Dominique "Dom" Fontenette
player bio - Dominique "Dom" Fontenette
Shoutout to New York BENT for allowing us to repost these articles!
Dom is a Callahan Winner, a 6-time National Champion (Stanford 1997; Godiva 2001, 2002; Fury 1999, 2006; Masters 2015), and a 5-time world champion (2005, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016). She has been playing competitive ultimate since 1993 and has participated in USA Nationals over 20 times. Professionally, she is a physician and saves lives daily. Dom is about to start her 6th season on Seattle Riot.
In her own words:
Right now, I'm a physician. My spare time pretty much revolves around playing frisbee and training for Riot. I have set up my entire life to have the freedom and the flexibility to continue playing frisbee.
High School years: Arkansas 1980s-90s
I was always kind of different in high school. I wasn't black, I wasn't white. In Arkansas, it was a fairly apartheid-like situation. I always felt like I was on the periphery of things. But when I played sports, I didn't think about it. We had a white parking lot and a black parking lot. If you were white and you parked in the black parking lot, you got your car keyed. If you were black and you parked in the white parking lot, the same thing. I never really knew where I fit in. I played basketball, which was an all-black sport. There were no other white people on the team. I grew up in a black neighborhood, but my parents are both Cajun/Creole; it's a mixed race. They both came from Southern Louisiana. My culture was not necessarily the African American culture, but more of a Creole culture. It was just different, but there was no place to explain that. When I was on the basketball team, I remember my coach, she called me into her office and she basically told me I needed to integrate myself more into the black me. I was already dabbling in tennis. I basically chose the white sport, because I was trying to find out who I was, and I just didn't know. So I played tennis.
Undergrad Years: Stanford Superfly 1993-1997
Ultimate was a place where I didn't have to speak about whatever issues that I had at home or being different. I used ultimate as an escape, emotionally. My mom has a mental illness. It was pretty important for me to continue playing a sport. Ultimate itself had such an interesting culture around it, that it definitely had a gravitational pull to it. I picked it up pretty quickly and I remember getting that gratification from people telling you you're good at it. It's a confidence-booster, and it kind of spreads to other parts of your life.
I had a picture of Molly Goodwin up in my college dorm room. They had made a poster of her and I hadn't met her yet, but I had watched her play and just knew that I wanted to be like that. It had not as much to do with herself, but how she motivated others around her. So that was my eye opening moment of "oh, it's not all about how you play, but how you get your team to play." Gloria LustPhillips was one person that I really looked up to. I didn't particularly think, "That is a brown person, I want to be like that," but “There's someone who looks more like me," and subconsciously it plays in. Glo was someone who I wanted to be like, because she also brought this mental toughness and she just commanded it. Those were my top two role models at the time, Glo and Molly.
Because of that whole freedom around ultimate and not having to think about how different I was, I never thought it to be important to play for Downtown Brown, which existed way back then. There was a year where Downtown Brown decided to put together a team to try to win. It wasn't just “let's go celebrate our diversity,” but “let's go try to win, too.” And that was perfect timing for me to try. I played Downtown Brown for Potlatch that year, and I don't think I've had a more enjoyable weekend ever. Somehow, everyone on that team was the same person on each of our respective other teams. A weird energy source. And then you took all of those pieces and you put them all on one team, and all of a sudden it was this incredible experience. I don't think I’ve cried out of sheer joy playing frisbee in my life, but I did on that day. It was a pretty cool experience.
After founding and playing on Stanford Superfly, with whom she won College Nationals and the Callahan Award in 1997 (the 2nd ever), Dom went on to play for Fury from 1997-2000, and won Nationals with them in 1999. From 2001-2004, she played on Boston Lady Godiva while attending medical school, and won Nationals with Godiva in 2001 and 2002 (she caught the double-game point against Fury). She then returned to Fury in 2005 while completing her Emergency Medicine residency in New York. She won Nationals with Fury again in 2006, the first year of the team’s 7-year winning streak. After a quick stint playing with Brute Squad from 2009-11, Dom returned to the West Coast to play with Seattle Riot, for whom she continues to play today. In her 5 seasons on the team, Riot has played in the finals of Nationals 3 times.
During this time, Dom also won gold medals at 5 Worlds events: 2005 (IOC Worlds), 2012 (WUGC Women’s Masters), 2014 (WUCC Riot), 2015 (WCBU Women’s Masters), 2016 (WUGC Women’s Masters)
I want ultimate to stay true to itself. I've seen the sport grow and I've seen the culture change in a lot of ways, but the thing that I feel makes it so special, I don't want to lose. That specialness has a lot to do with its awkwardness and the spirit of the game, and the room that it has for people. I feel like it's a place where people can really find themselves. I just went to Kaimana. Kaimana has and will forever be my favorite tournament, because it can be competitive, and we played in the finals. I'm playing against players who I play against during the regular club season. But it's also got this air of community and lightness and fun and space for everyone to be who they are. I don't want ultimate to lose that in its pursuit of being a legitimate sport. It's already a legitimate sport. What does it mean to have more? What does a successful sport look like? Every top team has so many levels and layers to it. So the game is a lot more complex in a lot of ways, but the whole thing stays the same. It's a game of catch and throw and keep-away.
Every year I try to get better at something. It's been 23 years, and I still have so much more that I can get better at. Whether it's my step around backhand, or how to connect with a teammate in a certain way. People either hate or love Kobe Bryant, but he said this quote that was along the lines of, "You can execute all day, but until you know what makes your teammates click, you'll never win a championship." I feel like that's advice I would give to a young player. Think beyond yourself. Because when you're out there on the field, the way you're going to score is not by making that one fantastic cut. It's knowing what your teammate needs at that moment. What are their tendencies at stall count 9? How do I deliver this pass to a player that amplifies their strengths? I feel like there's so much room for improvement in yourself and in your knowledge of your team, and how you play with them. That is where I think a lot of the enjoyment of the game sits.
As serious as we take it, it's a game. There's a place to joke and there's a place to relax and have a good time. Ultimate has taught me how to be present with people. I feel like that's one of the most important things in life, being present. Being in the zone when the frisbee goes up, and all you're thinking about is the moment of catching the frisbee. The pull comes up, and if you're like, "Oh my god, last time the pull came at this angle, I dropped it" or "What's going to happen when I catch it? I'm going to throw it over there," you know? You can't have those thoughts in that moment. You actually have to be present catching the pull. Because if you're anywhere in the past or the future, you're going to mess yourself up. That might mean putting your cell phone down when you're at the dinner table, which I'm the worst at. But I think about it. Being present with the people I'm around. I feel like ultimate had taught me to do that, both on and off the field.
Thank you, Dom, for your contributions and advice!
Articles on Dom: