That dating in New York is hard comes as no surprise to anyone. From myths of the “Friend Zone” with longtime acquaintances to the just plain godawful date stories we hear every day, it’s clear that the exhaustion of dating both friends and strangers is real. Even the notorious dating apps, which somehow make you feel like you don’t have to leave your house in order to connect with a human being, can ultimately prove just as disappointing once you meet in person.
Hey but wait, before you swear off dating entirely: Have you tried kickball?
We don’t mean just any kickball with anybody, of course. No, we’re talking about the kind of alcohol-infused (think post-game flip cup) kickball that comes with signing up for a social sports league. Like the whisper-quiet Maytag dishwasher, a well-curated sports league makes it so you don’t even realize you’re meeting new people!
NYC Social has been around in New York for a while and offers a variety of different sports year round, but kickball stands out to us as the Brooklyn choice — just rescuing that slogan from Budweiser’s gnarled, macrobrew fingers, btw — because it’s scrappier, less contact-heavy and hearkens back to a bygone era of stoop kids who, in the absence of iPhones and Facebook and dating apps, learned to make their own fun.
Now, this isn’t to suggest that kickball’s sole purpose is to hook up. There are plenty of reasons to kick a ball around a diamond — personal fitness, stress relief, Recess nostalgia, a chance to play outside before we all freeze our tuchuses off this winter… those are the obvious ones. But you already knew all about that, so we’re telling you about the part you might not have considered: you might just find your future spouse.
In fact, we chatted with a couple of NYC Social success stories who are living proof that you can accidentally punch someone in the face with a ball and still get their number afterward. Evan Parness, 34, and Ryan Carney, 26, are married and happily cuffed, respectively. Both these dudes met their partners on the court; one even proposed on it.
Their stories made it amply clear that kickball is better than a dating app. Here’s why:
You’re guaranteed a weekly “date”
Both Parness and Carney pointed out the same aspect they appreciate most about a social sports league: you get more than one shot at impressing the crush.
“It’s kind of different than just spotting someone at the bar, because you see them next week. And the week after, and the week after,” Parness, who lives in Astoria and in 2012 proposed to his girlfriend on the kickball court, told us.
“It’s a guarantee you’re gonna see them,” Carney, of the Upper West Side, agreed. “You know you’re gonna run into them again, which is way better compared to a sidebar on your screen.”
Barring the odd case in which someone drops out of the league entirely, everyone on your team has a standing appointment to be in a certain place at a certain time, once a week. Sure, each game starts out as more of a group hang than a low-key date, but everyone goes to the bar together (for the obligatory flip cup game) afterwards, so you can enjoy some one-on-one time with a fellow player over drinks.
Carney did just that, last year. He met his girlfriend in dodgeball… after accidentally giving her a black eye.
“I met my girlfriend when I hit her in the face by accident. We went to the bar for flip cup afterwards, and I just bought her a shot and we started talking and that was 10 months ago.”
Not all stories are movie meet-cutes, and for your sake we’re hoping nobody gets a black eye in yours. But the point is, it’s far easier to sow the seeds of compatibility when you know you’ve got more than one opportunity to reach out, to create memories, to make up for a mistake, or just to get drunk on a weeknight with a group of like-minded strangers who actually want to talk to each other.
There’s a better chance you’ll meet your “unicorn”
Apps like Tinder and Bumble epitomize the boutique dating experience; you can easily adjust the settings to narrow your search by age, distance and sex, creating at least a comfortable, if illusory, semblance of control over your love life. With survey-based apps like OkCupid, you can take it one step further and attempt to align religious lifestyles and diets. All of this is understandable, practical even.
But the pitfall of single-tap blinders is that they close you off to the possibility of meeting your unicorn. You know, the person that falls outside of your usual “type” but ends up being the one to sweep you off your feet? Maybe it’s an unexpected age difference, or someone who lives out in forsworn Astoria. Heck, maybe it’s a bro who works on Wall Street.
“I never expected to have close friends who worked in banking,” Parness told us. “That always seemed like people’d be pretty boring. But this one guy on my current team is in banking, and he’s such a goof, he’s the most fun to hang out with. But he shows up with his suit on.”
Besides, whatever criteria you hold as “dealbreakers” are usually surface-level. Kickball gives you the chance to connect over something other than zip codes, movie tastes and careers.
“You play kickball and go to the bar,” Lindsay Honorof, a rep for NYC Social, explained.”It’s a non-judgmental environment.”
You’re going to make friends, who have friends, who have friends
There are four ways to sign up for the kickball league: as a team of 15 or more, as a small group with 2-14 people, as a single player, or as a corporate team. If you sign up as an individual, you’ll get placed on a team of individuals. If you sign up as a small group, you’ll be teamed up with one or more small group in order to form a full team — literally #squadgoals.
Simply put, NYC Social is out to make sure you’re having a good time and making new friends. And remember, those friends have friends. And those friends have friends.
“The majority of players are return or friends of players.” Honorof told us. “I had a team once playing kickball, and no one knew each other at all. And they’ve [since] become best friends. They join every season as a whole team.”
Just as house parties feel superior to bar scenes when it comes to meeting new people because there’s a sense of vetted-ness on the guestlist, NYC Social’s word-of-mouth recruitment system draws in a wide swath of diverse acquaintances from every borough, income bracket and field of interest.
So hey, give kickball a try this year. It could be the first day of the rest of your last relationship. FWIW, this season’s kickball league is even sexier than usual: the games, which are played in McCarren Park, are glow-in-the-dark. The ball glows, the bases glow, and so do you! Williamsburg, you’re okay.
If you’re ready to sign up, find out more about the season here to make sure the dates and deets work for you. Prices vary based on the size of the group, but it’s generally between $75-90 per person, which gets you league t-shirts, all the equipment you need, and weekly pitcher coupons.
Registration is open through September 20, so don’t wait too long! Form a team, register with a small group or just join alone and see what happens. As we’ve learned the worst that can happen is you get a black eye, and even that’ll probably lead to a date.