If you're searching for a way to meet folks and stay active, consider a local recreational sports league. After-work and weekend sports leagues have been a community staple for years. With the influx of new residents, leagues also facilitate new friendships, and the health benefits of physical activity have been well-documented.
Play NOLA, an adult sports league that offers basketball, softball, kickball and other sports, was founded in 2009 by Lavonzell Nicholson.
"It was a league where people could meet others in the city and play after work just to create relationships and networking opportunities," says Jake Bywater, director of operations at Play NOLA. "At that time, there was a huge influx of people coming in from out of town."
When Bywater and his wife moved to New Orleans, they had few acquaintances.
"We were looking for a way to meet new people," Bywater says. "My wife and I signed up for a league and that's how we made our first friends in New Orleans."
Initially they joined a coed basketball team, but now they play flag football.
"We've offered everything from basketball to flag football, kickball, softball and special events and tournaments on the weekends," Bywater says of Play NOLA's options.
In addition to leagues that offer a variety of sports, there are many organizations devoted to specific disciplines like soccer or volleyball. These leagues tend to be more competitive — not necessarily for the casual player.
PJ Lynch, founder of Crescent City Soccer, wanted to organize a formal way for soccer fans to play together. The organization has taken off since its start in 2009, and today has more than 1,600 participants and 17 leagues.
"We're successful because we have really good parity within our league," Lynch says, adding people are evenly matched, which makes for better games for all players involved.
- Photo by Gigsy
- A Play NOLA basketball league player charges to the basket.
A large portion of Crescent City Soccer's profits (from membership dues) cycles back into New Orleans schools via rental fees the group pays to use their athletic spaces. Play NOLA also uses local schools and New Orleans Recreation Development Commission spaces for games.
In a world where so much interaction is digital, having a physical space to connect with people is a welcome change. Often, these friendships endure off the field.
"We often go out after games to a local restaurant or bar and have some drinks and food and continue those conversations," Bywater says.
Whether you're looking for recreational sport or something more competitive, there's a league to fit your needs and schedule. Don't see what you want? Grab some friends and start your own. Sports leagues are as much about the camaraderie as the health benefits of staying active.
Now, go play
Here are a few leagues to check out.
Crescent City Soccer — Coed soccer for all abilities. Registration at www.crescentcitysoccer.com.
Mid-City Volleyball Group — Check the schedule at www.midcityvolleyball.org and show up for pick-up games. $5 suggested donation.
New Orleans Dodgeball Association — Stay tuned for fall registration updates at www.neworleansdodgeball.com.
NOLA Social Ride — Check the calendar at www.nolasocialride.org and feel free to join in. Front and rear lights required; funky lights encouraged.
NOLA Softball League — Register as an individual or a team on www.nolasoftball.org. The LGBT nonprofit requires annual dues to participate.
Play NOLA — Soccer, basketball, kickball, flag football, rugby, softball and volleyball for all skill levels. Register online as a team or as a "free agent" at www.playnola.com.