Home / Living Better than Ever / Hindsight || Dom Fontenette
Hindsight || Dom Fontenette

Hindsight || Dom Fontenette

US National Championship Tournaments

Superfly Stanford 1997 College Champion
Fury San Francisco 1999 Women's Champion
Lady Godiva Boston 2001 Women's Champion
Lady Godiva Boston 2002 Women's Champion
Fury San Francisco 2006 Women's Champion
Bayland Kite Flying Team San Francisco 2015 Women's Masters Champion

WFDF World Ultimate Championships

U.S. National Team 2005 Duisburg, Germany Champion
U.S. National Team 2012 Sakai, Japan Champion
Riot Seattle 2014 Lecco, Italy Champion
U.S. National Team 2015 Dubai, UAE Champion
U.S. National Team 2016 London, UK Champion
U.S. National Team 2017 Royce, France Champion
Riot Seattle 2018 Cincinnati, Ohio, USA Champion


Dear Dom, 


If I told you, “You’re going to retire from ultimate due to a global pandemic,” you probably wouldn’t believe me. If I told you, “You’re going to retire as a hall of famer after a 26-year career, with a Callahan trophy, five national championships, and seven world championships,” you DEFINITELY wouldn’t believe me.

Let’s just get it out of the way and talk about retirement. I’ll try not to cry too much. It’s been a long time coming, but you haven’t been able to pull yourself away from the game. Not until now. All your success and accomplishments are secondary to your love of the game and your love for the people in the sport. 

You are bound for greatness.

You really are.

But it won’t come easy, it won’t come without sacrifice, and it won’t come without regret.

But it won’t come easy, it won’t come without sacrifice, and it won’t come without regret.

I’m writing you this letter so you can read it before you discover ultimate and your life changes forever.

Growing up as a mixed-race girl in a black neighborhood in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, with a mother who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and a father who worked for the CIA—which you won’t learn until much later—posed its fair share of challenges. Despite being a warm and welcoming place to raise children, you never truly felt like you fit in with the white kids or the black kids.

Sports and music will become your coping mechanism. Throughout your childhood and high school years, you’ll realize a simple fact: if you are good at something, people will pay attention. If you’re really good at something, people won’t pay attention to you being black or white . . . or neither. 

But still, through time spent with your mom and dad, you’ll realize that the rest of the world isn’t like Pine Bluff. At the end of the day, really, you’re looking for acceptance. And thanks to bonking your head on a pole during a pre-freshman trip to Stanford, you’ll find it. 

Let’s rewind.



 

After being accepted to Stanford, you’ll quickly realize that you aren’t going to be on the tennis team. You are good at basketball and tennis, but you aren’t Stanford good. So, at this point, you’ll be on the prowl for a sport. Lacrosse? Softball? Maybe.

The spring before your freshman year at Stanford, you’ll take a trip to visit the campus.

Here, as you’re going through the motions, guesting in on classes, you’ll suddenly walk directly into a pole. 

Head ringing and wobbly footed, you’ll decide to take the next class off. 

This will be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make because it will lead you to sit down—literally—right on the sideline of a Stanford women’s ultimate practice.

This will be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make because it will lead you to sit down—literally—right on the sideline of a Stanford women’s ultimate practice.

At this moment in time, you won’t know that you like women. But you will know that you are watching a new and fascinating sport, with a disc soaring and the women on the field looking strong and beautiful. It is a perfect day . . . green grass, blue sky—you’re in California. The women will even invite you to try it out. You were almost certainly concussed, so you’ll opt instead for the sideline, but you’ll have finally found that acceptance you’ve been searching for.

It won’t take long after arriving for you to dispel any hopes of being a Stanford softballer and make the switch, completely, to ultimate. You’ll be one of those freshman kids sleeping with your disc. 

Now that you are embarking on your ultimate career, I want to impart some advice to you.

First things first: take the trips.

By that I mean commit to the road trips, the flights, the bus trips; take that extra day before a tournament to spend with your teammates. Go in the hot tub naked for the first time, sneak into bars, switch plane tickets with a friend so you can stay an extra week in Hawaii after Kaimana (I’m really aging myself here; yes, you used to be able to switch tickets and fly as someone else without a problem). I can’t stress this enough, these are the moments you’ll remember many years later.

Your Stanford years will fly by.

You’ll grow from a team that wore cotton tees and barely had enough players to scrimmage to winning a college national championship four years later, and you’ll be there for all of it. Honestly, you will be a big part of it. Of course, it’s never just one person, but you’ll wind up being the person of the Stanford revolution. And thanks to coaches and mentors, you’ll start believing yourself to be great. Which leads to my next piece of advice.

Injuries will happen.

If you play enough, you will be injured. Whether it’s a major knee injury days before the world championship in Germany or a shoulder separation during ultimate’s first appearance in the World Games, it will happen. You’re only one player on a team, and no matter how many games you’ll miss, it’s how you respond that will matter.

You’re only one player on a team, and no matter how many games you’ll miss, it’s how you respond that will matter.

It’s at these moments that you’ll have to remind yourself that your self-worth and your value aren’t attached to being on the field. And as you recover, remember that you are “strong, strong, strong.” Say that to yourself before you step out onto the field for practices and games. “I am strong, strong, strong.” It will allow you to trust your training, trust your recovery, and play without hesitation.

At the same time, you’ll have to understand the difference between being hurt and being injured. Some of your teammates will take a practice off for a blister or a bee sting; that isn’t you. But you should take time off when you have a real injury, and that isn’t you, either. If you listen to me now, maybe you won’t play for three months on your osteitis pubis until you can’t even walk. 

Reach out to people for help.

Sometimes you will feel like you’re the first person to go through something. That’s not true. Balancing elite sports and life is hard, but you won’t be the first person to try it. You’ll try to have jobs, girlfriends, and an education, and you’ll have to balance.

Dutchy [Alex Ghesquiere] told me (and just imagine it in his voice), “There are three things: relationships, ultimate, and a job. It’s almost impossible to balance all three.” For many years you’ll do well at balancing your career and ultimate. Becoming a better partner is something you can look forward to in retirement.

With that in mind, I want you to know that sometimes, ultimate feels like it’s the whole world. And honestly, sometimes it is. But most of the time, it’s just a sport you’ve decided you want to play. So, remember why you play. You play for the enjoyment of sport, you play for the opportunity to compete and play in big moments, but most importantly, you play for the people and community. You’re going to enjoy the day-to-day hustle of a 26-year career a lot more if you remember why you play.

After college, you will make the shift to playing club ultimate full-time for Fury. Before long, you will have won a national title, but Godiva will still be the program to beat. At this point, Fury will be good, but Godiva will be a dynasty, and they’ll have Molly Goodwin. You’ll have a picture of her in your college dorm room, and one day you will hope to play on the same team. So, you’ll make the move.

You will be hot shit out West, with a Cinderella title under your belt, when you move to Boston to play with Godiva.

They will put you in your place. 

Do your job and play your role, and things will turn out well for you.

Remember, you can learn a lot about yourself by being a good follower, not just a good leader.

Remember, you can learn a lot about yourself by being a good follower, not just a good leader. 

Understand that you are not your performance and you are not your result.

Listen, this one will help with career longevity: you can play like your life depends on it, but at the end of the day, the result can’t define you. Even if that result is scoring the universe point–winning goal in 2002. You can take the heartbreaking defeats and the triumphant victories with you, but they won’t define you. Remember that. 

Here comes the tough part, Dom; you can see the tears on the page.

Family comes first.

This is one of my biggest pieces of advice. 

Mom is old now, and in hospice.

You will have missed so much of the family experience because you’ll be playing ultimate.

You will have missed so much of the family experience because you’ll be playing ultimate.

And that time missed will be your biggest regret. I mean, for god’s sake, you flew in for one day for your sister’s wedding. Looking back, you’ll wish you took advantage of those moments. Believe me, when you’re my age now and you’re sitting with Mom, you’ll wish you were there when she was more mobile. 

I guess what I’m saying is, set some boundaries around the sport. You can still expect a lot of yourself and of your teammates, but understanding where you can take time and where you can pull yourself away will do you a lot of good.

And as you exit the sport, know that you will never truly leave it.

You will identify as an ultimate player until the day you die.

And that’s okay, you have my permission. Sure, your moments of competitive nervousness and jitters won’t be because of a universe point or a Worlds semi-final, they will be from taking a career opportunity or buying a house. The ultimate part may fade a little, but know that it will never leave.


Now stop reading, you’re about to walk into a pole.


Love, 

Dom