Adolescence can be a harsh time, especially in the early ‘90s
when you are me. Dylan and Brenda are finally going to do it on
90210, but my dad won’t let me watch because we don’t
promote premarital sex in this Catholic household. I find out Milli
Vanilli has been lying. Girl, you know it’s . . . not me singing.
My mom buys me a Russell Athletic instead of a Champion sweatshirt
because, according to her, they look the same. Hello, little C?
And then, the kicker, I get cut from
my soccer team. It is sixth grade and I should be celebrating self-esteem
and trips to the mall on half-days and first boyfriends trying to
feel me up while slow-dancing to “Silent Lucidity.”
Instead, I learn a tough lesson: you are not good enough. And like
any pissed off middle child with far-superior-athletically-inclined
siblings, I think to myself, I’ll go to a better college than
you, and I’ll take over the world, and you’ll be sorry.
The meek are not getting ready, my dear old pals. Au contraire.
It’s us self-righteous nerds you got to worry about.
Flash forward fourteen years, and,
well, you do not need to worry about me. What goes around comes
around, and now I am an athletic superstar of sorts. I play kickball.
And this ain’t your little cousin’s pick-up kickball
game on the playground. Nosiree, I am a card-carrying member of
the World Adult Kickball Association. Every Sunday June through
August I gather together with 400 like-minded souls—boys and
girls--on a field in Boston to kick around the big red rubber ball
of our youth. We play on teams named Last Ones Picked, Hoof Hearted,
I Bent My Wookie. We are all adults. After the games, we go to the
same bar to drink and celebrate our victories and mourn our losses.
Most of us haven’t played kickball since fifth grade. And
that is the beauty of it. While many sports breed competitors, kickball
promotes inclusion for all. The only rule to play is you must be
21 because we like our beer. Sure, it is fun to win. Maybe you’ll
even impress a babe with your fancy pitches. But in the end, it’s
The World Adult Kickball Association
(WAKA) is a living, breathing organization which will have 40,000
players registered worldwide by the end of 2005. It began in 1998
in Washington DC by four guys in their late 20s who wanted a unique
social outlet. Softball was too intense, bowling too individual,
so they prophetically decided on kickball. The league was so successful
its first year that it spread like kudzu to Maryland, Virginia,
and beyond. Every year their numbers doubled. Now there are divisions
in California, Kansas City, Ohio, Massachusetts and a slew of other
cities and states (check www.worldkickball.com to find a league
near you). Doubters who believe that kickball is purely an American
sport will see that WAKA has players in India, the Czech Republic,
and even Iraq. American Adult Kickball Association we are not. Kickball
is a worldwide phenomenon. Call us missionaries of the 21st century.
My path to kickball is a long and
convoluted one. In fifth grade, I was good, really good—I
was usually the third girl picked in my class after Leah and Kristen.
They called me President. I kicked, caught, and pegged like a champ.
Sixth grade came along and I lost all athletic ability whatsoever
and by seventh grade I was a mathlete. High school I was a drama
chick who could not act but I did like Fiona Apple and Sylvia Plath
so I fit in just fine in the angst department. In college, my radio
station would challenge the rival college station to a kickball
game. It was so enlightening to see some of the most uncoordinated,
biggest partiers ever engage in an act of elementary school aggression.
I was determined to rediscover this part of my youth.
After college I moved to Boston.
I tended to work for really small companies with all women and I
needed to meet men to shut my mom up. So in spring of 2004 I did
a little google search and found out about WAKA. They were starting
their first season in Boston. Score! I was put on a random team
called Kick Hard or Go Home. I was a little scared to play on a
team—truth be told I have not reclaimed my talent from fifth
grade. But I found out all this worrying was for naught--while the
games themselves were super fun, it was the social aspect off the
field at which I truly excelled. Every week the whole division went
to An Tua Nua, a most excellent Irish bar in Kenmore Square. I mingled
with other teams and was eventually voted Playa of the league. It
is definitely not what you think—it just meant I was the most
social and a pretty decent drinker.
And that’s what makes kickball and specifically WAKA so unique.
While other sports segregate by teams, WAKA kickball emphasizes
inclusion for all. Men enjoy it because they can showcase their
athletic prowess. Women love it because it is a way to participate
in a low-key sport where they will not be banished for dropping
the ball (Not that they ever do—on my team Kim is by far the
best catcher and kicker—she was even voted league Sasquatch
last year!). Buy a beer for the ref or dance with the captain of
the team that beat you. And you don’t have to worry about
how you look: everyone’s wearing the same sweaty t-shirt,
albeit in different colors. Additionally, every division hosts two
big parties during the season so you can show off that sexy halter
top to that hot pitcher who sometimes, illegally, rolls a bouncy.
So, you can see, kickball is cool!
I joined last year not knowing a soul and now it has become a huge
part of my life. I met all my close friends and even my (ex)-boyfriend
(he moved to Canada—how convenient! And believable sounding!).
I now work for WAKA as the Boston regional representative. Chances
are if you meet me walking down the street I will be carrying big
red rubber ball and I’ll hand you a card. But I’m not
trying to recruit you for a cult. I just want you to take part in
kickball, the new American—and soon to be worldwide—pastime.