Cover photo credit: XOSO Sport & Social League
The option to play adult sports as a way to boost your social life is still relatively new in the grand scheme of recreational sports. But with the inception of national social sports leagues like CLUBWAKA and VOLO, and regional leagues like WACO TX Sports & Social Club and FXA Adult Sports, the option to play sports as an adult–regardless of skill–has become much more accessible.
Social sports leagues change the game a bit by adding fun social and networking events to their lineups when you’re off the field or court or wherever else you play a sport.
Read on to find out more differences between social sports leagues and traditional adult sports leagues, the benefits of joining a social sports league (besides the usual fitness benefits), and where you can find a social sports league to join in your area.
What are the differences between social sports leagues and traditional sports leagues?
Traditional adult sports leagues essentially follow the same formula as youth sports leagues. The typical adult sports leagues will have similar segmentation. There might be men’s leagues, women’s leagues, and co-ed leagues. Those leagues can be further segmented based on skill level (example: Division A is competitive, Division B is intermediate, Division C is beginner). Some leagues might also segment by age groups (18 and up, over thirties, over fifties).
Most social sports leagues take a different approach. First, the sports they offer can be a combination of your standard-fare sports, like basketball, soccer, or volleyball. But they usually inject the fun with sports like kickball, dodgeball, or cornhole. Social sports leagues want beginners and those without athletic skills to feel welcome.
Fun and friendship trump competition in most social sports leagues
It can be a challenge to find a traditional sports league to join as a complete beginner. That’s not the case with social sports leagues.
The whole concept for CLUBWAKA was started by a couple of guys who didn’t consider themselves athletic powerhouses.
“We started with kickball because none of us were super sporty, and we figured anyone could kick a big red rubber ball,” says Jimmy Walicek on co-founding CLUBWAKA.
That big red rubber ball eventually turned into a slew of other sports offerings by CLUBWAKA in more than 30 cities nationwide.
When asked what Jimmy would say to someone who isn’t sporty and is nervous about joining a league, he explains, “I would say that’s exactly why we started CLUBWAKA. We play co-ed activities that you can certainly have fun playing. Kickball, volleyball, and cornhole are all easy to learn.”
Arianna Dulany, who, with her husband Josh, owns WACO TX Sports & Social Club, says while the opportunity to play sports is a great reason to join their league, the social aspect is equally compelling.
“Making friends as an adult is hard, and this is the most fun way to do it. It’s low-pressure, and friendships are made organically,” says Arianna.
She’s speaking from experience. When Arianna and Josh moved to Houston, they joined a Notre Dame alumni kickball league. “We played kickball every week for a year,” she says. And when they moved to Waco, they joined the league they now own.
How are social sports leagues segmented?
Some social sports leagues only offer co-ed leagues, while others offer certain sports that might have men’s only or women’s only leagues. These leagues are usually for sports like soccer, flag football, or basketball.
Depending on the social sports league, the competitive range of the sports can vary as well.
“We don’t have different levels of competition in leagues,” says CLUBWAKA’s Jimmy. “However, some teams are super athletic and competitive, and other teams are more competitive about games at our partner bars afterward. We offer fun for both casual and competitive players alike.”
Arianna of WACO TX Sports & Social Club agrees. While competition is part of sports, for their league, “it’s important to create a culture that it’s just for fun,” she says.
Some of the most popular sports for CLUBWAKA and WACO TX Sport & Social Club include basketball, kickball, and volleyball.
What age are most players in social sports leagues?
While many traditional sports leagues offer age segmentations, social sports leagues usually don’t. Some social sports leagues require their players to be at least 18-21 years old, but other than that, there are mostly no divisions for more senior players.
The largest age segment in social sports leagues is players in their twenties and thirties. That doesn’t mean older players aren’t welcome. They just aren’t as common.
Some sports do draw more age varieties, like pickleball. Waco TX Sports & Social Club notes their first season of pickleball included a player who was 73 years old. Arianna is working on other ways to attract older players and is considering creating divisions or sports specifically for them.
What are the benefits of joining a social sports league?
Besides the standard benefit of playing sports to meet exercise requirements, there are other benefits of joining a social sports league.
Forming friendships has already been mentioned, but let’s delve a little deeper.
In an era where we are more personally disconnected from people than ever, joining a social sports league is a great way to counteract that. You may have just moved to a new town where you don’t know a soul. Your best friend may have moved out of state, and that has left a gap in your social calendar. You may have just gone through a breakup and need the company of others as well as a distraction. You may have started a new business venture and are trying to think of creative ways to network.
If any of those situations describe you, joining a social sports league could be a great fit. Exercise, friendships, and business networking are all reasons to consider social sports leagues.
What types of non-sporting events do social sports leagues offer?
The types of social events social sports leagues offer can run the gamut. Many host post-game happy hours. Some organize other events like brunches, networking events, concerts, or trivia nights.
Here’s a sampling of some of the events advertised by different social sports leagues across the nation:
Lexington Sports & Social Club: Speed dating
KC Crew: Networking for young professionals
XOSO Sport & Social League: Pub crawl
Heyday Athletic: Tailgating party
Austin Sports & Social Club: Party barge
And when the social aspect of sports leagues kicks into overdrive, many wonderful things can happen-proposals, marriages, babies, business partnerships. One CLUBWAKA couple met on the kickball field, and that’s where the marriage proposal between them happened as well.
Where can you find a social sports league in your area?
That’s the easy part. Adults Play Sports has a directory where you can search for sports leagues in your area. Add ‘social’ to your search filter, and you’ll be able to look up the social sports leagues.
If you’re nervous about joining, don’t be. There are many more ‘you’s’ out there who felt the same way but didn’t let that hold them back. Who knows, you might just meet your new best friend, land an ‘in’ to a company you’ve been wanting to get into or meet your significant other.
Don’t be afraid to grow up and play. And be sure to subscribe to Adults Play Sports to get the latest news, promos, giveaways, and more!