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When friends or colleagues ask, “Are you still playing kickball?” I nod my head with delight and let them know that I’m not ready to retire just yet.

Retire from kickball?  Why yes, it happens. When I started playing in 2000, it was a fun and cheap form of weekly entertainment.  Every Friday night of the spring and fall were spoken for, and I knew I would see my friends at the field and at the bar.  No one had to coordinate a social outing, send an Evite, make dinner reservations, or purchase tickets in advance.  Without a doubt, socializing was guaranteed and it didn’t take much effort to get from work to the field in team uniform. When else can you acceptably go out in track pants and a t-shirt?

Closing the bar on a Friday night wasn’t uncommon and at times, made getting up on Saturday a chore.  As my team evolved, from a mix of high school and college friends, to an extended circle of co-workers, their spouses and siblings, I realized that the game was a great way to mix with both old and new connections. New friendships were formed, families shared kickball strategy at holiday gatherings, and no one had to pick up a phone or send an email to make it happen.  Furthermore, we could share news and jokes in person at the field and at the bar each week.

As our team morphed several times, with team members getting married and/or pregnant, moved or changed jobs, it became more difficult to preserve the certainty of a fun-filled night playing kickball.  I wondered what it would be like to switch to another night of the week and play with people I didn’t know very well.  I formed a Wednesday night team by recruiting players at my new job.  The response was positive and I looked forward to having some daily banter about something comical with people at work.  Team pride was high, even if skills on the field were lacking.  We had a terrible season statistically, but lots of good laughs and a few injuries.  However, a manager told me I was endangering the department’s productivity.

Whether I played with close friends or acquaintances, I’ve learned that we all come to the kickball field with the same wishes – to get on base when we kick, to catch the ball that soars near us, and to have a good time.  These are simple joys that make anyone feel young and carefree.  Season after season, kickball also reminds me that it takes effort to gel as a team, that everyone’s presence matters, and someone needs to be in charge.

In charge?  Like a leader or director?  To some degree, yes.  Any organized group needs someone to send a shout-out about the week’s game time and remind everyone that umpping volunteers are needed.  When it’s registration time, someone needs to sign-up the team and pay the fee before the deadline.  Someone needs to ask if everyone is showing up to the game or motivate the search for sub players.  These various duties usually fall upon the team captain or a self-appointed team manager.  The team needs a plan and good communication on the field.  So much for being completely carefree and irresponsible.

Whether fellow kickballers sign up to be social, get fresh air, or relive past glory, I suspect the common allure for all is that kickball provides a venue to be visibly silly.  Who doesn’t like having some silliness in their life?  Silliness you can count on as a weekly event?  Even better!

Ten years have passed and playing kickball remains worthwhile and entertaining to me.  This season, I’m going to recruit a team of former high school classmates.  We had our 20-year reunion in 2008 and I don’t want another ten years to pass before we catch up again in person.  Hopefully, there will be some near 40-year olds interested to make the commitment for a season of silliness.  I’d like to share this part of my world with people who knew me when I couldn’t yet drive, vote, drink, or rent a car.  After the first game, they’ll know that I still can’t catch a ball, even with 10 years experience.

Imagine what a better world it would be if, somehow, everyone texting to the person next to them, or  constantly checking their stock portfolio, set down their phone and played kickball for stress-relief, camaraderie and exercise.  The silliness would be as contagious as the flu and we’d admit that being connected to others through a physical activity that revolves around a red rubber ball makes more sense than most things in life.

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