N.C. ó They told me I would be sore the next day, but I didnít
completely believe them. Itís just kickball, right?
kickball during P.E. in middle school and did fine. Plus, Iím
a pretty active person. So when the ball rolled my way, I
kicked it ó hard ó and sprinted the bases.
I was sore for a few days.
are not afraid to eat dirt or slide into anything they
can," Ralph Johnson says. "We had somebody break a
collarbone last season; weíve had broken limbs. And they
still come back for more."
at Halifax Mall in downtown Raleigh, and Johnsonís kickball
team, Sir Walter, is having its regular Tuesday night
practice. Johnson, team co-captain, is also on the board for
the Stonewall Kickball league. A branch of national LGBT
nonprofit Stonewall Sports, the Raleigh league has grown from
150 players its first season, in 2013, to about 500 today ó
not including dogs, like the three black labs Sir Walter
considers its mascots. There are currently 24 teams in the
league, made up of all-male teams, all-female teams, co-ed
teams and both gay and non-gay players. Play is open to anyone
who enjoys the sport. It is one of many teams in the
the team members have not played kickball since grade school.
Yet, like kids on a playground, theyíre back at it to have
fun, to get exercise ó and just as importantly, make
friendships and the bonding experiences youíre having as an
adult playing kickball, I havenít had these since I was a
kid playing outside on jungle gyms," Johnson says.
"Thatís what this is all about."
Walter co-captain Robby Lawson agrees. Heís accustomed to
recognizing people on the street, just from living in Raleigh
the past 11 years. Now, though, he has something to talk
Tuesday we scrimmaged another team," Lawson says.
"We brought out cookies and Jello shots and balloons and
we went out to dinner afterwards." Itís not unusual,
either, for Stonewall teams to play each other, then go out
together to establishments that sponsor the league.
just the physical benefits, you also have the mental health
benefits," says Julia Buchanan, N.C. State University
coordinator of fitness and wellness outreach. The social
aspect reduces stress and improves moods, she says.
Physically, one practice and one game a week ó the usual for
league players ó is about halfway to the 150 minutes of
moderate intensity physical activity the American College of
Sports Medicine recommends, she says.
physical activity includes walking, housework or gardening ó
it doesnít have to involve a gym membership, Buchanan says.
"We promote anything that is going to be enjoyable."
players on Sir Walter, accordingly, come from a variety of
backgrounds in regard to sports.
was intimidated by group sports as a kid, so he didnít
participate; Lawson, however, has been a longtime tennis
Wellington, who plays for area The Kick Daddies team, has
participated in sports leagues before ó though he admits
that the last time he played kickball specifically was during
the Carter Administration.
played gay volleyball throughout the í90s in the National
Gay Volleyball Association and did a lot of travel," he
says. Yet Wellington had to go to Atlanta or Washington, D.C.,
or even as far as Chicago to find other volleyball teams.
scope in Raleigh ó and its inclusivity ó impressed him.
Though Wellington is on a different team, he stopped by after
a workout to practice with Sir Walter. His own squad is made
up of men 40 and older ó guys, like him, who have largely
welcoming atmosphere, Johnson says, has drawn in a variety of
people. "We have teams with husband and wife duos, girls
who donít want to be hit on by guys, guys that just want to
have fun," he says.
Johnson excuses himself to take a kick. Sometimes he makes it
around all three bases, and sometimes he doesnít make it to
first, but he seems just as happy either way. After all, thereís
no pressure to perform and thereís no pressure to score.
not afraid to mess up. If I goof up, itís a laugh,"
Johnson explains. "Itís fun, so why not? I think itís
reminiscent of childhood, but in a good way."