Amy MacKay found love on a Frisbee field.
Fifteen years ago MacKay joined an Ultimate Frisbee team at the University of Victoria because she had a crush on one of the players. The ploy worked – MacKay ended up dating her now-husband Lee, and when the pair moved to Nelson five years ago they brought Frisbee with them.
Now Amy and Lee, who started the latest iteration of the Nelson Homegrown Frisbee team, take their two children to around 10 tournaments a year with the team on their own dime.
“We really love Ultimate. There’s some sacrifices to be made but it’s all worth it,” said Amy MacKay.
Nelson Homegrown meets every Monday night, 8-10 p.m., during the winter months at the Nelson Indoor Soccer Facility to play pickup. Homegrown has, to MacKay’s knowledge, a history that stretches back 20-30 years. She estimates the current squad has included around 150 people at various points.
Nelson Homegrown, according to MacKay, is named so for the feeling that the team and city is a home for all. And yes, it’s also a bit of a pot reference as well.
“There’s no harm with a little tongue in cheek,” she said.
The team recently returned from winning a November tournament in Mexico City, and several players also competed with different teams a week later in Puerto Morelos, Mexico at The Pan American Ultimate Championship.
“We totally kicked ass,” said MacKay. “We spread the love the Homegrown way. We won the tournament and we won the party and we won the spirit award. We made a lot of new friends.”
The Frisbee was invented in 1948 by Walter Frederick Morrison, and Ultimate Frisbee was first played 20 years later at a high school in Maplewood, N.J. Opposing teams of seven a side pass the disc as they move up a field either to score in an end zone or – as Homegrown plays during the winter – into a net.
Three aspects of the sport make it unique from others: it can be played co-ed, it’s self-refereed and it relies on what’s called Spirit of the Game to maintain decorum and reward positivity.
“You try to not only have as much fun as you can but you try to make it really fun for other people too,” said MacKay, who adds with a smirk she’s seen her share of nudity on the field.
Kate Rustemeyer joined Homegrown when she moved to Nelson three years ago. She said the group draws a variety of people interested in the sport.
“What’s nice about Nelson is there’s a whole range,” said Rustemeyer. “Some people are super serious and some people aren’t, and they can get their serious competitive fix at tournaments, and then anyone can show up [in Nelson]. We’ve got people who are just brand new.”
Both men and women of different ages showed up at a recent session of pickup. Players congratulated each other constantly and returned to the sidelines after each shift dripping in sweat.
MacKay said new players are sometimes intimidated by how hard Homegrown plays even though they try to make the group as inclusive as possible. They are always looking for recruits, but MacKay said the team could especially use more women on the field.
Roster concerns aside, the team feels like a family to MacKay.
On a trip to Italy in 2014, MacKay decided she wanted to do something for her husband. During an impromptu timeout both teams formed an aisle and provided a tie for Lee and a veil for Amy. Their son and daughter joined in to play flower girl and ring bearer. They’d already been married for seven years, but Amy wanted to add a few new Frisbee-related vows.
“I promise not to clog up the cutting lanes of our lives,” said Amy to Lee, before play resumed and she threw him a pass for a score.