the candidates for the two at-large positions on the USA Ultimate Board of Directors that are up for election through December 23rd. All seven board candidates have been offered an opportunity to write an essay and appear on a special edition of the Deep Look podcast this week. USAU members can vote in the election through their online account.

If you want to know what ultimate and board experience I bring, feel free to scan down to the bottom of this article: it is important information, but it is not where I want to focus.

I would like to first note two very important issues in the current environment in which we exist that demand we not put on-the-field ultimate first. The caveat here is that I fully understand that to keep our organization running, we need to continue the business of creating opportunity to play and generate revenue. The world is fighting through a pandemic, and, in the US, we exist in a critical time. While I do believe that we can all be hopeful that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, there is still a long road ahead of finding a new normal for our sport and the organization. I think my board record below shows my efforts in board governance of the organization, and I am setting aside that conversation for the sake of highlighting another point of great importance.

The fight for social justice in this country is real, it is important, and it is rightfully a place where people and organizations are spending their time, energy, and money. Perhaps a benefit of not having on-the-field play is that there can be a targeted focus on race, gender identity, and the role of politics in sport. And I would posit that focus is demanded.

I am a cisgendered, white female that is part of the LGBTQ community. As a part of that community, I have experienced inequity and underrepresentation, but I recognize that I am still a person of privilege. I have spent two terms on the board before taking the requisite break from the board in 2020. What a time to not be in the trenches of the organization. Because of the pandemic, coaching Ohio State Fever and the U20 USA Girls National Team was also gone. This break for me has become a time to focus on listening, to self-educate, and to engage in peaceful protests. This break has also reminded me that my passion for being in the trenches for this sport has always focused on how, as a newly emerging sport, we can DO IT BETTER.

Doing it better takes time, energy, and money. But, more importantly, it takes a commitment and a willingness to step on a path while not exactly knowing what might be ahead on that path. I recently watched Figure it Out on the Hayduke Trail, and throughout the documentary, they would show a trail map and overlay where the hiker had actually traveled. He was rarely ON the purported trail (which only sort of exists). Mainstream sports have created a trail. That does not mean that we have to move step by step on that trail, and it certainly doesn’t mean we can’t forge a new path off of the trail. This exemplifies what I mean by “DO IT BETTER.”

In mainstream sports, we have started to see signs of cracking into the norms of how organizations address social justice and anything deemed political. And I do believe sports are political. I also believe that we should embrace it. There is muscle memory in how a board governs – and some of the governing norms are required. But it is time to break through that muscle memory and crack into those norms. We’ve seen it happen in the PUL, the WNBA, and the NWSL. I’ve seen small signs of it in the NBA and the NFL. And I have said it before – perhaps just not loudly enough: we have an opportunity to take a lead in how we lead in sports. We can DO IT BETTER. And doing it better is what I want to bring to the board.

USA Ultimate Board Experience (2014-2019): 

  • Offices Held – President (3.5 years), Vice President (1.5 years), Secretary (1 year)
  • Committees Served – Governance and Board Development, Nominating, Compensation, Proposal, Strategic Planning
  • Other contributions of note: 2019-2021 Strategic Plan, developed the Equity and Diversity Working Group

Coaching (2006-present): 

  • Ohio State Fever (2014 National Championship)
  • Columbus Rival (3 nationals appearances)
  • 2016 U19 WJUC Girl’s assistant coach, 2018 U24 Women’s assistant coach
  • 2018 U20 WJUC Girl’s head coach
  • 2020 U20 WJUC Girl’s head coach

Volunteer (2000-2012): Regional Coordinator, National Women’s Director

Player (1991-2012): open, mixed, women’s and masters women’s divisions (8 nationals appearances)

You can read more about DeAnna Ball’s candidacy on USA Ultimate’s website.

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