Not everyone is a fan of the office softball team. Seeing your co-workers in summer shorts, dealing with the over-competitive Marvin from Accounting, wondering whether or not to accidentally-on-purpose miss your boss's pop fly -- all of that can create even more of the stress that you're trying to unload. So for true escapists, there is another option: kickball.
The playground favorite endears itself to players who lack big-league skills, delivering a recess-like escape from the 9-to-5 grind. While running speed helps, "nobody was the captain of their high school or college kickball team," says Johnny LeHane, a co-founder of the Washington-based World Adult Kickball Association. "Skill level is pretty equal."
Plus, it's goofier than most adult sports: Teams have names such as "Happy Fun Ball" and "Milk Money," and most leagues have a strong social component packed with pre-season happy hours, mid-season parties and after-game bashes. All those opportunities for mingling increase the chances of finding friendship -- or even romance -- among teammates. And again, unlike with office softball, you won't have to start taking a different route to the office copy machine if things go really bad.
What to Expect: The game is usually played on a standard softball field, with similar rules. A rubber ball, about the size of a soccer ball, is "pitched" to a kicker, who has three chances to boot it and get on base. The trick, veterans say, is to kick the ball hard enough to win enough time to reach first base, without launching a "pop-up" that a defensive player might catch for an out. A fielder also can tag the runner or throw the ball to the baseman for an out. (In addition, there's a dodge ball element: If a fielder hits the runner with the ball, that counts as an out.) After three outs for each team, the inning is over. Most games have five innings. Local kickball leagues are designed for career folk: All games are after normal work hours, and most teams play only once a week during the season. A typical game lasts about 45 minutes, and none but the most die-hard of teams hold practices between matches.
What to Bring: Leagues generally provide team T-shirts. Regular athletic shoes are fine, but many players recommend wearing soft rubber for traction in muddy fields.
Cost: $15 to $70 a season per player, depending on the league.
Where to Get Your Kicks
Vienna Parks and Recreation Department. 120 Cherry St. SE, Vienna. 703-255-6352. www.ci.vienna.va.us. If you gather 15 friends, you can register as a team. If not, put your name on the "free agent" list that is circulated to teams in need of players. Each team -- there were eight last season -- pays $250, which is divided among its players. Talk to sports program coordinator Keith Fees for details.
World Adult Kickball Association. www.worldkickball.com. The granddaddy of adult kickball, WAKA fields more than 20 local divisions in Maryland, Virginia and the District, each with as many as 16 teams. Games are played in locations around the area, from the Mall to local soccer fields. Cost per player is $60 to $70 a season.
YMCA of Central Maryland. Towson Family Branch, 600 W. Chesapeake Ave., Towson. 410-823-8870. www.ymcamd.org/Branches/Towson.html. This indoor league, with about six teams, holds games Thursday nights from 8 to 10 p.m. A charge of $15 per season covers team T-shirts and umpires for games. Contact sports coordinator Pete Rouhana at email@example.com to join.
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