Adult sport leagues: the new after work social scene

What do volleyball, college kids, and Richmond moms all have in common? They really seem to enjoy the local sport leagues.

Adult sport leagues may be Richmond’s solution to counteracting post-college, young professional, pre-family boredom. As a way to exercise, be social, or even just do something different after work, thousands of people are joining adult sport leagues in the city each year.

Beginning in 2009 with only six teams and a handful of dedicated organizers, Brad Gramlin’s Central Virginia Football Association expects about 3,000 players will have played in the league by the end of the year–most of them looking for a kind of friendliness they’re not getting from their coworkers.

“When people get out of school all of a sudden they go from being around other like-minded people all day every day to in the workplace where they might be the only person in their age group,” Gramlin said. “I think that adult sports leagues fill that camaraderie void for people who have recently gotten out of school.”

There are over a dozen different sport leagues in the city, ranging from casual kickball to competitive volleyball groups to local flag football teams, all with their own status and post-game rituals (i.e. bar hopping).

The 32-year old Richmond Volleyball Club prides itself on being the original adult social sport club in the city, with about 2,600 local players this year alone according to executive director Darcy Collins.

As an active softball player in high school, Collins didn’t feel like she was done with sports after graduation.

“There’s no playing in college, I wasn’t good enough for that. But I just enjoyed the social aspect of it, the camaraderie,” Collins said. “So just playing in sports social leagues allows you the opportunity to do that.”

The RVC is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit that boasts 12 indoor courts and room for outdoor courts. Each 10-week sessions allow players to get their game on no matter the weather or season and also enjoy the 13 beers on tap they have on site after the game. The games combine social activity with healthy competition, Collins says.

“It is an opportunity to be active and get some exercise while it’s also an opportunity to meet other people,” she said. “So instead of the bar scene of standing around…this is comfortable interaction.”

Organizers of the for-profit organization the World Adult Kickball Association are also tapping into the city’s desire to have a life outside of work.

Kickball, which local customer service representative Chris Franzen describes as “basically a child’s game that we make for adults,” allows participants to play in the old-school sport and get exclusive access to after-game social events and deals, similar to its competitor River City Sports & Social Club.

“When I moved to Richmond I didn’t really know anyone and I was looking for something to do after work to make friends but also something different from the standard all-male softball league,” Franzen said. “Kickball kind of filled that void.”

This makes sense, since the average player for most of these sports is between 25 and 40 years old. Franzen met most of his friends and even his wife through the social kickball group.

But as more Richmonders are searching for these out-of-office ways to meet new people in the real world, there’s also a lot of competition for these groups around the city for members, space, and of course, money.

Although it doesn’t seem to be harming the numbers of the RVA leagues yet, Collins says, “When you have a good idea you’ll always have a competitor.”

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