Last year, a total of 116 participants from 20 schools in three different states competed in the first ever Northland Frisbee Invitational in Cloquet to help give back to their community. This is the only nonprofit Frisbee tournament in the upper Midwest area.
All of the proceeds from the tournament are given to the REACH mentoring program, which stands for Recreational Experiences Achieving Community Harmony. REACH is a nonprofit organization that works to provide opportunities for the youth of Carlton County who are either at-risk or experiencing life barriers.
The organization works to improve the self-esteem of these children by providing meaningful relationships. Last year, the tournament was able to raise $1,000 for the REACH program.
According to the Northland Frisbee Invitational website, their mission is to improve the Northland’s “holistic community."
Luke Heine, a senior at Cloquet High School, is the mastermind behind the tournament. He became interested in the sport of Ultimate Frisbee during his sophomore year of high school, after his cross country running team played the game every Friday as a break from their normal practices.
“I really like the high standard sportsmanship and respect it has,” Heine said. “It’s a really cool game. Unlike most games where there are referees, technically Ultimate Frisbee is self-policing and self-governing. It’s just a really cool vibe.”
Heine said he still has not found any other sport that even comes close to Ultimate Frisbee.
“I kind of came up with the idea out of nowhere,” Heine said.
Heine said that during the summer of his sophomore year, he was really bored one day and decided to contact everyone in his phone to see who would join him in a game of Ultimate Frisbee. There was a very good turnout, and it became a weekly endeavor, with more and more people showing up each week.
“My idea was, if I could channel this to a purpose in a way that could better the community, then I am on to something very good, and I should continue doing that,” Heine said. “If I could bring these kids together and focus this awesome experience we were having into an event, we could make something pretty cool.”
Heine said there is a really large interest in the sport in the local area. Beyond the game itself, during the tournament there will be free swimming for participants at the local pool, a professional DJ and food, and the tournament is for people of all ages and all skill levels.
“It is for every level, whether you are just taking the kids out to play some Frisbee, or whether you are very competitive and here to win,” Heine said.
This is the first time Heine has ever organized something like this, but he said it probably won’t be his last. Next fall, Heine will attend Harvard University.
The tournament will be held June 28 on various fields in Cloquet and will be an all-day event. All of the fields are within three miles of each other.
Online registration for the tournament is $20 before the tournament, or participants can register at the door and pay $25. Teams are made up of seven members, and each team is guaranteed to play a minimum of three games. The top three teams will receive medals, and the winner of the tournament will receive a trophy.
MEET SOME OF THE ULTIMATE FRISBEE PARTICIPANTS FROM THE 2012 TOURNAMENT
Eric Fryc, a freshman at the College of St. Scholastica, participated in the tournament last year with a team called the “Fire Hawks," which placed third by winning a dance-off.
The dance-off came about when there was a tie for the third place spot, so it was decided that the best way to settle it was with a dance competition. Each team was given five minutes to come up with an epic dance to show off to the other team, and whoever had the best one would receive third place.
“The championship game under the lights with so many people watching was super cool,” Fryc said.
Fryc said the whole day was just incredible, and there is nothing else like it. He said he was very impressed with how smoothly Heine was able to make the tournament go.
“The community was the best part about it because everyone was competitive, but at the same time, everyone was routing for one another,” Fryc said. “Even if you were playing a competitive team and you fell down, they would help you up. Everyone was so nice.”
Fryc recommends the event to people of all ages and abilities.
“You can basically never have played Ultimate Frisbee, and you would still have a heck of a good time,” Fryc said.
Nick Short, a student at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, was also a member of the “Fire Hawks” team.
“Just to have a day where we can go out and make teams and play really competitively is really great, and the fact that it is a fundraiser makes it really awesome,” Short said.
Short said he had always seen people playing the sport, but didn’t really decide to join in and get involved with it until a theatre group he was working with over the summer decided to start getting together to play. Since then, he hasn’t been able to stop.
“I would definitely recommend it to anybody who wants to have a good time and have it be for a good cause,” Short said.
Clara Hatcher, a senior at Duluth East High School, was a member of the team “DiscGo,” which ended up getting fifth place in the tournament.
In an email interview, Hatcher said she heard about the tournament through her involvement in an organization that Heine was also involved with at the time.
“The whole tournament was just about everyone having the best time they could possibly have while playing Frisbee,” Hatcher said. “When we weren't playing in a game, we were cheering on other teams.”
Hatcher said the event was unbelievable and that the best part about the tournament was watching the championship game.
“It was played under stadium lights with a DJ playing in the background," Hatcher said. "I made some friends and cheered on the Oogway Turtles from the sidelines. We made up chants and everything."
Hatcher said she would recommend this event to everyone.
“Everyone should go to the Northland Frisbee Invitational this year and every year after," she said. "It is the best time anyone will have all year. I can't imagine June 28 without a day full of Frisbee fun.”
All three of these 2012 participants plan to participate in the tournament again this year with revamped teams and new clever team names.