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Discover Your Inner Athlete in an Adult Sports League

Want to Get Fit? Get Back in the Game!
  -- By Jason Anderson and Nicole Nichols, Certified Fitness Professionals
Sports fans around the world become glued to their TV sets during certain times of year. They cheer on their teams and live vicariously through amazing athletes who are playing their hearts out in games, tournaments and playoffs.

But do you ever think about taking to the court, hardwood, or diamond to participate in a team sport yourself instead of watching it on TV or going through the motions on your Wii Fit? If you ever played a team sport, you know how much you miss it once you stop playing. If you never played sports, it's not too late to join a team. Adult sports leagues can help former athletes relive their glory days and hopeful athletes get a taste of team spirit.

Here are four good reasons to join an adult sports league even if you don't consider yourself an athlete.

Reason #1: Break out of your mundane exercise routine.
Do you get tired of doing the same workout over and over again? Has the treadmill become the dreadmill? Break free! Sports like basketball, tennis, flag football and soccer offer an amazing cardio (aerobic) workout that can become a great addition or supplement to your current workouts. When you play a sport, you'll have so much fun that you won't think of your games or matches as exercise. And because you have a sport to play, you'll be inspired to get in better shape, which gives you more purpose and motivation to stick to a regular fitness routine. It's a win-win!

Reason #2: Learn (or hone) a new skill.
Is there a sport that you have always wanted to play but just never learned? Is your tennis serve getting rusty but practicing always ends up at the bottom of your to-do list? Whether it's golf, volleyball or bowling that interests you, joining a league will help you learn a new sport that you can enjoy for years to come. When you find an activity that you enjoy, your chances of sticking with it are higher, especially as you sharpen your skills and see yourself improving over time. Practice makes perfect!

Reason #3: Develop some new friendships.
Joining a recreational sports league is a great way to meet new people and spark new friendships. You'll find yourself in the company of others with whom you'll have at least one common interest—talk about an icebreaker! By playing with them once or twice a week, you are bound to develop some good relationships. If you're new in town or simply like to meet people, sports leagues are a fun and out-of-the-box way to expand your social network.

Reason #4: Rekindle a love of sports.
Many people who played sports in high school or college experience a void when the thrill of practice and competition is gone. So many of us have fond memories of the intense practices, championship games, winning shots and camaraderie of our teammates, but sports aren't just for kids. Don't give up on your love of the game just because you graduated or entered the working world! Joining an adult league can bring back some of that excitement and friendly competition that you loved so much.

Get fit, have fun, make friends—there are plenty of reasons to join a league. But how do you start? Here are some answers to the most common questions people have when they think about joining an adult sports league.

What's the difference between competitive and recreational leagues?
This is an important question. Before you join a team or league, find out if it's competitive or recreational. If the league is competitive, the participants are in it to win it! Many of them have years of experience in their sports and have competed at high levels, including the collegiate level. Winning will be very important and you can expect the participants to have excellent skills and serious attitudes. If you have experience and miss the serious competition, join up. If you are new to a sport or are just looking to have fun, competitive leagues might not be right for you. The recreational leagues will help you get your feet wet if you're new to the sports league, just getting back into it, or if you're a beginner to the sport.

How do I find an adult sports league?
You'll find information about leagues at your local YMCA, city recreation center, and other fitness centers. Call the centers near you, look for flyers or bulletin boards, or simply ask around! Chances are that your friends or co-workers might belong to a league or know someone who does. You can also find them in places like churches, civic centers, and maybe even your workplace! As companies are looking to improve the health of their employees, many are encouraging group sports and leagues, so check with your human resources manager. Many companies even sponsor teams.

What should I expect?
Every league is different. Most competitive leagues will have at least one practice each week along with one game; recreational leagues usually play once a week. Most teams don't wear formal uniforms, but some pitch in to buy custom T-shirts or jerseys. Dress in comfortable clothes and appropriate footwear for your sport, and if you're playing outdoors, check the weather and plan accordingly. You can usually expect to pay to play each season. The costs of joining a league will vary by location, sport, length of the season, number of games, equipment rental (if needed), and more. These fees usually cover the cost of the facility space that hosts the games and fees for referees and or other scorekeepers. Some locations offer water coolers or fountains, but bring your own water bottle and a towel just in case. If you want more details, talk to the league director.

It might not be easy for you to jump right in a join a team or league when you don't know anyone there, but just remember that everyone was "the new guy" at some point, too. If you still feel intimidated, ask a friend to join you . You'll ease your nerves and catch up with someone you care about at the same time.

Adult leagues really are a blast for athletes of all levels. The only way to get the full experience is to try it yourself! Release your inner athlete and get out there and play!