WAKA, WAKA, WAKA, WAKA, WAKA …
WAKA is the World Adult Kickball Association. WAKA organizes co-ed adult kickball leagues in various locales in the US and worldwide. That’s right — kickball.
When I was a kid, kickball was my favorite playground game. As an adult, I’ve wondered from time to time whether it would be fun to play again. (In 1991 or thereabouts, I actually did play kickball with other adults — for about five minutes. More on that in a bit.)
So when I became aware of WAKA about five years ago I became pretty excited. I got on their mailing list and waited patiently for a league to be organized in a convenient location. That happened last year when WAKA established the PA West Chester Division. They didn’t get enough signups to have a league last fall, but they now have a spring-summer league in progress. They play Friday evenings at Greenfield Park in the borough of West Chester, PA.
These are the teams in the spring-summer league:
- Chub Scouts
- Foul Balls
- Recess Rejects
- Weekend Warriors
I didn’t sign up to play in the spring-summer league. However, I did get myself over to Greenfield Park Friday, July 11, to check out the action — both on and off the field.
Here are some pics. Click to see at full size. (I apologize for the picture quality; I am a rather unskilled photographer, and even worse, I have a hard time keeping the camera still. The camera has anti-shaking circuitry, but I unfortunately do not.)
Did you ever anticipate seeing something new for a long time and then have it be pretty much as you expected? That’s how I felt upon seeing WAKA kickball at long last.
As i expected:
- Almost all of the players appeared to be in their twenties and early thirties.
- WAKA kickball is more a social activity than a sport. In fact, every division is sponsored by a local bar, and many of the players go there each week after playing.
- Few players seemed to take the game seriously. I watched half of one game and the next game in its entirety, and during that time, I never heard any of the players mention the score. The one reference to the score I heard was when a player-coach told his team when they came to kick in the last inning that they needed one run to tie and two to win. I later deduced the fellow who said that is the commisioner of the league.
- The dynamics and geometry of the sport, as played by WAKA, are such that a player’s athletic skills matter little. While few players can kick the ball beyond the infield, it isn’t that hard to get on base. A bunt to the left side of the infield is almost a sure single. Yet it doesn’t take particularly skilled defense to keep players on base from scoring.
As a result of checking WAKA kickball out in person, I now better understand why it is the way it is. During the course of its 10 years of existence, WAKA has evidently fine-tuned their “product” to maximize the participation rate of its target audience.
Although I harbored hopes of being entertained by exciting action, I knew better than to let those hopes get too high. WAKA kickball isn’t much of a spectator sport. The top scoring team in the West Chester league is averaging less than 3.5 runs per game. Many of the teams that qualify for the upcoming world championship tournament no doubt take the sport seriously and have excellent skills. But those teams must be anomalies in WAKA’s total scheme of things. The tournament is in Las Vegas. That should tell you something.
So the big question is whether I will sign up to play in the fall league. One of the players, Paul, saw me fiddling with the camera and asked if I was “press”. Ha ha. Anyway, I nervously admitted my age to him hoping he would agree that 51 is far too old to get involved. On the contrary, he encouraged me to sign up, saying that I look 20 years younger than my age and I have less gray hair than he does. I thank him for that. I also thank him for giving me a can of the official WAKA beverage (starts with a “b”).
As for the signup decision, I’m not ready to make it. Procrastinate — yeah, that’s the ticket. Let’s start, as I’m wont to do, with the cons. I’m pretty shy, for one thing, and I’m self-conscious about my relatively low level of athletic skill and fitness. Even though I wouldn’t mind making some new friends, it’s probably not a good idea for them to be twenty years younger, especially if I have to drink multiple beers to bond. One is enough for me, and drinking games hold no appeal.
But participating might be fun. It’s something I’ve thought about for years as I said earlier. Some divisions have really elaborate online newsletters, and contributing to one, or even developing it, would help me scratch my sportswriting itch. Maybe if I can recruit a team of players from the office …
Speaking of the office, it was a group of, at most, four colleagues with whom I played kickball in 1991, back when the company was exponentially smaller than it is now. After five minutes a thunderstorm blew in and we had to bail. But five minutes was long enough for me to muff a high fly ball in my first and thus far only opportunity as an adult to make a defensive play in a kickball game. In my only chance at the plate I kicked a fly ball that was caught for an out. Maybe I should be thankful for that thunderstorm.