Salut Rasta! How are you? Before we get on to the serious questions – where and when did the nickname ‘Rasta’ come from??
Hello Marko! Firstly can I say that I’m very glad to take part of your amazing project about women in ultimate. Thanks for your interest.
My real name is Aline but in the ultimate world everybody calls me “Rasta”. This comes from 2006 when I tried-out for the French women’s national team (for EUC 2007 in Southampton). I was young and I had dread locks. There were two Alines in the group and many of the players didn’t know me, so they gave me an easy nickname: “Rastaline”. It quickly became “Rasta” on the fields!
Tell us a little bit about how you first started playing Ultimate.
I started playing ultimate when I was 11. One of my teachers in elementary school had started a club called “Zerogene” in my home town, Plaisir (close to Versailles). So I begun with a fresh new juniors team. We only played indoor ultimate for the first 3 years with the few junior clubs of the Parisian region. After that some of us were addicted and we started playing with the adults… And so it began!
Did you play any other sports before Ultimate? Do you have time for those sports now?
I practised others sport during my first years of ultimate. I played basketball for only one year (with my huge height, you know!) and I did athletics with my middle school team for 3 years. But my favourite sport before ultimate wasn’t a sport as such but more a physical art: circus arts! I wanted to become a professional juggler. I was obsessed. For example I used to arrive at ultimate training on my unicycle 🙂 When I began to play with the French national team in 2007, I focused solely on ultimate. And now I’m juggling with discs!
Since you started you’ve been part of 3 clubs in Paris. What is the Ultimate scene in Paris like? How are the different clubs set up?
In our Parisian region (roughly 12000 km²), there are 19 ultimate clubs. Some of them are only for juniors, some for low-level and some for elite level. The majority of the clubs are used to running mixed training sessions because there are not enough women to build a team in each club. One of the priorities of the region is to develop women’s ultimate by creating a women’s league and women practises regardless of club memberships.
With YAKA, where you’ve been for a long time now, what is your role?
I arrived in YAKA in 2008 just after Worlds where I had played with many key players of YAKA (Raphael Hurel, Kimo Meehan, Audrey Chautard, Kelly Kidman…). Our goal was to create an elite women’s team in Paris to playing at the European clubs championships.
In 2010 I became one of the YAKA’s captains for the WUCC in Prague. I wanted to be more involved in our game system. Indeed, YAKA has never had a non-player coach, so often the captains are also the coaches. Since 2010 I’ve been the captain. I like this role; being a team leader both on and off the fields.
As a coach, how do you keep a team motivated? YAKA has had a lot of success over the years, so how do you keep your players pushing for more?
Yes YAKA has had a lot of success but only in France and some tournaments. We’re always working towards European success. Our best result was a 5th place in xEUCF in 2009, and we want more!
YAKA is an attractive team to be a part of in France. Each year we get new players attracted by our serious international plan and our team work. So as a coach I try to keep my players focused on our work, because, as I often say: Playing for YAKA doesn’t mean we’re going to win, but it means we like to work as team to win!
What other teams have you coached? And what have you learned from these experiences?
I’ve also coached the U20 French women’s national team from 2011 to 2014. It was the first junior women’s team in France. For me it was very important to create this team and develop a women program by the first step: the junior players.
It was my first experience as a non-playing coach, so for me the biggest challenge was to communicate the skills and tips to my team without ever being able to help them by playing 🙂 I really enjoyed leading a team and building a group able to play well together.
This year I’m one of the non-playing coaches of the French national women team for Beach Worlds. I also accepted and offer to coach a new and young team from a popular district in Paris: “Espoir 18”. These are two great challenges – one concerning the top elite level and one about the development of my sport which ties in with my career as a social worker.
What is your main philosophy as a coach? What do you want to your players to learn from you?
My main philosophy as a coach is not essentially to develop the throwing/cutting technique or the physical capabilities of the players. For me the most important part is that each player should be able to read the game: “what is the situation; where are my team mates on the field; what I have to do and why; why we have to play more like this than like that”. For me this is the difference between good players and intelligent players. All these basics we’re working on allow us to answer these questions and to be able to read the game.
My favourite tournaments I have played are :
– The BO-Monkey Foo tournament in French Alps: a fun mixed tournament lost in the mountains. Lots of foreign teams come to play so the level is high. I play this tournament each team with a French pickup “Meetik”. There is a lot of love in this team!
– Dr Sand and Mr Grass in Tenerife with the Deglingos (a team from France from many years ago): a savage tournament on grass and sand, with huge games and huge parties in a Canarian paradise !
– The last one I played : LeiOut in Santa Monica. Even if this year the weather was terrible. It’s unbelievable for me to imagine 380 teams on the same beach. I was lucky to play on an amazing pickup team “the Woodies in LA” with some American players. This is one of my best experiences.
Representing your country is a unique opportunity in any sport. How does it feel for you when you play for France?
I have played for France since 2007 but for each competition it’s a special thing! You know you’ll have to wait 4 years to play in another World championship or European championship. So each year in blue, white and red is like a responsibility to give your best.
I’m proud to wear this jersey for many years and I know in ultimate we are lucky because if you are serious with your practise you can play in national team quickly : another responsibility for representing France like the other sports. So when I play for France : no excuses – give your best!
What have been your personal highlights in a blue, white and red jersey?
Without any hesitation: our world title of spirit of the game at WCBU 2011. Team France was composed by my friends from the Chupa French team – a great team always smiling and happy to play together. We were so proud to come back home to France with this title!
I won’t ever forget my first European experience in 2007 in Southampton. I was young so I learned a lot. The highlight: an epic game against Austria with a huge come back during the hard cap. A lot a French players will remember that!
French Ultimate seems to be bigger, stronger and more successful than ever before especially at Juniors and Open levels. Where does the Women’s Division stand?
Yes, these last few years France has achieved top results : a European title for U17 open, a 5th place for u20 women and a 4th for mixed at worlds and the two bronze medals in Copenhagen.
The women’s division is waiting its first big result, but the progress is here. The last 2 years we’ve seen more involved players came from more club teams. So we can suppose the women division is growing up in different French regions. But we still need a bigger player base. I’m optimistic, thanks to the juniors program, but we also need to have a coach for women adult teams that is not really the case… We really have to give some tips to the women to develop themselves during their training sessions even if it’s not a women training. If we want to have a better women’s division we have to develop a bigger and stronger base.
What would you like to see happen in European Women’s Ultimate to try and build towards competing with other international powerhouses like Japan, the US and Canada?
I want to see more teams travel to the North America to play the top women’s teams in the world! We need to compete against the best to be more competitive. I saw Iceni doing this trip but not a lot of others…
In the US Ultimate community there is a lot of talk about gender equity at the moment. Do you feel like that is a problem here in Europe too?
Yes I think it’s a problem in Europe too. If I talk about France, the women in ultimate are not comfortable enough participating in our sport. The men’s community is under the lights with the AUDL and all the highlights videos on the web. Everyone watches the guys but who follows the women? If you look at other sports, are you able to quote more than 7 female athletes of his country?
I think the question of gender equity can begin with ultimate, but everyone must be more aware about it.
Who or what inspires you as a player?
I like reading books or watching reports about sports players or athlete’s careers. I like to visualise myself in my games, in my trainings with other sportsmen. I like to make comparisons with others sports…
What is your plan for 2017? What are you most excited about in the year ahead?
2017 will be a big year! First the World Beach Championships in France in Royan in June, and with YAKA I hope to reach our 10th national title and get a great result at the EUCF.
It’s difficult to tell you what aim is the most exciting for me : leading the French national team at the biggest championship ever held at home? Or playing with my club for maybe our best season in many years ?
Either way, 2017 will be crazy!
Playing at the top of the game in Europe you must face some brilliant players. Who stands out in your memory? Why?
For many years, Sally Fraser (Leeds) was one of the most difficult players to play against. I remember having her on the mark, she’s so tall I couldn’t see my cutters…Nowadays I like to play against Jenna Thomson from Iceni. It’s always a great fight on the pitch. Inga Ivakina from Brilliance is a great player too. She’s so fast and has great touch with the disc. I hope to play more often against her!
What does Spirit of the Game mean to you as an elite player and a coach/captain of many teams?
If you play or coach at elite level, you can’t think without spirit of the game. Our sport is beautiful thanks to our spirit. It’s important for me to play with teams who are blameless regarding to the rules or their attitude. Being fair and positive are part of my way to lead a team… I hope this way of leading builds a base of our spirit of the game at the same time!
Away from Ultimate, what is your day job? Do you find it tough to balance out your Ultimate ambitions and the reality of life as an amateur sports person?
Since 2012 I’m a social worker with young unaccompanied minors. I’m working in a house with all of those young foreign girls and boys who have arrived in Paris without family or documents. We look after them before a judge decides to send them to a better place in France.
Sometimes it’s difficult to be free for ultimate because I have to work some nights and some weekends with them. But everyone in my job knows I’m playing ultimate at a high level, so they try to give me a good schedule allowing me to play all my tournaments.
Finally, if you could change anything about our sport what would it be?
A big difficulty in our sport it’s all the fees we have to pay for playing: travel fees, accommodation, jerseys… Like many players, I’m not making millions working in social work. It’s hard to explain to my non-player friends why I have to pay for my jerseys and all my trips when I represent the national team. I want to see French ultimate more active to find some financial help. It will allow us to have a bigger base and to increase our number of players without any financial selection. It will come, I hope sooner rather than later…
NB: All photos were provided by Aline. The photo credits are as follows: