The ultimate experience: Frisbee


Kelsi DeSimone passing the frisbee to a teammate during a game against Neuqua Valley. (Photo Courtesy of Stella Bonasera)

By Megan Evans and Daniela Ciesielski

Competing against tall, aggressive players was the norm for Jailene Famania during her first few years playing ultimate frisbee.

Famania, Div. 050, who originally played with the boys’ frisbee team at Lane, has been playing ultimate frisbee for three years and now plays on the girls’ team. The girls’ team was not established until the Girls’ Ultimate Movement (GUM) offered a helping hand.

Girls’ Ultimate Movement is a communal program designed to help more girls take part in ultimate frisbee, according to their website.

“We were actually sponsored; we were part of a startup program that GUM was doing trying to get girls’ teams playing, getting them funds to get started,” Famania said. “Last year there were about four teams across the country that got sponsored by GUM, and this year there’s about six, including one at Evanston.”

After the girls’ team was established in 2018, they started playing against other girls’ teams from schools such as Walter Payton, Neuqua Valley, and Evanston Township.

The girls practice two to four times during the week, and also on some Saturdays.

“We’ll have two mandatory practices where we want as many people to come so we can work together on getting our skills down,” Famania said. “Usually we’ll be doing a co-ed practice once during the week just to get familiar with everybody.”

Famania said that one of her goals for the team during practices is to make sure that everyone is able to communicate with one another, and that everyone is able to grow as a team.

“All we ask is that all our girls put forth all of their effort, and we don’t want it to be too serious,” Famania said. “As long as you keep coming, you keep trying, and are open to learning.”

Mr. Berg, who is the coach for the girls’ team as well as the administrator for both girls’ and boys’ frisbee, says he has already seen improvement in the girls team, but there are still areas where they can become stronger.

“For the girls, I want to see them learn more in depth strategy, and build more of a team,” Berg said. “They are a great group, and a super positive group that wants to keep learning.”

Charles Ancel, Div. 062, has been playing ultimate frisbee at Lane for two years. The boys’ team was started in 2010, and has been participating in the state competition since 2016.

As one of the captains, Ancel takes part in managing the team and teaching lessons and strategies about ultimate frisbee.

The boys practice on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3:30-5:30 at Horner Park. During practices, the team works on perfecting their throwing, cutting, and defensive strategy,” according to Ancel.

“The team is currently in a state of growing, but so far we’re all decent friends and we have much to see in the coming months,” Ancel said. “We’ve meshed quite well over the winter and from our fall practices.”

With a combination of both new and experienced players, the new players on the team gain an advantage to learn from not only their coaches, but from their fellow teammates.

“Our experienced players are great at working with new players and teaching them the game in a way that the coaches cannot, they have some great skills and are very athletic,” Berg said.  “For new players, it’s all about learning strategy, where to go and how to get open. It’s looking great already this year and everyone is learning quickly.”

Along with the girls’ team, the boys take part in playing against other schools in the Chicagoland area and in tournaments against in-state and out-of-state teams.

“A normal season starts in the spring as soon as the weather cooperates,” Berg said. “We play in league games every Sunday at Schiller Woods against other schools in the area such as Walter Payton, Northside, Evanston, Elmhurst, etc.”

In addition to league games, the team prepares for different tournaments, the most important being the Neuqua Knockout and the State Championship Tournament. Two years ago, the boys’ team placed 19th in state, and last year, they placed 11th, according to Berg.

Neuqua Knockout, which takes place in Naperville, Illinois, was the first tournament that the girls’ team took part in, and it was the first real game that the team played. Before the tournament, the girls had played one game against Payton, but hadn’t had many practices before then, according to Famania.

“The way you’re gonna learn is just by playing,” Famania said. “There are so many different concepts that are easier to understand when you’re playing in a game, so having us thrown into this tournament at the start was really helpful.”

Berg said that he sees a great amount of dedication and improvement from new players, and hopes to see improvement through the rest of the year.

“I love seeing how the teams grow throughout the year,” Berg said.  “Friendships are built, team camaraderie is established and we compete against other teams by playing this awesome sport.”