CUMBERLAND – It’s the independence.

It’s the choice to wear cleats or go barefoot.

It’s a few hours on a grassy field each Wednesday with a flying disc and energy to burn.

This spring, scores of area teenagers will be playing Ultimate Frisbee as members of the official coed Maine High School Ultimate League.

Five area high schools have formed teams to play at the club level to give students an alternative to the traditional spring sports. The schools are are Greely, Falmouth, Freeport, Deering and Merriconeag, a private high school in New Gloucester.

“I always played Frisbee with my friends. When I moved to Falmouth someone told me there was an Ultimate league. I thought that was sick,” said Justin Hovey, a track and field athlete who left track practice a few minutes early to catch his game. “There’s probably 50 different ways to throw a Frisbee.”

The league had its first set of games last week at the Cumberland Fairgrounds, and it will include six more Wednesday games, one indoor tournament, a league-wide group practice and the state championships.

The winner and second place finisher there can earn a chance to represent Maine in the New England regional high school championships in June.

The basics of Ultimate are simple. It’s seven players on each side, at least two of them girls. The disc can be advanced in any direction, but players can’t run with it.

A point is scored when it is caught in the end zone — a 20-by-40 foot rectangle at either end of the field. In this league, games go to 13 points or 5 p.m. — whichever comes first. They begin at 3:30.

Players seem to take to the self-policing at games. There are no officials to determine if the disc went out of bounds — just a good, old-fashioned honor system.

Take Jake Lyscars, a senior at Merriconeag, who was introduced to the sport during the summer.

“I fell in love with Frisbee,” said Lyscars. “It definitely appeals to an individual who wants to be independent. It’s all self-coached. We go play at lunch every day. It’s fun, good natured and friendly. But it can get aggressive.”

Other teams exist around the state, from South Portland to Bangor, but they have not yet joined the league.

“We wanted to take the next step and form a league this year,” said Alex Pozzy, one of two coaches for Falmouth, who also runs an adult league in the summer.

“One of our guys is a track star. Another just joined us from lacrosse. We have more athletes than not. It’s not hippy kids running around anymore.”

Among his players: Alyssa Yeung, an All-State middle hitter from the Falmouth volleyball team, runners-up this year in the Class A state championship.

“Everyone here is serious about the sport, but also relaxed,” said Yeung. “I think the sport has changed a lot from what it was stereotypically. And this group of people is just so much fun.”

Sean Enking, a senior at Freeport who also plays soccer, had several teammates who regularly play shirtless and barefoot.

“We like to have fun,” he said. “We usually practice barefoot. It’s just more comfortable.”

Ultimately, it’s a sport rooted in independence, and fairness.

Take the final rule in a list of 10 widely used by Ultimate leagues across the country: 10. Spirit of the Game – “Ultimate stresses sportsmanship and fair play. Competitive play is encouraged, but never at the expense of respect between players, adherence to the rules, and the basic joy of play.”

 

Staff Writer Jenn Menendez can be contacted at 791-6426 or at: [email protected]