Setting the scene: We are on offense and I crash through the cup for a quick dishy back from the cutter. I catch it and just as I turn around to look up field a defensive mid, a big guy with at least 100 pounds on me, lunges at me and grabs the disc, his momentum carrying him backward.
I hold on to the frisbee and as he tries to pull it away. I shout “Foul” stopping play and resetting the stall to zero.
“Relax!” He tells me, his tone sounds almost affronted.
I look at him a bit perplexed.
I am relaxed as a handler it’s my job to be relaxed. Then his teammate informs me that the tie always goes to the offense. Thanks random dude. I have been playing for twenty years and I’ve known that rule for twenty years. Perhaps you should remind your teammate who won’t step off.
The thing is, it’s not the first time a guy has told me to “Relax” in a game. I used to think it was my tone, that being “loud” was jarring because it goes against social feminine norms and was often confused with being angry or strident. Point of fact I’m loud with my calls because I want to be heard and stop play efficiently. I’m not going to change that – other people’s perceptions are their own problem.
But even if it’s not the same old sexist BS (and trust me as sick as you are hearing about it, I’m just as tired dealing with it) I have to wonder, why the h—- should I relax - ever?
Of course there is the obvious point to be made that telling someone to relax is like telling them to smile, in that it generally produces the opposite result.
If I’m not relaxed there are usually two reasons. The first - and my favorite- is that I’m balling, my adrenaline is pumping and I am playing with all the passion and intensity I can manage. It’s a glorious high and if you know what I’m talking about well I doubt any empathetic soul would encourage another to give that up by “relaxing”.
The second reason that I may not be relaxed is that I’m a bit scared. After twenty years, playing at a variety of levels of co-ed - I’ve been rolled and seriously injured by other players who are so intent on making the D they didn’t think twice of running through me. (Note: I’m not blaming all or most guys on injuries. There are plenty of clumsy women who make dangerous plays, it’s just that the negative consequences of a male dangerous play tend to be greater.)
To play co-ed recreationally (e.g. not elite club) I concede a lot, I rarely go up in crowds of guys and avoid running into blind spots i.e. cutting into the lane as they look back for the disc. Hearing a guy’s footsteps bearing down on me from behind as I go up for a deep throw – physically makes my muscles contract. I can push through and be as mentally strong as I can be but my body has a memory of its own. It’s felt the impact of so much mass and momentum, the strain and the pop of ligaments and tendons rearranging themselves. My body is smart and it won’t let me forget and while my brain has itemized its risk appetite, my body reminds me that I don’t like pain.
All that to say perhaps instead of suggestion a woman “relax” you might consider that it may indicate that you are playing in physically intimidating or dangerous manner. (In my opinion the former is only acceptable at the highest levels of co-ed and the latter never is.) Perhaps instead of offering meaningless suggestions you should check yourself and gracefully accept that to play co-ed as a male there are some concessions you can and should make – otherwise there is always Open.