How does an unsporty adult sport?
January 23, 2017 2:33 PM   Subscribe

I am not sporty and never have been. I'm interested in playing a team sport. Can a non-sporty, out of shape person join a sports team? How? Location: Oakland or Berkeley, CA.

I'd like to work out more regularly, build a network of friends, and maybe get a little competitive. I like the idea of having a team and the possibility of winning something as motivation to work out. I've only ever done more or less solitary sports (running, cycling, tennis), not team sports, and don't know much about most sports. My dream situation would be a team of supportive, somewhat competitive, kind, queer-positive adults, and a workout/training commitment of 3+ days a week, with the occasional opportunity to compete against other teams.

Is there a sports team that I can join in the Oakland or Berkeley area? The closer to BART the better, the closer to downtown Oakland or Berkeley the better.

I'm about 80 pounds overweight (220 lbs, 5'6", AFAB) and pretty unfit, in my early 30s. Please feel free to suggest any kind of sport--I'll look into all of them, from archery to zorb football.
posted by anonymous to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Roller derby was made for you!

I will say, look for a rec league or relatively non-competitive team as the training for the more intense teams gets pretty hardcore.
posted by kalimac at 2:36 PM on January 23, 2017 [5 favorites]

You might consider rugby. I don't have any bay area-specific info, but it is traditionally queer friendly and heavier people have an advantage in some positions.
posted by medusa at 2:44 PM on January 23, 2017

I also immediately thought of Roller Derby.
posted by hepta at 2:56 PM on January 23, 2017

posted by Mitheral at 3:00 PM on January 23, 2017

As a woman who has wondered about roller derby: does having trick knees (in working order but very painful to fall on due to previous injuries) disqualify you? It looks like loads of fun otherwise.
posted by Countess Elena at 3:06 PM on January 23, 2017

I really enjoyed co-ed softball when I was an out-of-shape, not very sporty person. There are often teams/tournaments run by Park & Rec departments. Oakland has sign ups open. You can take the 54 bus from Fruitvale BART and get to the practice field easily. The nice thing about softball is that there are lots of positions that are not make or break for the team, but your presence is really appreciated because there is a minimum number who have to show up or the team forfeits. There is lots of time to socialize--often going out after practice, etc.
posted by agatha_magatha at 3:08 PM on January 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

There are many options. You could check with your local YMCA; some of them have adult soccer, swim, or basketball leagues. Master's swim has an element of teamwork, in that you're all training together and trying to make your times beat the other team's times, but it's not a team sport per se.

You could google your locality and look for "adult kickball" which is totally a thing, sometimes "drunk adult kickball." There are a few Ultimate Frisbee and frisbee golf organizations I've seen. You could check with your local community college for continuing education or extension units with a team sport.

A friend of mine did adult softball through the Hayward Parks & Rec department; it was cheap and she met a lot of friends. My housemate did co-ed adult soccer with the SF Parks Dept. and had a great time.
posted by blnkfrnk at 3:52 PM on January 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

The bay area has a very, very strong Gay/Lesbian Tennis Federation (GLTF) presence. There's always doubles, but even singles is played in the context of a team. In fact, the USTA has a dedicated page on their site to help players find teams:
posted by NoRelationToLea at 3:55 PM on January 23, 2017

As an unfit, non-sporty person in my early 30s, I've had an enormous amount of fun taking up ice hockey over the last couple years. I can't speak specifically to the bay area, but my experience in hockey in a big city has for the most part been very positive - welcoming to newcomers, supportive, an excellent workout, and flexible in the level of commitment, hours-per-week-wise (I started with one beginner class a week, now I play like five times a week on three different teams). It's a small community most places so you get to know people; I've made a lot of friends and there's usually a lot of socializing. I also kind of liked that it's a really hard sport to learn - unlike more popular sports like soccer or softball, people in beginner leagues usually didn't play at all as kids, and even athletic beginners struggle at the start if they've never skated before, so I didn't feel super out of place or self-conscious. All the teams I've played on have been queer-friendly, though this will probably vary based on the location and the program.

Downsides include the cost - hockey's not cheap. Even after you buy all the gear (start at play-it-again), lesson and league dues, jerseys, practice time, travel if you join leagues, it adds up to a lot pretty fast. Also, ice arenas aren't all that thick on the ground, so the travel/locations required may not work for you. I ended up giving in and getting a car so I could play in leagues that required games out in the suburbs, though I know many other people who arrange carpools or beg rides.

If you do want to try it out, I started with a beginner class (something like this maybe?) and then moved on to joining beginner level womens' and co-ed teams. If you'd like a womens' team, it looks like the Northern California Women's Hockey League has a beginner division and a Give Hockey a Try Day coming up, where you could try it out and scope out the other participants and the vibe without having to buy all the stuff or commit to anything.
posted by colbeagle at 4:18 PM on January 23, 2017

A long time ago I was in a bowling league, because friends taught me that it's not necessarily who gets the highest score, but how well you're doing compared to your own average score. (I think this has something to do with bowling handicaps -- but I forget the details.) Anyway, it was TONS of fun despite the fact that I only once scored above 100. Cost was minimal -- a registration fee, team shirt and any snacks/drinks you want to purchase from the alley. Rental shoes and balls were included.
posted by BlahLaLa at 4:35 PM on January 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Also here to suggest joining a bowling league--although I can't generalize as to how queer friendly it might be. Plenty of opportunities to get to know others in a sporty yet very social setting.
It's competitive but usually not cutthroat, and working out will help improve your stamina and power. As said above, the cost is minimal. You compete against other teams in the same league-- and at the end of the season there are trophies!
posted by bookmammal at 4:53 PM on January 23, 2017

You absolutely can, and you absolutely should. Nearly all adult sports leagues, regardless of sport, are segregated by ability. In hockey, we do A-D. In volleyball, I've seen "competitive" vs. "recreational". But every league is going to have beginner options of some sort. No one has any interest in putting people who are still learning the rules of the game up against guys who played pro. The beginners hate it because they get beat up on, the experts hate it because they aren't playing the best competition, and league owners hate it because both groups will quit their league to play against their own level of competition. So yeah, you can definitely start playing now when you're out of shape and unskilled, and as you get better, you can keep moving up.

As for which sport, well, gosh, there are hundreds. My best advice would be to try as many as you can. Find out what you like and what you don't. Most rec leagues only play one night a week, so if you're looking to play more than that, you'll probably have to join more than one team anyway.

The question is, then, how do you find them. Honestly, Google. Search for "adult [sport] league Berkeley". You should find plenty of options. It's not uncommon for areas with large gay-populations to have gay leagues. One of my gay friends invited me to a gay volleyball league here in Columbus. I'd imagine you'd have even more options in the Bay Area. Obviously you might have more trouble finding a gay football league, and there may not be critical mass for a gay polo league, but I guarantee there are gay soccer and softball leagues.

Start asking your friends if they play any sports. They can give you the best info on what leagues and teams are the best.

One more thing: look into ultimate frisbee.
posted by kevinbelt at 5:04 PM on January 23, 2017

This might be too informal for you, and I'm not sure if something similar exists in the States, but a few times a month I play soccer with some friends and friends of friends from work/my community on a rooftop field in Hong Kong we rent from a private club for an hour; it works out to about $8 per person USD each time. We divide up whoever shows (usually we are all good about showing if we say we will) into two teams differently each time based on our abilities - each team gets a few people who are good and a few people who aren't as good.

I am, by far, the least-skilled and most out-of-shape person in the group, and the only person who didn't grow up playing and watching soccer. It shows, but it's hilarious and supportive, and I go almost every time; no one is annoyed because I'm committed to getting better, and they somehow manage to be helpful without being patronizing. We organise through a Whatsapp group and someone needs to book the field a few days in advance, so there's some level of commitment. Aside from sneakers, there's no special equipment needed, and the club is nice - the showers and locker room are available to us and it's in a good location for food afterwards.

After about a year or so of playing - maybe 30 games? - I'm getting kind of past total-starter level now, have just about learned how to kick the ball so it goes in the direction I want, and understand the rules better, though not totally - and even score the odd goal now and again. Because we play on a smaller pitch and only for an hour - and because we play with everyone since the teams keep changing - it's a very helpful way to build confidence and mutual trust. Some weeks it's the thing I look forward to most!

So if you're feeling hesitant about joining a larger or more organized team, other less-formalized options do exist.
posted by mdonley at 5:34 PM on January 23, 2017

As a woman who has wondered about roller derby: does having trick knees (in working order but very painful to fall on due to previous injuries) disqualify you? It looks like loads of fun otherwise.

Maybe? Probably? You fall onto your knees quite a lot (like, that's the first thing I learned in rec league!), although of course you're wearing pads, but there's still definite force. I do remember ages ago one of the big teams (maybe Rose City?) specifically training their players to fall onto their hips, to avoid knee injuries, but I don't know how practical that is, and my main worry would be you injuring yourself as you tried to protect your knees.

One thing you could try is going to a store that sells gear and trying on gaskets and kneepads (like, the high end ones, not the crappy $20 starter set), and then doing a gentle fall onto your knees, and see if you feel it. The salesperson can probably make good recommendations for gear to try too!
posted by kalimac at 5:36 PM on January 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Have you tried rowing? Many of the people in my local club aren't sporty (many don't look at all sporty) and it doesn't require a lot of hand-eye coordination (unlike ball sports). In addition, my local club has crews for novices and crews for experienced rowers. There are dozens of rowing clubs in the Bay Area. It might take some sorting to find the adult rowing clubs because the high school and college clubs are included in the Bay Area listing. Most beginners row on an 8-man crew. Unlike ball sports, about 50-55% of the members in my local club are females. The rowing doesn't occur on the open ocean; it's usually a lake or river.

Although my club isn't local for you, at least you can get an idea about your local clubs through my local club's pictures and offerings.
posted by dlwr300 at 6:56 AM on January 24, 2017

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