[ RECREATION ] BY JESSE HANUS
Rochester is unquestionably a sports town. The city has its own minor-league baseball, hockey, basketball, and lacrosse squads, and a host of amateur teams in a variety of other sports. And we're not all spectators: Rochester has a wealth of sports leagues for people looking to get in on the action. Sure, we've got your typical soccer, softball, bowling, and volleyball leagues. But the Greater Rochester area is also host to more off-beat organizations. Disc golf, table tennis, roller derby -- whatever tickles your sports and recreation fancy, you can probably find other Rochesterians gathering to give it a try. Below are just a few of the unique sports leagues in Rochester. If you'd like suggest other off-beat activities, leave your comments on this article at rochestercitynewspaper.com.
The Kickball League of Rochester started in the fall of 2007 with 45 people and just four teams. When play ended last season it had grown to 236 teams accommodating more than 5000 players.
Ryan Kimball, founder and owner of the league, decided to start an official group for the popular grade-school sport after "kicking around the idea for a while," he says.
Kimball says that league play closely resembles that of fourth-grade recess, except without the fear of being picked last (and with more beer). It's also a great way to enjoy the parks of Rochester, he says. The league usually plays at GeneseeValleyPark on Elmwood Avenue, on the seven dirt fields and 13 self-made grass fields, with games typically taking place every weekday.
The spring league runs April through June, summer is June through August, fall is August to October, and the league even plays in the winter, between December and February- the more snow the merrier, says Kimball. Players of all skill levels are welcome, but must be 21 and over. Memberships cost $15-$30 per person, based on the number of weeks you play. Also, $10 will be donated to a local charity for every team that registers.
Kimball has a strong interest in giving back to the community while simultaneously expanding social networks and keeping the league's "Let's have fun" rule a top priority. For more information, including registration and schedules, visit rockickball.net.
Much like regular golf, the object of disc golf is to complete each hole in the fewest tries. Each hole has a par, and the only difference is that instead of whacking a tiny ball into a slightly-less-tiny hole, this time you throw a disc into a big metal basket.
The Greater Rochester Disc Golf Club runs a league that begins in mid-April and runs for 20 weeks. Its members play Thursdays at 6 p.m. on the eight various courses throughout Rochester. It costs $25 to join the club, and you even get a t-shirt, towel, and backpack.
To get started, head to your local sporting-goods store and grab a disc for $8-$15. But don't just grab your average Frisbee; disc-golf discs are smaller in diameter and denser. There are more than 100 different kinds of discs, but the three most important are drivers, midrange, and putters. The difference is in the edge of the disc; drivers have a sharper edge for better wind penetration, while putters are blunter for improved control, but less distance.
Beginners are welcome to join, and while the sport is usually played as singles, this league plays doubles to increase speed of play and allow for a less stressful game. And with two teams to a hole, you often play with a more experienced team and have a chance to pick up a few tips.
"A lot of newer people have greatly improved through our club by joining the league," says Club President Ryan Hand. "It kind of allows the league also to be a developmental league."
Hand enjoys getting outside to play the game, and also the fact that it only takes about an hour to play 18 holes -- much faster than ball golf.
Rochester is developing into a disc-golf mecca. During the last week of July, the club will host the 2011 Amateur and Junior Disc Golf World Championships (check pdga.com), with an anticipated 600-700 golfers coming to town. Time to start practicing.
For more information about the club, including course maps and schedules, visit grdgc.org.
If you spent your childhood roller skating on the sidewalk, relive your youth with a little more intensity by joining the Roc City Roller Derby. This league has been around since 2008 and is recognized as an apprentice league by the Women's Flat Track Derby Association (wftda.com). It currently includes more than 100 women split over three home teams: the 5-H8-5's, Rotten Chesters, and Midtown Maulers.
Roller derby is played with two teams on a track. Each team has four blockers and one jammer. The jammer's job is to score points by passing opposing players, and the blockers try to stop the opposing jammer and help their own. The game is played in two 30-minute halves and is broken up into two-minute jams.
Colette Blais has been a member of the league for three years and plays as a blocker. "The opportunities for women to be in full-contact sports are pretty limited," she says. "To have an organized, full-contact sports team that's just women is completely different." Blais enjoys both the comeraderie and competitiveness the league has to offer.
Every fall, a boot camp is held for new players -- or as the seasoned derby players refer to them, "fresh meat." The boot camp includes several weeks of basic training in techniques like stops, falls, turns, and agility. Once a player passes the assessment to stay with the league, they go into the "Roc Quarry" and continue to practice and learn more advanced techniques until they are drafted into one of the home teams.
Dues cost $40 per month, and each player must also purchase her own gear, which Blaise estimates to be about $300 for items like skates, pads, and the signature fishnet stockings. For more information on tryouts, or for this season's schedule, visit rocderby.com.
When Mary Beth MacClaren's 9-year-old son starting playing ping-pong competitively, she could only sit and watch for so long. Now, she is secretary of the non-profit board and tournament director for Genesee Valley Table Tennis Club.
While MacClaren just plays for fun, there are many who take the game more seriously and have bigger plans with the sport. League member Mike Brown's goal is to play for the national paralympic team. "It's the best thing that's going for me," he says. Brown plays table tennis four times a week and is headed to Milwaukee in July to qualify for the national team.
Leagues run Monday through Wednesday at the RochesterSportsGarden (1460 East Henrietta Road), and there is aopen play on Saturdays from 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
Membership fee for Saturday play is at most $135 for the year, depending on when you join. Playing in a league runs $225 for September through April, or $60 for June through August.
Players range in age from 7 to 82. "It's really a sport that works for everybody," MacClaren says. "The more competitive players and a lot of the junior players play like what you see on ESPN."
So instead of turning on your TV, check out the sport locally and maybe you'll realize you can only sit and watch for so long. For more information visit gvttc.com.
If you see a group of friends throwing darts at your local bar, they might be playing for kicks. Or they might just be playing in the Genesee Valley Darts Association.
However, even the GVDA is careful not to take the sport too seriously. "We're really a social league with a dart problem," says Jon Karnisky, the current league vice president.
The GVDA has been supporting and promoting the sport of steel-tipped darts in the Greater Rochester area since the late 1970's. There are currently about 300 members and 31 teams in the league.
No matter your level of dart throwing expertise (or lack thereof), you can still join at one of the five different skill divisions, ranging from novice to expert. For serious players, the GVDA runs qualifiers for the American Dart Organization (adodarts.com) to send people to regional play, where they can then qualify for national play.
The best time for new members to join the GVDA is at the end of May, when the summer season begins. But you can also head to one of the various participating bars before that and meet the players.
President Dave DeBruyne has met a lot of friends through the league, and one particularly important acquaintance. "I met my wife playing darts," he says. "So that's score one for darts, I guess."
Dues for the summer season are only $5, and the whole year costs $30. For more information, including a current schedule of matches and participating bars, visit thegvda.org.