Did you know that Atlanta has a new professional sports team? Meet Atlanta Soul, which is part of Ultimate frisbee’s new Professional Ultimate League (PUL).
Kicking off its inaugural season in April, the PUL has eight teams including Atlanta, Austin, Columbus, Indianapolis, Nashville, New York, Raleigh and Medellin, Colombia. The hallmark of the league is that it features eight womxn’s teams with players who are non-binary, transgender and cisgender – all striving to increase the visibility of womxn (an inclusive, intersectional gender identifier) athletes.
Veteran elite ultimate players and coaches Maddy Frey and Angela Lin started Atlanta Soul in 2018 to promote racial and gender equity in sports. Frey has played for club teams since 2004 in Seattle, Colombia, Washington D.C. and Atlanta and coaches the Georgia Tech Wreck team. Lin played for Atlanta Ozone from 1996-2015 and co-coached the Decatur High School girls’ team.
“I’m 39, I shouldn’t even still be playing,” Frey said. “I’m doing this for my goddaughter who’s playing ultimate in Seattle. She says, ‘I’m going to play for Atlanta Soul someday.’ And she is going to. She’s really good.”
Frey said the men’s professional league was created nearly a decade ago, but a women’s league never materialized.
“Women players were not getting the same distinction because they weren’t professional,” she said. “That was one of the big pushes to do something about it.”
Lin and Frey announced the creation of Atlanta Soul on March 8, 2018 – International Women’s Day – and held tryouts 10 days later. Sixty players showed up even with such short notice.
From the beginning, Frey said that has been overwhelming support for Atlanta Soul. The Nashville team sent Atlanta $1,000 to subsidize travel expenses for their first away game. Spin Ultimate owner Dan Konisky donated jerseys. At last year’s only home game, the crowd swelled to 400.
“We lost to Austin by one point in double overtime here in Atlanta,” Frey recalled. “Hands down the most exciting ultimate game that I’ve ever been a part of.”
But with no league, playoffs or a championship, the games felt like one-offs. It was time to build on the momentum of that nail-biter home game, which brought in more than $4,000 in ticket sales.
“It was great to show all the naysayers who said nobody will watch women’s sports – guess what – not only will people watch women’s sports, they will pay for it and we can actually have a professional team,” Frey said.
In late 2018, Frey and Lin began discussions about league structure with other potential teams. This evolved to the present structure: each team buys into the nonprofit league (to fund the league commissioner and other central operations costs) and raises additional revenues to cover travel expenses, stadium rentals, player stipends, etc.
By January 2019, eight teams committed to the $5,000 buy-in. At the same time, the league created a fundraiser for each team to cover their buy-in. In less than a week, $120,000 was raised, Frey said.
Atlanta Soul’s first home game is Saturday, May 4 at St. Pius. The event includes three games: Georgia Girls High School State Champion ship at 3:30 p.m., Atlanta Hustle (the men’s PUL) at 5 p.m. and Atlanta Soul at 7:15 p.m.
Purchase tickets, fan gear, or sign up to donate or volunteer at atlantasoulultimate.com.
What Is Ultimate?
This isn’t playing frisbee in the backyard. It’s played by two teams with a flying disc. The object of the game is to score by catching a pass in the opponent’s end zone. A player must stop running while in possession of the disc but may pivot and pass to the other receivers. During the game, players move quickly from offense to defense on turnovers that occur with a dropped pass, interception, out of bounds pass, or when a player holds the disc for more than ten seconds. It’s governed by “Spirit of the Game” that places the responsibility for fair play on the players rather than referees.