Around the world, during certain times of the year, sports fans become riveted to their couches, set before their big screen TVs, cheering on their favorite teams as these amazing athletes play their hearts out during the adrenaline-fueled moments of games, tournaments and playoffs.
But do you ever dream about taking (or returning) to the court, hardwood, or diamond to participate in a team sport yourself, instead of going through the motions watching it on television in your living room or at a bar? If you grew up playing sports, you may recall fond memories of the intense practices, championship games, winning plays and the close-knit bond formed between teammates. You know how much you miss it once you stop playing. If you never played sports, then it’s not too late to join an adult sports league and get a taste of team spirit, as well as getting in some great exercise.
There’s been an emphasis placed on the importance of children playing team sports recreationally as they grow and develop, that it makes them happier, healthier and more socially adjusted, but sports aren’t just for kids. Don’t give up on the love of the game just because you graduated or have become inundated with the demands of the working world! Recreational sports holds just as much benefit for adults as they do for children. The International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity published a study in 2013 where researchers indicated that recreational sports not only provides a stress-reducing benefit for adults, but better physical role functioning, vitality, social functioning, mental health and life satisfaction than other forms of physical activity. The improved health benefits may result from enhanced social connectedness, social support, peer bonding and self-esteem provided by league support.
The physical benefits are greater than you might think too. The physical activity provided by team sports have been linked to the reduction of an individual’s risk of heart disease, the strengthening of bones and muscles, and overall increase in physical health. It’s also a great way to burn off calories, although the amount of which will vary depending on the sport and the intensity of the sport.
Certainly you can yield the same benefits from other physical activities, but being on a team creates an entirely different dynamic and a measure of accountability when you know your team is counting on you that keeps you active.
Joining a recreation league can provide a welcome break from your regular exercise routine. Sports like basketball, tennis, pickleball, flag football and soccer offer an amazing cardio workout that can become a great addition or supplement to your current workouts. Participating in a sport can be so much fun that you won’t think of it as exercise. And because you are involved in a sport, you’ll be inspired to keep in shape, which gives you the motivation to stick with a regular fitness routine.
Sports can be a great way to meet new people and expand upon your social network. You’ll be in the company of others with at least one common interest. By playing with them once or twice a week, you have a regular reason to get out of the house and interact with the community, and are bound to develop some great relationships over the course of time.
There are some things to keep in mind before joining an adult sports league. First, it’s good to know the difference between competitive and recreational leagues. Competitive leagues will be made up of players who are in it to win it. They may possess years of experience in their sport, perhaps having competed at high levels. Winning will be important, therefore players are expected to have excellent skills and serious attitudes. So, if you have the experience and miss the competition, join up! But if you are new to the sport or simply looking to have fun, then recreational leagues will be more your speed. This can apply to beginners looking to get their feet wet or for those who just getting back into it and want to hone their skills.
If you’re looking to find information about leagues or how to join a league, you can check out what’s offered at your local YMCA, city recreation center, fitness centers, or churches. Look within your own community to see what might be offered. Look for flyers or bulletin boards, or simply ask around! You may have friends or co-workers who might belong to a league or know of someone who does.
As to what to expect once you join, know that every league is different. Most competitive leagues will have at least one practice and one game a week. Recreational leagues usually play once a week. Formal uniforms are not the norm, but some leagues may pitch in to buy custom T-shirts. Either way, be sure to dress in comfortable clothing which allows for maximum mobility and wear appropriate footwear. There is usually a fee that comes with playing each season, and the cost can vary by location, sport, length of the season, number of games and equipment rental (if needed). These fees may cover the cost of the facility or area hosting the games or for referees and/or scorekeepers. Remember that keeping hydrated is important, so be sure to bring your own water bottle and a towel just in case.
There are adult sports leagues that cater to athletes of all levels and joining one can offer a sense of excitement and friendly competition that you may have missed or found lacking in your life. So get fit, have fun, and make some new friends. Release your inner athlete, get out there and play!