Ultimate player Rohre Titcomb sees a bright future for the sport
written by Sheila G. Miller
Since Rohre Titcomb began playing Ultimate when she was in elementary school, the sport’s landscape has changed (not least by dropping the “frisbee” from its original name, ultimate frisbee). If she has her way, it will continue to evolve—in a positive way. Titcomb, 30, is a co-owner of the Seattle Cascades, part of the American Ultimate Disc League, a professional league with twenty-three teams around the country. The league has been around since 2012. Ultimate is a fast-paced, non-contact sport with seven players on each team and an 80-yard eld with 20-yard end zones. A team advances its disc from one end zone to the other, much like football.
The difference? You can’t run with the disc, and instead must pass it until you score or lose possession. Titcomb and her four siblings bought the Cascades three years ago. Titcomb said the league is traditionally made up entirely of male players, but this year the Cascades are leading the way to change that. At all levels other than the professional league, playing on mixed teams is very common. “My siblings and I wanted to get involved, we wanted to bring some different perspectives to what the league could be,” Titcomb said. “Part of that is expanding to not have only a single gender play.” is year, the team has three women on its open roster, including Titcomb’s sister, Qxhna. The siblings also started an Ultimate apparel company in 2006, called Five Ultimate, and own a disc company called ARIA.
Titcombe started playing Ultimate as a kid at Seattle Country Day School. Eventually, all five siblings were on the team, and Titcomb’s father volunteered. “He kind of brought us all along, and we started playing together in the school program.” In 2010, she began playing for the Seattle Riot, a women’s Ultimate club she captained for four years. e team won the world championships in 2014. Today she also serves as its coach. Titcomb also played soccer and ice hockey, and skied a lot growing up. “I definitely have other sports I have participated in, but Ultimate is far and away the one I spent my time on,” she said.
She’s a specialized thrower (“I sort of take pride in throwing to anywhere on the eld and I have a wide arsenal of throws”), and her team practices three times each week and does a team track workout once each week. It’s the community and the sport’s inclusivity that have kept her coming back. “ There’s not that same dynamic that exists in other team sports,” she said. “ There are some girls sports stuff that’s really catty and nasty, and I’ve not found that to be the case in Ultimate, partly because of the type of people who are drawn to play.”
Ultimate is built on an environment of responsibility and cooperation. The sport is almost entirely self-refereed. “ That teaches players at a young age the value of direct communication and the importance of resolving your own conflicts, of upholding your own standards of morality,” she said. “I think that’s really important and I feel like it had a bit of influence on who I am as a person.” It’s also an equalizer. “ This sport is not just all athleticism,” she said.
“ There are a lot of different body types and athletic abilities that can be valuable in different ways.” But that collegial atmosphere—of self-refereeing and co-ed teams and post-game beers—can be in conflict with the idea of a professional league. For starters, there are referees. Players can use “the integrity rule,” which allows them to overturn a ref’s call. At the club level, traditionally, there is an observer system designed to resolve conflicts. e result? Long conversations. “ The referees in the AUDL are there because, from a spectator perspective, we have to keep the game moving and we can’t have these long breaks where players talk,” Titcomb said.
“Diplomacy is great, but it doesn’t make the sport very watchable.” Some players worry the AUDL’s rule changes may affect the spirit of the game. “ There are players and groups of players who really don’t want to see the sport change and have an almost purist view of, ‘ This is what it has been and how it should be,’” Titcomb said. “And while I agree that I love what Ultimate has been, I also want to bring more people into it, and with growth necessitates change. We have a real opportunity for Ultimate to grow in a different way. A lot of sports have grown and become more exclusive and more elite and specifically have excluded women,” she said. “
I think it’s cool that there’s potential for the professional league to be different than other professional leagues, to stand for something more than pro t and sponsorship dollars.” She noted Ultimate may eventually be an Olympic sport—it was recognized as a sport by the International Olympic Committee a few years ago, though it’s not been named as a demonstration sport for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. “I hope that will be in our future, and I hope that will be a competition format that will allow for both men and women to participate,” she said.
“I would love for Ultimate to set an example of what sports can be like, as a sport that is inclusive and has a values system. It’s a big, highfalutin goal but as a society, as a whole world, we could stand to have a strong moral compass, and I would love to see the sports community have that more than it does today. I think Ultimate has the opportunity to provide that, and make it part of the sports narrative, where right now it isn’t. We’re definitely at the ground level trying to make that happen.”
Rohre W.B. Titcomb
Co-owner, Seattle Cascades
Current Location: Seattle
To train for ultimate, I do a mix of lifting, agility work, intervals and track workouts, plus practice with my team. Lifting involves a lot of explosive and asymmetrical movements. Agility is a lot of ladders and footwork refinement to change direction efficiently and safely. For interval and track work, I don’t ever run farther than 400 meters, because ultimate is a sport that requires short bursts of sprinting.
Chocolate milk is my go-to post-workout snack. When I’m playing, I love to eat bell peppers, salami, and sea-salt-and-vinegar chips.
My teammates motivate me, and my sister Qxhna especially. As someone who has had three ACL reconstructions, I also look up to athletes who have come back from serious injury, like (soccer star) Megan Rapinoe. International superstars like Serena Williams, Billie Jean King and Mia Hamm have each inspired me at different times in the development of my athletic career, too.