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Benefield: Frisbee no casual lawn game for Santa Rosa athlete

On its face, the game is simple. Seven players on each side on a field that stretches 70 yards. End zones are 20 yards deep and teams earn a point for catching the disc in that area. Players can throw in any direction but can’t run with it once they catch it. Drop the disc? It’s a turnover. Teams typically play to 15 points. And contact is not allowed.

“It’s very similar to other field sports in terms of the athleticism of the play, the physicality of it,” she said. “You are throwing something around and getting to chase something down.”

While the obvious perks are few compared to scholarship or even semi-pro sports, the payback is rich.

What they are getting, what Casey gets, is a community of athletes who revel in the physical demands of the sport while actively celebrating the ways in which it’s different from your average game. Picture this: entire tournaments with no refs. You don’t get fans in the numbers that, say, a basketball game will draw, but you will get the team you just played very likely rooting you on in the next game.

“It’s self-officiated, which also enhances that idea of community,” she said. “You are expected to self regulate. You are expected not to cheat. You are expected to respect your opponent in that they are not cheating.”

Casey is big on this part. She’s big on civility in the heat of battle, big on respect for opponents and for the spirit of the game. She wears the enthusiasm on her sleeve so much that in 2012 she was voted by her fellow athletes as the winner of the national Kathy Pufahl Spirit Award, which honors both competition and contribution to the sport as a whole.

As she contemplates the end of her playing career in the coming years and turns her attention to the development of youth ultimate, Casey calls that award the most meaningful.

“I love the process of working with a group of people,” she said. “I love the family of people I have through ultimate.”

You can reach staff columnist Kerry Benefield at 526-8671 or kerry.benefield@pressdemocrat.com and on Twitter @benefield