Sure, you can join a pickup game of basketball or soccer pretty much anywhere there are courts and fields. However, in an active, outdoor- friendly city such as Columbus, a growing number of public sports leagues and athletic clubs throughout the downtown area are evolving. They embrace not only traditional sporting leagues, but also nostalgic fringe sports (such as kickball and dodgeball), and the fun-loving attitude that comes with them, where often times competitiveness is eschewed for simply having a good time. Isn’t that a novel idea?
Columbus Recreation and Parks | crpdsports.org
If you’re interested in sporting in Ohio’s capital, the first (and for many the only) place to look is the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department. While municipal recreation teams might seem to many like they’re geared toward youth participation alone, this simply isn’t the case. So don’t worry, you won’t be reliving the glory days of 50-minute T-ball innings and basketball games ending in a score of 8-4.
According to Columbus Recreation and Parks Communications
Manager Brian Hoyt, last year alone Columbus saw over 1.5 million
people participate in city sporting leagues, and the majority of them
“Columbus is actually thriving in the business of sports tourism,”
says Hoyt. “Often times you have strong youth sports programs in
the surrounding towns and cities, but they can be lacking in adult
programming. Because of that, here in Columbus, we see people coming
from Gahanna, from Upper Arlington, from Dublin, you name it.”
And with such a robust group of athletes, the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department doesn’t skip a beat when it comes to the variety of leagues being offered. Leagues for every major sport are offered at varying levels of competition and seriousness across the city, including flag football, basketball, baseball, softball, soccer, volleyball and much, much more.
One of the draws of participating in Columbus athletic leagues is their often top-notch facilities.
In fact, according to Hoyt, the city’s Lou Berliner Sports Park is nothing short of a world-class venue. Just this year the sports park, which is one of the largest diamond ball eld complexes in the country, was certified as an Environmentally Certified Sports Facility by the Sports Turf Managers Association. This makes Berliner the first facility in Ohio (and only the 32nd in the world) to earn this certification.
“I think [Berliner] is like one of those great secrets that
everyone actually knows about,” says Hoyt. But the wide world
of Columbus adult sporting contests goes far beyond the city’s
Sports Monster Club | columbus.sportsmonster.net
Sure, traditional sports like basketball, baseball, soccer, and football are great for many. But every so often we all get the urge for something different. Sometimes we’re in the mood for bowling, handball, or maybe we want to unload a heavy rubber ball at our best friend’s face while suspended ten feet in the air.
Yes. I’m talking about trampoline dodgeball.
Currently, the novel sport is offered by the Columbus-based Sports Monster Club, an organization (now boasting multiple national hubs) that seems to be pushing the boundaries of sporting leagues and loving every second of it. While regular dodgeball is no longer offered, trampoline dodgeball is still available at the league level, with the occasional tournament as well. And while Columbus has yet to see many of these, the group regularly tests out some of the weird fringe sports (such as pickle ball and Spikeball) at other locations, checking their viability for a larger market.
And while the presence of dodgeball itself may be a novelty
without top-tier staying power, the trend of including fun, less-
traditional sports in leagues across Columbus seems to be here
When we think of kickball, it’s more likely we recall recess on
the blacktop than a televised sporting event Nationwide Arena,
but nevertheless the quirky competition has found a niche in the
heart of Columbus athletes, with Sports Monster boasting the
largest kickball league system in the city.
And according to the Sports Monster’s Bart Fitzpatrick,
there’s good reason for its popularity.
“Kickball is doing very well. It is the most social sport of all—where anyone, of any athletic skill, can participate and have a good time,” Fitzpatrick said. His assessment underscores the fact that many participating in adult sporting leagues are doing so for mixed purposes: sure it’s fun to win, and competitive leagues are still going strong, but many younger members of Columbus sports clubs are joining to be among friends.
“The social component [of kickball] is huge. We always have host bars for after-league for folks to hang out and revel in their on- eld/on-court antics and glory,” Fitzpatrick added.
Columbus Young Professionals Club | cypclub.com/athletics
Another innovative athletic group in the city is the Columbus
Young Professionals Club. The group, created in 2005, acts as a
hybrid networking and social organization mixed with athletics
and community service elements as well.
“At our most basic level, the social membership, it’s free to
join. And there are plenty of opportunities; we have about 20,000
members now,” says CYPC Athletic Director Anish Mistry. “It’s
a really great way to be among friends, or even to meet new
Similar to Sports Monster, CYPC represents an interesting trend where competitive athletes have the opportunity to square off, but the holistic club at its core seems to be about blending sports and social opportunities.
With upcoming softball and volleyball leagues in the fall, the group is also currently offering bowling and even euchre registration. What’s more, among its slate of athletic leagues, the club offers a litany of social events, including coffee talks where young professionals can gather to discuss prominent issues in their lives (each evening revolves around a specific topic), dedicated networking events, and regular community service projects, including clean-ups at local parks and volunteering at Columbus-area festivals.
It’s clear that the project of the CYPC involves athletics, but
it seems to do so in a more dynamic sense, inclusive of sporting
leagues from the seriously competitive to the fully laid-back.
And this seems to be a movement the city as a whole is
beginning to embrace—where there’s a sporting team for
everyone, but a lot of us are just along for the ride. Sign me up