by Joe Wilhelm Jr.
The last time most people played the game they were more worried about the end of recess than the end of a recession.
Adults have embraced a game they remember from elementary school as a way to socialize and exercise one night a week. The game is kickball and adult leagues are flourishing around the country. The World Adult Kickball Association(WAKA) was founded in 1998 in Washington D.C. and has grown to almost 50,000 players across the country. This total includes 22 leagues in Florida and two leagues in Jacksonville.
“I walked on as an individual player in 2006, started my own team the next season, moved up to VP of the Atlantic Division, and now I’m managing the Jacksonville region,” said Karen Williams, a 30-something who is also marketing manager for Everbank. “We’ve grown from 86 players to over 500 in two years. This summer we added another league, St Johns, which plays at Patton Park off of Hodges Blvd near the beach.”
The Atlantic Division, which plays at St. Nicholas Park, was the first WAKA league in Jacksonville and began in 2006. It has reached the league maximum of 16 teams and each coed team is required to have between 12 and 26 players. The Atlantic Division became so popular that another division was created to cut down on the commute for players living at the beaches. The inaugural season for the St. Johns Division featured eight teams.
“I recently read that Jacksonville was rated one of the worst places to live for singles. I really think it’s what you make it,” said Greg Corcoran, 35, president of the Atlantic Division of WAKA and in public relations for JEA. “ This league had about 50 players in it when I started. We are now up to almost 500 players and two different leagues. It really shows that people want something different to do after work than just going home or having a beer at the local happy hour spot. I see kickballers everywhere I go now.”
The entry fee for the fall season was $63 and that provided each player with a league T-shirt, pre, middle and post season parties, and an eight-game schedule with playoffs. Every team makes the playoffs, but the better a team plays, the higher their rank in the playoffs. Each division also partners with a bar sponsor that serves as the postgame hangout for the league.
“We’ve enjoyed the exposure,” said Marco Munroy, part-owner of the Burrito Gallery, which sponsored the Atlantic Division during the fall season. “We’ve seen a lot of new faces that might not have come Downtown or been into Burrito Gallery before. Plus the T-shirts have our name on them and it gives us exposure in the St. Nicholas area as well.”
Munroy is not only a sponsor, he also plays in restaurant/bar league and holiday kickball games in Springfield.
“It’s a lot of fun,” said Munroy. “It’s a good way to get out and spend time with friends.”
Participation in the league happens in a variety of different ways. Players can bring a team of friends or coworkers or individuals can sign up and be placed on teams.
“It was a great way to get to know the people at the firm I work at,” said Eileen LaCivita, 26, an attorney with Tritt & Franson. “It was a blast. Everyone is just out there to have a good time and meet people.”
Kickball is not only for singles looking to socialize.
“I’m mature enough that I have a wife and a daughter, but when it comes to sports I can’t get enough,” said Sean Hall, 38, a sales manager for Panasonic. “I’ve always played a sport of some type. This is something everybody can play. We have some people who have never played a sport before playing and they get better throughout the season.”
Registration for the spring season is Dec. 1- Jan. 1. Games will begin Feb. 26 and continue through April 30.
For more information go to kickball.com.