Sports Leagues Blend Competition and Socializing

By Ellen McCarthy
Friday, March 20, 2009

Nick Jovanovic will tell you there's something magic about the mix of sweaty jerseys and cheap beer. When combined, they can lead to romance.

"We've had several couples meet and get married," says Jovanovic, co-founder of Social Sports of Bethesda, which runs coed football, softball and volleyball leagues. "We're certainly not playing matchmakers here, but when you've got so many people coming together, it's inevitable that you're going to have people meet and date -- and maybe go on to get married."

It's that time of year: The open fields and sports bars of Washington are about to be taken over by adults who love kickball. Or dodgeball. Or are willing to go along with the ruse of athleticism for the sake of their social lives.

"We are creating that environment for people to come out and have fun," Jovanovic says.

Read: You don't have to be talented. There's a happy hour or brunch at a designated bar after every game, so participants end up spending as much time socializing as playing.

In fact, adult intramural leagues have become a fixture on the Washington social scene. Jovanovic and a fellow graduate of the University of Maryland started Social Sports of Bethesda in 2003 with eight touch football teams. Today the league has 72 teams with more than 1,200 people playing each season. This year they're branching out to Arlington.

Jovanovic thinks the success of groups like his has a lot to do with the transient nature of Washington and the desire among professionals for a social network that extends beyond the office.

"It's a great way to get integrated if you're new to the area," Jovanovic says.

There's a league to fit just about every schedule and geographic preference in the Washington area, and many are signing up players now. If you're intrigued by the magic beer-and-jersey combo, consider: Social Sports of Bethesda (, Social Sports of Arlington (, Arlington Athletic & Social League (, NAKID ( or World Adult Kickball Association (

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