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Come Out And Play 

Adult sports leagues are a growing concern

After a hard day's work, there's nothing more relaxing than shedding the business garb, slipping into something comfortable, getting together with friends, and smacking someone upside the head with a rubber ball. Of course dodgeball - the game of adolescent violence and humiliation - is but one option available among the Queen City's many and ever-growing adult sports clubs. In a city where a standard complaint is the difficulty of meeting people outside of work and meat-market bars, these clubs provide a chance for young professionals to get out, socialize, and take part in a number of co-ed sports. InterLink, for one, was started in 1997 when Christian Crute and a few friends got together to play softball on Sunday afternoons. Today, about 11,000 people participate in InterLink's year-round, co-ed sports leagues. The average age for members is about 29, and about 55 percent of them are women, so guys, the odds are in your favor. The group offers softball, volleyball, soccer, basketball, flag football and, during the winter, an indoor dodgeball league.

If you're just looking for an excuse to get outside and have some fun without getting too physical or competitive, you may want to give the kickball league a try. The summer season starts in less than a month, and teams play at Park Road Park on Monday nights. Check out the website for details (see info below).

In addition to sports leagues, InterLink also organizes social events ranging from get-togethers after league play, seasonal parties, scavenger hunts and the Reel Deal, where folks gather at Freedom Park and watch movies on a 20-foot screen. The group also organizes outdoor road-trips that include river tubing, hiking, and white water rafting.

Charlotte Sports Connection is another popular club for people looking to combine sports, socializing and networking. Bryan Paschal started the club in 2000, and says they offer 12 different sports, including basketball, bowling, flag football, rock climbing, soccer, softball, ultimate frisbee and volleyball. The kickball league plays on Sundays at Park Road Park, and dodgeball is played indoors at Sports Warehouse. While all the leagues are co-ed, they also offer all-male softball, basketball, and indoor soccer leagues. Registration for the summer season is starting in about a month. See the website for details. The organization also co-sponsors several social events, including Center City After Five and the Gateway Village Series.

For seven years, Charlotte Outdoor Adventures (COA) has been offering a wide variety of recreational activities ranging from outdoor adventures and social events to team sports like soccer, softball, volleyball, flag football and ultimate frisbee. The group also organizes several trips each year to places like Yosemite and the Caribbean. Members range in ages from 21 to 59, with approximately 80 percent being single. Ann Howard, COA's office manager, stresses that they're not a singles club, but "just a fun group of people who like to stay active."

Finally, there's Charlotte Sports Center, a 75,000-square-foot indoor facility that offers indoor soccer, inline hockey, basketball, volleyball, flag football and a full service fitness center. Adult sports leagues run all year long, and are offered in a variety of skill divisions for men, women and coed teams.

Not Just For Kids Anymore

The games of dodgeball and kickball are making a comeback among adults in a big way. They're fun, relaxing (well, kind of) and take us back to the stress-free days of grade school. In fact, there are even national organizations for these no-longer-just-for-kids' pastimes. The World Adult Kickball Association (WAKA) started seven years ago in Washington, DC. Today, WAKA helps organize thousands of kickball games among its various divisions across the US and even in India. Kelly E. Maloney, the WAKA Southeast's regional manager, says that while WAKA doesn't have an active kickball league in the Charlotte area, they're working on it. If you're interested in getting a division started, check out: www.worldkickball.com.

Ground zero for all things dodgeball is the National Amateur Dodgeball Association (NADA) in Schaumburg, Ill. Bill DePue, NADA's vice president, is quick to point out that NADA was created in 1999, long before any silly movie came out starring that Ben Stiller guy. NADA held its first outdoor national championships in the summer of 2000, with mostly local participants. It now has over 2,000 members, with 30 states represented. For more information, check out: www.dodgeballusa.com

InterLink, www.interlink-charlotte.com, 704-375-0055

Charlotte Sports Connection, www.charlottesportsconnection.com, 704-583-1444

Charlotte Outdoor Adventures, http://choa.com/, 704-906-5479

Charlotte Sports Center, www.charlottesportscenter.com, 704-597-7311

If you have an idea for the Urban Explorer column, please send it to: sam.boykin@cln.com.

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