Kickin' it with the Syracuse Adult Kickball Association

Kickball has 1,000 grown-ups in sliding in the mud at Syracuse playing fields.

A hush falls over the team, the kicker steps up to the plate, there’s one kick and two steps before she’s down flat on her back in the mud.

Botched kicks are commonplace for the Syracuse Adult Kickball Association, SAKA, or the unofficial outlet for “unathletic people to get outdoors and stay in shape,” as Joanie Vecchiarelli, captain of the Recreational Hazards team calls it.

“The idea behind kickball — past and present — is to have fun first, win second."
- Official SAKA website

Just how many adults fit into this “unathletic” but active category is what makes the organization truly astonishing. With 118 teams and more than 1,000 members, kickball has become a dynamic sport in Syracuse.

“It just blew up. Honestly more so than I could have even imagined,” Andy Cherok, SAKA's cofounder, said with a modest chuckle.

Since starting up the association last winter as an indoor game with only eight teams, Cherok has worked with close friend and cofounder, Jim Collura to make SAKA all seasonal. The winter league plays indoors but will return after the winter season to its home field on Oswego Road in Liverpool to play the spring, summer, and fall seasons.

Each team consists of 11 to 13 players including at least three females, to comply with league rules. The team names are quirky and the players are often quirky enough to live up to them, making the games a blast for all involved. 80s athletic gear litters the kickball field and players can be found channeling their inner gymnast for a simple kick.

This fall season, team Grass Kickers’ roster was made up of members age 35 and up, had more losses than wins, and an incredible love for the game. The Kicktators on the other hand, boasted a young and energetic team with the ultimate kickball goal in their sights: the SAKA Championship. Age makes no difference to the level of fun for a team or the spectators. Although the younger teams may be more competitive, there’s little better than witnessing a 65-year-old player giving the game everything his all and taunting all post-college players from the other teams.

The 118 teams faced off each week for the 13-week season to compete for a place in the season championship game between the two most winning teams. The Kicktators triumphed over team Daileys, taking home medals, championship T-shirts and bragging rights.

“Fun followed closely by sportsmanship are the two main goals of our organization,” said Cherock. To him, kickball is about far more than winning or losing. And according to Vecchiarelli, the fans would agree that the missed catches, falls, and unique personalities of the players are what make the friendships possible and the game fun.

The official SAKA website even backs up the notion of fun in the face of loss: “The idea behind kickball — past and present — is to have fun first, win second. Win or lose, what's better than being out there having fun with friends?”

With only a handful of spectators at each game, the teams come up with unique ways of entertaining one another during play. Flailing their arms like angels in the outfield, yelling and cheering persistently and the funky “sporty” gear consisting of pink hats and knee socks, provides enough spunk to keep the level of fun high.

This winter, SAKA plans to expand past just their namesake sport. Dodgeball leagues will be offered this coming season and plans for future softball teams are also underway.

It is easy to see why SAKA has been so successful. From the fun and high energy to the lasting friendships, this organization has given adults the permission to play like children and to simply have a great time with friends.

Chris and Mike McKay, brothers and fellow teammates for the Kicktators say, “There is no better way to get your cardio in while building muscle and friendships.”

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