The elementary school playground is back with a vengeance, and a large, bouncy ball is the centerpiece to a grassy field of entertainment that keeps grown adults swinging their feet for the perfect fall diversion: kickball.
Whether it's bona fide team play or schoolyard gatherings, there is something magnetic about this childlike sport that has metro fun-seekers signing on for a season of kicking.
Mitch Park in Edmond is home to adult co-ed kickball teams playing with the Edmond All-Sports league. Kirk Sparks, assistant director at Edmond All-Sports, runs the kickball program that started in spring 2009 as an effort to bring more adult-friendly activities to the area.
"There were a couple of other leagues around, but there really wasn't a lot in Edmond for adults," Sparks said.
The fields are located in Edmond, but plenty of area enthusiasts are willing to travel for what seems to be the only official league around. Former fields have gone dark, and teams ready to kick their way to victory have been left without a home. Last spring saw many of those Oklahoma City-based teams make the voyage north to take part in their leisure sport of choice.
"Last spring, we had eight teams in the league, and we have 10 signed up for the fall season," said Sparks, who sees the demand continue to grow as more ballers learn about the Wednesday night league. Each team must have at least three female players on the field at all times, 12 players can kick, and the rosters typically max out at 15.
The sport of kickball hasn't changed much since those recess games of long ago, and although there are plenty of rules and idiosyncrasies therein, the concept isn't much more complicated than lining up at home plate, taking a pitch, and kicking the lightweight ball as far as your legs allow. Players then run the bases in an effort to score and try to avoid a tag in the form of a swift ball to the hip, thigh or any other allowable body part below the shoulders.
The grown-up version of the childhood sport does, however, have some mature characteristics. Look for tongue-in-cheek team names like Where My Pitches At?, Balls to the Wall and Rubber Busters to join goofy names like Team Kickball Team and Master Blasters. And in-between games count on plenty of parking-lot fun in the form of tailgating and all-in-fun trash talking.
The World Adult Kickball Association formed in 1998 as the governing body to all of this adult recreation and even has a London division overseeing British kickballers. According to WAKA representative Courtney Silvagni, the simple rules are a natural draw for the sport.
"Kickball encourages bonding and sportsmanship, but unlike soccer or baseball, it doesn't require extreme athletic ability," Silvagni said. "Players love the opportunity to meet new people, network and enjoy social events."
Socializing is a key reason Oklahoma City attorney Lacy Boyles joined a local team in fall 2008. "I told myself that I would meet new, fun people, and I definitely did," she said. "Everyone has different professions, yet we all get together to play a sport that most of us have not played since Reagan was president."
Kickball fans looking for less structured play have formed pick-up games around the city. Casey Friedman and Sean Murray formed a weekly game at their alma mater, Classen School of Advanced Studies, and enjoy seeing the variety of friends that show up from week-to-week.
"We don't keep score," Friedman said. "It's just an easy sport. We're not trying to pitch tiny white balls. You kick a big red ball and run to the bases. We have a good time."
For veteran kickballer Boyles, the sport is an easy equation for no-fail enjoyment.
"It's a unique way to be active and crazy," she said. "Combine silly people with a little bit of competitiveness, add a kickball, ref or two, and a few other teams " it's fun in a can." "Andrea Miller