Ultimate star Jesse Shofner hopes to lead Oregon’s team to more postseason success
Jesse Shofner’s highlight video is titled “Good As Hell.” The senior captain of the Oregon women’s ultimate team is a straightforward leader, so the title of the video seems fitting.
The opening clips of her video has no frisbee in sight. Rather, it begins with Shofner yelling, puffing out her chest, grabbing teammates and pumping them up.
“I am probably not your typical sunshine and butterfly leader,” Shofner said. “Sometimes I’ll yell at my teammates, but it is because I believe we can all be better all the time.”
It eventually flows into clips of games; every play ends with Shofner on the ground as a result of diving catches and intense defensive swats. Shofner’s leadership and unique playing style catches the eye of ultimate players around the country.
Shofner is nominated for the 2016 Callahan Award, which recognizes the most valuable players in men’s and women’s college ultimate.
“The Callahan is complicated, as it is an individual award in a team sport,” said Shofner. “It would be good for the program if I won. It brings more attention to the team, and we want recruits.”
Shofner’s mind is always on growing and developing the team. So even the individual awards take a back seat to the goals of team.
Her passion for ultimate began when her brother convinced her to play with a youth girls high school team that needed numbers. Once Shofner caught the ultimate bug, she could not rid herself of it. She continued playing in high school in her hometown of Nashville, Tenn., and her youth experience shaped her playing style. She attributes her passion for the game to her older brother.
Since arriving at Oregon, Shofner and the Oregon women’s ultimate team — named Fugue — has built an impressive resumé. Two national titles and two silver medals would satisfy most players, but not Shofner and fellow senior captains Alex Ode and Beth Kaylor.
“There will be a lot of sadness at the end of nationals,” said Ode. “I think winning nationals would be the perfect way to go out. It would be the perfect ending to a remarkable handful of years.”
The dynasty that Oregon women’s ultimate is creating is due in part because of Shofner and the other captains’ leadership.
“I come from a system that we call democratic leadership,” said Shofner. “Fugue likes to empower everyone on the team and give them responsibilities to sustain a program.”
Many successful teams have a star player enter the program and ride his or her talent until the player leaves, then the program returns to mediocrity. Shofner is focused on getting all players to fulfill their potentials.
“You have to lead individuals in different ways,” Shofner said. “You have to learn your team, then you have to manipulate your leadership style to the individuals.”
Shofner’s passion drives this team to success, and for them, hopefully more of it will come this upcoming weekend, as they travel to Raleigh, N.C to defend their national title.
“Some of the most inspirational huddle speeches I have ever heard have come from Shofner,” said Ode. “She’s an all-in spitfire who won’t hesitate to call people out but is also fiercely loyal and deeply loving.”
Do you appreciate independent student journalism? Emerald Media Group is a non-profit organization. Please consider a donation to support our mission.