Humble BeginningsIn 1998 a few people got together to experiment with the new up and coming dog sport in New England, Flyball. After lots of practice and equipment building we registered our first official team with NAFA. In January of 2000 the Maine Coast Runners flyball team was formed. It was the first flyball team in the State of Maine. We entered our first tournament that July in Manchester, NH with six dogs and six people. Since that time, we have grown to four teams that actively compete in tournaments throughout MA, CT, VT, NH and Canada. We hosted our first flyball tournament in April 2002 at the Dover Ice Arena in Dover, NH and have hosted one each year since.
Our five teams are :
MCR Mission ImPAWsible (Canadian Travel Team)
The teams participate several times a year in demonstrations and fundraisers.
If you are interested in Maine Coast Runners doing a demo at your next event please contact us at
Flyball got its start in the late 1960's and early 1970's, when a group of dog trainers in Southern California created scent discrimination hurdle racing, then put a guy at the end to throw tennis balls to the dogs when they finished the jump line. It didn't take long for the group to decide to build some sort of tennis ball-launching apparatus, and the first flyball box was born. Herbert Wagner is credited with developing the first flyball box, and apparently he did a flyball demo on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson that got a lot of peoples attention. Subsequently, the new dog sport for dog enthusiasts was introduced in the Toronto-Detroit area by several dog training clubs. After a few small tournaments were held in conjunction with dog shows, the first ever flyball tournament was held in 1983.
In November, 1984, twelve teams from the Toronto-Detroit area formed the North American Flyball Association (NAFA). Mike Randall wrote the first NAFA rulebook in 1985, and was also the first NAFA Executive Director. The first head judge was Dave Samuels.
Flyball races match two teams of four dogs each, racing side-by-side over a 51 foot long course. Each dog must run in relay fashion down the jumps, trigger a flyball box, releasing the ball, retrieve the ball, and return over the jumps. The next dog is released to run the course but can't cross the start/finish line until the previous dog has returned over all 4 jumps and reached the start/finish line. The first team to have all 4 dogs finish the course without error wins the heat.
Jump height is determined by the smallest dog on the team – this dog, called the "height dog", is measured at the withers, then that number is rounded down to the nearest inch and another 4" is subtracted to get the jump height (with the minimum jump height being 7"). So a 13 1/4" dog would round down to 13", minus 4", would jump 9". Maximum jump height is 14".
In the early days of flyball, there were no start lights and no passing lights. All of the starts and passes were called by the line judges, who also used hand-held stopwatches to time the races. The race was started by the head judge; the judge would do a basic "ready, set, go" and blow the whistle on the "go". Minimum jump heights were 10", and were determined by measuring the smallest dog on the team at the withers and rounding up or down to the nearest inch (so a 13 1/2" dog would jump 13", while a 13 3/4" dog would jump 14").
With the onset of the Electronic Judging System (EJS), which uses lights and infrared timing sensors, competitors were suddenly able to track their starts, passes, finishes, and individual dogs' times to the thousandth of a second. It's hard to imagine racing without an EJS in this day and age. Many teams run all 4 dogs through the course in less than 20 seconds. The NAFA World Record is now under 16.0 seconds (and closing in on 15.0).
NAFA tournaments are divided into divisions so that teams compete against other teams of equal abilities. All dogs including mixed breeds are eligible to compete and earn titles in NAFA sanctioned tournaments. Titles are earned via a point system based on the time it takes a dog's team to complete each heat race.
NAFA currently has over 700 registered clubs with more than 16,000 registered dogs