Portland’s Newest Pro Team is About More Than World-Class Sport

Posted 05/24/22
woman professional frisbee player diving for frisbee with premier ultimate logo

There’s a new professional sports team in town. And there’s a lot to love about it. Portland Rising, Maine’s first women’s professional ultimate frisbee team, joined the Premier Ultimate League in 2020, with a mission that goes beyond the field.

Founded late in 2019, Rising was eagerly anticipating their first season when the pandemic shut everything down. They tried again in 2021 and were limited to a single August tournament. This year, they’re thrilled to be in full swing, with 28 athletes and an April to June schedule that includes games in Portland, Austin, Texas, New York, and Washington, DC.

Portland Rising, Maine’s first women’s professional ultimate frisbee team

What is ultimate?

If you’re new to ultimate, you might be envisioning barefoot people in cut-off jeans tossing frisbees on the grass. You’d be wrong. Fast-paced and action-packed, ultimate is full of gravity-defying moves and incredible catches. “In football you might see one or two layout catches in a game. In ultimate, the whole game could be a highlight reel,” says Chloë Rowse, Rising co-founder and player.

Games are played with seven on a side, with lots of running and passing. Instead of engaging refs, ultimate relies on the integrity and sportsmanship of each player to stick to the rules.

Chloe’s athletic roots include soccer, lacrosse, Nordic skiing and cross-country running—but nothing grabbed her like ultimate. Growing up in nearby Falmouth, she played with her dad—a national level player himself—and sisters in the backyard before joining the high school team as an eighth grader and eventually playing her sport at Colorado College.

“I love the speed and the way the disc flies,” she says. “It’s exciting to play and watch. But the people in this community made it stick for me.”

women professional frisbee players competing for frisbee

Welcoming to all

After years of playing as the lone girl on boy’s teams and watching professional men’s teams, Chloe and her teammates are thrilled to be carving out this new place for women and nonbinary athletes. “I can’t even say it was my dream to play like this, because I didn’t even realize it was a possibility — there was no one like me on the field to look to,” she explains. “That’s what makes it so exciting to create opportunities for women and nonbinary athletes.”

That message is important to both the league and this team. “We want kids to see themselves represented here and know they can strive to play at this level. So many sports are gender binary and that can be exclusionary of people that don’t fit that, so we’re clear about who we are — welcoming.”

woman professional frisbee player running through teams arms

More than a place to train and compete

Along with equity, Rising places high value on being part of its hometown community. Instead of a base for play, they see Portland as partners — partners they want to support and engage with. “We want to get fans out to events and find ways to give back to the people who are supporting us,” says Chloe. “Buying a ticket to a game is a big thing and we want to recognize that.”

This spring, Rising athletes teamed up with the Natural Resources Council of Maine to pick up trash around Portland. The team also divided into subcommittees that focus on areas of interest like equity and sustainability — the Carbon Patrol group, for example, research carbon emissions for flights to away games. The team is also fundraising to help send a young Maine athlete to the National Ultimate Training Camp.

To recognize their fans and help grow the sport, Rising will host a free ultimate clinic for kids and teens on Saturday, May 28, at Fitzpatrick Stadium. Sponsored by Martin’s Point, the clinic is a great opportunity to learn from pros and will be held from 3 to 4:15 p.m., before Rising takes on Nashville Nightshade at 5:30 p.m.

“We’re here because this is a special and supportive community, and we’re really excited to help these younger players be part of this day. We’re also thankful for our amazing partners,” says Chloe. “Sponsors like Martin’s Point are huge in helping us set our place and grow sports in Maine and for women and nonbinary athletes. We believe in what we’re doing but it’s a new sport to many, which makes support critical.”

To learn more about Portland Rising, check out Rising’s website at portlandrising.me — and join us at Fitzpatrick on Saturday, May 28! Youth clinic starts at 3 pm. Game time 5:30 pm. Tickets are available online here or at the gate.

Youth Clinic Flyer (PDF)

Youth Clinic Flyer