Kickball: The Game Changer

“Want to join a kickball league?”

“Sure… but what’s kickball?”

It turns out making new friends in your 30’s isn’t the straight forward process that it once was.  Yes, there are tons of nice people, but with priorities pulling at people from all angles (work, family, money, health, hair loss), it makes sense that it’s harder to fit into an established world as a meaningful addition.    So we were so thankful when we met Craig at a city wide professional mixer.  We connected over our love of Broadway, and he invited us out for our first night out in Philly.  It was that night that we meet our friend Marvin.  It was maybe our shared optimistic outlook, or simply Marvin’s love of Canada that sealed the deal.  It’s the most valuable thing in the world to find a friend.   A renewed optimism about our lives in Philly grows as our friendship grows.   Friends and family truly can make any place a home.  It was a game changer.

Fast forward to random afternoon drinks with Marvin, when he asks if we are interested in joining a gay kickball league.  I haven’t been on a formal sports team since Grade 6, and I haven’t played organized sport since Grade 9 gym class.   I don’t even know what kickball is.   We look at each other, and we say yes.

A few weeks later, we arrive at our pre game team social.  It’s our first house party in Philly!   A few drinks from dinner help ease the new guy nerves.   It’s time to put ourselves out there.   It seems like many of the guys know each other, but we’re welcomed in like part of the group, and have a great time.

A week later, it’s our first game.   Prior to the game, I had done what I could to prepare.  I studied Facebook, so I was feeling prepared with names.  I read the rules, but I am yet to kick a kickball.  I’m feeling nervous.  Flashbacks of that terrible Grade 6 baseball team my mom signed me up for without my consent come flying back.  She thought it was a great way for me to make friends, but I couldn’t get out of my head to actually talk to people.   Today,  I huddle up, as a few questions, and take my spot.   Game on.

It starts to rain, and 30 minutes later, the game concludes.  Our team won!  My contribution: I kicked one ball that was caught, stood helplessly in the outfield for one inning, and cheered on Derrick after he let a slippery ball fly through this hands.   While I’m feeling self conscious, the rest of the team is cheering, and cheering me on.  Let it go Mike, and just enjoy it.

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As the 7 game season continues, that self consciousness sheds a little more with each game.  My kicking improves, and I almost catch a few balls!  No one is upset when I mess up, and when I stop worrying about messing up, I mess up a whole lot less.  I also notice that I’ve picked up a little Philly sports heckling along the way (It’s all (mostly) in good fun 🙂 ).

It’s this shared sports experience that acts as a launch pad for the after game social, and this new foundation of friendship.   It’s exploring a new brunch location, celebrating our first Rosh Hashanah, or grabbing a drink after the game.  I’m learning to let go of planning, and just say yes without knowing exactly where it’s going.

Over a holiday weekend, we have plans for Marvin to come over for a BBQ.  It’s a Sunday night, and Derrick suggests we open the invite up to the whole team.   I chose to shut down my mind chatter of “what if they don’t come, if they don’t like us, what if…” and go for it.   12 people end up coming, and our over-stuffed lack-of-chairs roof top BBQ turns into one of the best nights yet.  Like Kickball, if I worry less about my experience, and focus more on the team, it will lead to a better experience for all.  I can’t expect others to make an effort, if I don’t try to cultivate the friendship myself.

Fast forward two months:  it’s our last game.  I get a text saying “get here now, we need minimum numbers”, as we pull up.  I jump out of the car before Derrick has fully stopped, and dash across the street.  The other team is short on numbers, and forfeits.   So we take the opportunity to finally have our first practice.   We catch better than ever, communicate stronger, and we just laugh so much.  It’s in that moment that I really understand that no matter who wins the game, we have won a new team of friends in good old America.  Skills are important, but finding, forming, and cultivating friendships are the true game changers.

Thank you boys for having us Canadians on your team, for helping me breakdown that critical sports voice in my head, and for helping us feel at home!  I am so thankful for each and everyone of you.  And thank you to Marvin, our personal Philly MVP, for being our friend ❤

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OH!  So what is kickball?   It’s baseball, only instead of a bat and ball, it’s your leg and a big squishy ball.  It’s harder than you think ;).

When was the last time you made a new friend?  What does that mind chatter say to you, with new relationships or old ones?   Kickball anyone?

Song of the Day: Starving (Hailee Steinfeld, Grey, & Zedd)

4 comments on “Kickball: The Game Changer

  1. Nothing like a group activity or sport to build friendships. My scrapbooking and my swimming have given me a wonderful group of friends. All the best as you find and build networks!

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  2. It’s always nice to meet new friends and what better way than to be involved in sports, such as kickball. Reading this article kind of brings back some good old memories back when I was in college. I’ll probably call my former roommates one of these days and schedule a friendly game of kickball with them. Thanks for sharing this.

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