Sports. For some, playing on sports teams was a central part of growing up. For others, it was an awkward or boring experience, and we only played when we really had to, like in gym class. Usually, the main emphasis of playing sports was winning. But what about the social aspect? That where social sports come in.
What Are Social Sports?
Social sports are recreational sports leagues for adults. There is just as much emphasis on socializing as there is on playing. Social sports leagues can be competitive, but they’re just as likely to be for fun. The point of playing in a social sport is for the fun of it!
Socializing happens both on the court or field during the game, and afterwards, in a local pub or bar, hashing out the awesome (and not so awesome) plays. This is why social sports are sometimes called beer leagues. Some teams or leagues may also be sponsored by a local pub or restaurant.
The type of sports available in social sports leagues will vary depending the city you live in. Bigger, more urban cities will have much more variety and options of sports to try, while smaller, rural areas will be a little more limited. Either way, there will be some fun options.
Some people join a social sports league to play a specific sport. Maybe it’s a sport they played in high school or college, or it’s a sport they’ve always wanted to try. Other people may join a social sports league without a specific sport in mind – they’re open to trying different sports. And they’re only available Tuesday nights, so that’s how they pick their sport.
Social sports leagues can be same-sex or coed. Which makes the socializing aspect even more fun!
Reasons to Participate in Social Sports
You might have heard about a social sports league in your city or town, and may have even thought about joining. But is it really worth the time, money, and nervousness? Absolutely! You’ll have a ton of fun, meet new people, stay active, and learn something new! Here are 17 reasons why you should join a social sports league.
1. Hanging out with friends
Remember in high school when you could hang out with your friends for hours at a time, not really doing much at all, but literally just hanging out? Well, when you’re a grown-up, life is a lot busier. You’ve got a ton of responsibilities, and you just don’t have the same amount of time that you used to. You probably have to schedule time in your calendars with your friends now.
The benefit of playing social sports is that you get to hang out with your friends again, while something that you love doing! You might sign up with your friends, or make new friends in the league – or both! Social sports are a chance to forget your responsibilities for an hour or so, and just hang out again. It may not be the same as the carefree days of your youth, but it’s still pretty fun!
2. Meeting someone to date
Millions of people are using online dating sites to meet people. However, when you’re using an online dating site, you need to assume that the information they’ve provided in their profile is correct. And that their profile picture is up to date! It’s a bit of a guessing game, with lots of assumptions.
Meeting someone through social sports is a much better option. You’re already starting with something in common – the sport that you’re playing. And how someone acts on the playing field is a great indication of their personality. Do they lose their temper easily? Or are they really laid back and a lot of fun to be around? Are they funny, sociable, and easy to get along with? Do they make fun of others, or do they help others out?
The bonus is that you know what they look like – without having to rely on a profile pic from 10 years ago.
Social sports are a great, low-key way to meet someone. There’s no pressure to have a romantic connection, because you’re actually there for the sport, not a potential love connection. But when it does happen, you’re starting out knowing something about their personality firsthand – not just what’s written on a dating profile.
3. Staying active
Most of us catch up with friends over dinner and drinks. This is a great way to stay connected – but it’s also a great way to pack on hundreds of extra calories! Social sports include both a sporting component, and a social component. Sure, you may not exactly be training for an ultramarathon, but at least you’re being active. At the minimum, you’re probably burning enough calories to balance out the post-game bevvies and snacks.
And if you’re playing in a social sports league at least once a week, you’re probably more likely going to be more active during the rest of the week as well. Being active is a lifestyle, and once you start being more active in one way, you’ll probably look at other ways you can be more active as well. It might be hitting the gym, or even just walking more.
And remember: the more active you are during the whole week, the less sore you’ll be after your once-a-week beer league game night!
Sometimes, getting to the gym or going for a 6 am run is hard. You really need to rely on your willpower and self-discipline. But when you’re on a social sports team, you can’t just skip a night because you don’t feel like going. The rest of your team is counting on you!
Seriously, you don’t want to be the player that caused their team to forfeit because you were at home watching Survivor.
5. Good ol’ fashioned fun!
There’s a reason it’s called PLAYING sports: it’s supposed to be fun! A sport is really just a way to play that’s been organized around a specific set of rules for that particular game. For many of us that have played a club or varsity sport, the competitive factor was emphasized much more highly than the fun factor.
But social sports are a chance to bring the fun back to sports! Sure, it’s fun to win. But even if you’re not winning, you’re going to have a lot of fun. Try picking a sport that you didn’t play competitively. Or, trying playing a position that you didn’t play competitively. When the pressure to win is off, you’re really going to have the opportunity to enjoy the game.
6. Learning something new
Sometimes, being a grown-up is really routine. Your day-to-day and week-to-week are remarkably similar. Okay, maybe you’re shaking things up by trying that new restaurant for lunch. Well, how about stretching even further?
What about trying out a whole new sport that you’ve never tried before? One that you have no idea how good (or not so good) you might be at? We’re all pretty hard-wired NOT to try things that we might be bad at, so we stick to the same old stuff that we know we’re good at.
But social sports are a great, safe environment to try something new. So what if you’re not an Olympic-level pickleballer? Chances are you won’t be the only one that’s trying a new sport. So find some camaraderie in being the new kids!
And, as you improve your new set of skills, your self-esteem and confidence will also improve. You’ll remember that everyone starts as a beginner, and you’ll feel pride as your skills improve.
7. Reduce stress
Had a bad day at work? Had a fight with your spouse? Take out your frustrations on the ball instead of losing your cool! The ball won’t care how hard you hit it – in fact, the harder the better!
Not only is exercise is a known stress reducer, but according to this study by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, so is spending time with family or friends. So, when you’re playing social sports, you get to exercise AND spend time with friends. Can’t you just feel your stress level going down?
Whether or not you tell your teammates that you had a hard day at work, just being around them will give you a boost. And, if you do decide to vent a bit, you can also drown your frustrations in a post-game bevvy.
If you’ve played on sports teams before, you know all about that feeling of camaraderie. It’s more than just spending time with a certain group of people – when you’re part of a team, you feel a much stronger sense of connection to your teammates. There’s definitely something about spending time together involved in a certain activity.
You’re also experiencing winning and losing together. With every win, there’s going to be some awesome plays to re-live. And with every loss, there’s probably a stellar fail or two to laugh over. That’s the best part of playing rec sports – both the good plays and the bad plays are opportunities for a few laughs, and a few new memories.
9. Doing something FOR YOU
Living as a responsible adult is BUSY. Not only are you trying to get yourself out the door to work, you’re probably looking after a couple of kids, a pet or two, probably your spouse, maybe even your parents, all that on top of all your other work and volunteer obligations. One night out to yourself for some friendly sporting activity is a great time to take some time for just you. Instead of chauffeuring the kids to THEIR activities, this is some well-deserved YOU time.
10. Doing something as a couple
Playing in a social sports league is also a great opportunity for you and your spouse to reconnect outside of your usual domestic obligations. Many social sports league are coed, so you and your partner can spend time together, learn something new together, and stay active together.
11. Even playing field
We live in a society of social hierarchies. Whether it’s your job title, your address, or the car you drive, there’s always an aspect of social categorization. This is especially true if you work in a corporation – your whole day is organized into a hierarchy of job titles and roles!
Well, on the sports field, everyone wears the same uniform! It doesn’t matter where you work or where you shop. Every player is a contributing member of the team. This kind of neutrality is so refreshing! You don’t NEED to know what your teammates do for a living, or what neighbourhood they live in. You’re just happy they’re showing up to play!
12. Expanding your network
Social sports are a great way to expand your social network. You might meet someone for business networking, or learn that one of your teammates also has another similar hobby that you do. Or, you might run into someone you already kind of know, but had no idea that they also played your sport, and you get to know them better.
The sport may bring you together, but as you spend more time with your teammates, you’ll get to know them off the field as well, and you’ll be surprised at how much more you have in common!
13. Keep playing a sport you love
Many people who play social sports choose a sport that they playing in high school, college, or club league. Playing your favorite sport doesn’t have to end when you graduate! You probably won’t be playing at the same calibre as you used to (though, some recreational leagues can be pretty competitive), but you definitely still get to enjoy your sport. And who knows – without the anxiety of intense competition, you can relax and maybe even enjoy the game even more. No more intense coaches, hours of drills, or running lines!
14. Trying out new post-game establishments
You can’t forget the SOCIAL part of social sports! The post-game refreshments are just as important as the sport itself. After-game drinks might be an informal getting together at the pub around the corner, or it might be heading over to the bar that’s sponsoring your team. This is a great way to check out pubs that you may not normally frequent. And if you’re new to town, you may not even know about some of these places!
The best part of going to the bar right after the game? You can wear your sweats! Everyone else will be as well, so you don’t have to worry about not being dressed up enough. It’s definitely about comfort.
15. Getting new gear
Whatever sport you choose to play, you’re probably going to need to gear up. It might be just a pair of new shoes, or you may need to gear up from head to toe. You may also need new equipment as well. It’s always fun getting new stuff!
If you’re on a budget, or you’re just out a new sport, you definitely don’t need to start out by buying everything all at once. There will probably be some basic things you’ll need specific to your sport (check out this article to see what you need for indoor volleyball), but you should wait until you’ve played a few games to see what you really need to buy. Some leagues will even supply some of the required equipment, or you can borrow some stuff from teammates until you get your own.
Let’s face it, winning a medal always feels awesome, no matter what age you are. Some leagues have prizes for the winning team, so it’s always a nice goal to work towards. Often, there will also be weekend tournaments that spin off from the league, whether it’s part of the league itself, or through another group. When you’re involved in the sport, you’ll start to hear about other opportunities to play even more. Which means more opportunities to win more medals!
17. All the social benefits of sports
There are so many positive aspects to playing sports. The social benefits of social sports leagues are especially great, because the emphasis is usually on both socializing and friendly competition – not just strictly on winning. This means that players will likely see equal play time instead of distinguishing between starters and benchwarmers like you’d see on a club or varsity team.
Here are some of the key social benefits to playing sports:
⇒ Building confidence
Whether you’re learning a brand new set of skills, or you’re improving a technique from high school, the more you play the better you’re going to get. You’ll feel more comfortable on the court or the field, and this confidence will help boost your self-esteem off the playing field as well.
When you’re just starting out, being the one that misses a point may seem like a huge deal. But the more you play, you’ll start to see that EVERYONE messes up at some point. Even the superstars. So, after awhile, missing an occasional point doesn’t seem like a big deal after all. It helps you focus on how to improve for the next point. And the more you play, the more you will improve!
⇒ Improve social skills
These days, so many of us are tied to our social media networks that we’re not interacting in person with each other as much as we used to. Playing sports is a great way to improve your social interaction skills. You’re playing against a new team every week, so there’s always someone new to chat with. And getting to know your teammates better off the playing field is also a great way to improve your social skills.
This is especially helpful for shy people; when you’re involved in a sporting activity, the primary focus isn’t just on the conversation. The sport is the primary focus, and the conversation is naturally focussed on the sport. If you’re feeling shy or self-conscious about what to talk about, there’s always banter about the sport to fall back on. As you start to feel more comfortable with your teammates, your shyness will lessen, and you’ll feel more comfortable expanding your conversation topics.
⇒ Reduce social isolation
Whether you’re new to town or just looking to expand your social network, being involved in social sports league is a great way to get out of the house and meet people. Sometimes we don’t even realize how much we’re living our lives on auto-pilot: get up, go to work, hit the gym, have dinner, watch some tv, do it all again tomorrow.
Having an activity at least once a week gives you a great way to break from that usual routine, and it gives you something to look forward to every week.
⇒ Feeling connected
Just because you have 600 Facebook friends doesn’t mean you’re going to feel a sense of connection to all of them. When you’re part of a sports team, you feel a strong sense of connection, of feeling like you’re part of something. Heck, you’re probably even wearing a uniform, so you can actually SEE that you’re part of something!
Not only do you feel a part of the team that you’re playing on, but that team is also part of a league. So when you get together after the game for the SOCIAL part of the league, you also feel connected to the rest of the teams in the league (even if you were just playing against them!). The camaraderie extends beyond just your own team.
⇒ Improve your teamwork skills
You started learning team work back in school, and you’re probably still working in a team, whether it’s on the playing field or at work. Learning to play well with others is a never-ending lesson, because you’re always meeting new personalities and being given new challenges. The team work skills that you’re learning on the playing field will also translate into the board room – though indirectly, of course. Being on a team helps you work cooperatively, and it helps you figure out how to deal with personalities you might clash with.
And while you might be able to incorporate high 5s into your corporate job, I’d avoid introducing butt slaps. There’s some things that should probably stay on the playing field.
⇒ Learning friendly competition
You’ll win some games, and you’ll lose some games. Regardless of the outcome, you should always end the game with grace and sportsmanship. If you’re the winning team, don’t rub it in – you should acknowledge the good work of the other team, and then celebrate your win with your teammates.
If you’re on the losing end, again, acknowledge the hard work of the winning team, and of your teammates as well. Don’t get caught up in the loss. There will always be another game to play. It may be disappointing, but remember that the fun of sport is in PLAYING, not just winning.
As you can see, there’s a ton of reasons why you should try a social sports league. With so many sports options, you’ll definitely find a sport to try. Find a sport you know you’re good at, or try something brand new. Sign up with a group of friends, your spouse, or try something totally on your own.
The best part is that it’s really low commitment. Once the season’s up, you don’t have to commit to the next one unless you really want to. Or, you can change sports. So, go ahead and sign up!
Not sure where to go to sign up? Start by checking out your local library, city recreational centres, or check out the Social Sports Network, an online database of co-ed adult recreational sports leagues in the US and Canada.