Breaking Boundaries: Greenshirts Inspire Inclusivity and Intensity

Seven students throw a frisbee across an outdoor field
Members of the Greenshirts participate in a drill during practice on Scripps Alumnae field (Phily Oey • The Student Life)

To some athletes, an opposing team inviting you to join them for a line dance during half-time may seem odd — but not to the Greens. Half-time flash mobs are just one of the ways that the Claremont Greenshirts are embodying their self-stated ideals of building a uniquely inclusive and fun community where everyone is welcome.

The Claremont Greenshirts (also known as the Greens or Greenies) is the women and gender expansive club ultimate frisbee team at the 5Cs. The club is completely student-run and practices Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Scripps Alumnae Field. The Greens primarily compete in Southern California against other Division III collegiate frisbee teams but have traveled as far as Seattle in years past.

What sets the Greens apart from other clubs at the Claremont Colleges is their trailblazing gender policy. They are registered as part of the women’s division but encourage members to compete in the division they feel most comfortable in: mixed gender, women’s or men’s.

However, the Greens’ progressive gender guidelines are not isolated policies. They are part of a larger movement within the sport, stemming from the national organization, USA Ultimate (USAU).

USAU’s gender inclusion policy states the following: “Within our divisions as they currently exist, USA Ultimate will not discriminate on the basis of gender identity, regardless of sex assigned at birth, or any other form of gender expression for participation in any division.”

The Greens have been a gender expansive club for several years. According to member Ella “RAD” Kim PO ’25, the Greens are committed to broadening their outreach across the 5Cs in hopes of getting as many people involved in the ultimate frisbee community as possible.

Maëlle Thomelin PZ ’25 has been a member of the Greens since her first year at Pitzer and now serves on their leadership team. She said that this year, the Greens are focusing on outreach to the genderqueer community.

“This year we pushed a little more to really make it clear that it’s gender expansive, but since my first year it’s been on the bio of the Instagram,” Thomelin said.

According to Kim, inclusiveness for the Greens is all-encompassing. The team welcomes not only all genders, but all skill levels and class years.

Kim joined the Greens as a first-year and is now a member of the leadership team. According to them, ultimate frisbee is a great sport for people of all skill levels and past experience.

“I think [Ultimate’s] such a good sport for people to come into college and get to play… it’s easier to be on more equal footing in terms of experience,” Kim said.

According to Kim, encouraging people with no previous experience to join has not hurt its performance. In Kim’s first year, the team traveled to Northern California to compete. They said that despite it being the first competitive match for many members, the tournament was a success.

“Going to the tournament in Santa Clara my freshman year was one of the best experiences ever,” Kim said. “We went undefeated for the whole tournament and only lost to the Santa Clara team [even though] it was the first Ultimate tournament that a lot of us were playing.”

Helen Jentoft-Herr PZ ’25 is a new member this year and said she is excited to join a team that is pushing forward a more inclusive version of sports.

“I didn’t know anybody who was on the team that didn’t want to be there,” Jentoft-Herr said. “People are always excited for practice.”

Part of the Greens’ model for inclusion and maintaining the fun of the club is their horizontal approach to leadership. Instead of a standard hierarchical leadership approach – a president making most decisions with a few other people below them – the Greens are using what they refer to as the “Bowl-O-Greens.”

Wherever they have the capacity to take charge, members of the Bowl-O-Greens share equal responsibility for everything that happens within the club. Kim said this model focuses on making sure everyone in a leadership role is properly supported, thus encouraging new people to join leadership.

“The Bowl-O-Greens was a way to spread out responsibilities,” Kim said. “[Leadership] roles have silly little names. The practice captains are the sprouts, and people who help them are the baby sprouts.”

Kim said the team’s traditions and devotion to inclusivity truly shows their focus on building a strong community for everyone to come and have fun.

“Growing up, I had always been taught that fun and being loose doesn’t go in hand with being competitive,” Kim said. “What I’ve been able to see on this team is that it doesn’t have to be like that — you can be very supportive and still do well.”

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