Ben Schorzman | Content Coordinator, Eugene Rec
On a spring evening in March, a group of teenagers gathered on the new artificial turf field at Kelly Middle School in northwest Eugene.
The teens huddled around a few adults at midfield then broke away, picking up white Frisbees. They started whipping the discs around the field in a warm-up. After a time, the group followed their coaches in a few drills followed by a game of ultimate.
Participants in the Eugene Rec youth ultimate program listen to program manager Erin Maloney during a practice.
To anyone walking around the track, the ultimate Frisbee practice appeared common-place. This group, though, was part of the first foray for Eugene Recreation into youth ultimate. The City typically leaves youth athletics to organizations like Kidsports, but Eugene Rec Athletics supervisor Ethan Wing is all about making the opportunities for Eugene’s kids more diverse. Wing partnered with local ultimate player Erin Maloney to create an offering with a lower barrier for kids who just want to learn to play.
“There’s a service gap,” Wing says. “I’m not necessarily looking to branch into youth programs. I think there are enough organizations out there that are covering most of our traditional youth sports right.
“But when it came to me that there was nothing like this out there, and it’s something that kids aren’t being offered, I thought, ‘Well, if no one else is going to do it then we will.”
Maloney is well known in the ultimate Frisbee world in Eugene. She has networked extensively with other players and manages her own teams. In her day job she is a program coordinator for Connected Lane County & Lane STEM where she works with schools in Lane County to give students and teachers professional development. She turned her professional eye on her passion of ultimate to see if she could help more kids play and learn.
There’s currently a youth league in the city, but it’s more competitive and tends to draw from certain high schools.