There are few things more devastating to an athlete than suffering a serious injury. Robyn Fennig began her ultimate journey while at University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire and quickly emerged as a talented and intelligent player. By 2016 she was dominant, receiving an invite to try out for the World Championships in London, and despite being forced out of training the month before, she put up a stunning performance.
Two weeks into training with the national team, she suffered a tear in her ACL.
This is a fairly common injury for ultimate players, but the knee ligament requires surgery, rest, and work to recuperate. For Robyn, it was a very difficult time.
“Being an athlete is the most empowering and exciting part of my identity. I love that, and so when I tore my ACL I felt like it took that away from me.”
But an injury would never be enough to keep her down. Only eight months after surgery, Robyn was once again invited to tryouts, and despite hesitancy that she wouldn’t be ready, she made the team. Her perseverance paid off, and it wasn’t because she had just waited around.
“Just because I can’t be active the way I’m used to being doesn’t mean I’m not active, doesn’t mean I’m not an athlete. Being an athlete’s about that consistent effort and energy and [being] willing to put in the work when no one is looking.”
The same resilience she showed in her playing came out in the community as well. Hailing from the American Midwest, Robyn noticed the relative lack of opportunities for women to play elite-level ultimate in the area and helped found the Madison Heist in 2012. The team operates to this day as a premier organization in the area, racking up regional championships and wins year after year.
Despite her numerous achievements, Robyn refuses to settle.
“I love how there’s always a way to grow your game. There’s always something you can get better at. You can get better at your footwork, you can get better as a coach, you can get smarter. I love it.”
The fervor with which Robyn plays and studies the game is contagious, and her refusal to let injuries and setbacks stop her is an inspiration. Longtime teammate Anna Williams gets a front-row seat to Robyn's relentless dedication to the sport and the community.
“She’s so smart about the game. She knows so much; her strategy is phenomenal. Every single time she gets in the huddle and starts speaking . . . I’m constantly learning things, and I’ve been playing with her for six years now.”
No matter where Robyn goes or what role she fills, she’ll be running up and down the sidelines, cheering the team on, putting in the work both on and off the field, and she’s only going to keep getting better.
“I feel like I still haven’t reached my best ultimate yet.”