Get on the Team: Best Summer Leagues in the City

By Heather Holland on July 1, 2014 7:07am 

NEW YORK CITY — You don’t have to be athletic to join a league this summer.

Whether your passion is kicking a ball outdoors or singing your heart out inside a dark bar, there are plenty of groups in the city that share your interest and regularly meet to enjoy it together.

“You’re going to make 50 new friends right off the bat,” said Cullen Shaw, founder of Ultimate Rec, which runs NYC Karaoke league and NYC Trivia league.

“Singing together goes a longer way than drinking together."

While soccer and pool leagues tend to be more competitive, there are others like bocce and karaoke that are mostly about having a drink after work, meeting new people and having fun.

DNAinfo New York has compiled a list of leagues in the city for those who want to hone their skills, play competitively or just enjoy a beer with teammates afterwards.

Karaoke League
Price per person: $50 for the 8-week season.
Sign-up deadline: July 16.
Meet-up locations: Iggy’s on the Upper East Side and Karaoke Cave in the East Village.
Highlight: A team member once made a fake heart and ate it during a performance.

Each week, teams of six to eight members prepare three songs within a given theme that's assigned the week before. Then they perform, often in costume. Themes include '80s, country, hip-hop, musicals and more, said Cullen Shaw, founder of the league that's in its 15th season.

“We have hundreds of New Yorkers join, ranging from aspiring stand-up comedians to lawyers, doctors — people who love hanging out,” said Shaw. “It’s for someone who can put on a wig and sing ACDC’s 'Thunderstruck' like a monster.”

The host and the other teams in attendance will rate each performance on a 10-point scale based on showmanship and sound quality.

At the end of the season, the league drops each team’s highest and lowest scores. Trophies are given out to the winners, and others have a chance to be chosen for different superlatives, including MVP, "most memorable moment" and "the voice of an angel."

Bocce League
Price per person: $49-$59 for a seven- to eight-week season. The fee includes a team shirt, equipment and occasional free drinks.
Sign-up deadline: July 8
Meet-up locations: Parks and indoor courts in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Astoria.
Highlight: Women make up 65 percent of the league.

Toss a bocce ball — and toss back some beers — at the laid-back NYC Bocce league.

“It’s basically a young-to-middle-aged bocce league with a couple hundred people playing at once,” said Giovanni Marcantoni, founder of NYC Bocce. “Our league is very women-friendly. We tend to cater to women, which means nicer shirts and nicer restaurants for after the game.”

Members will always meet at the same place at the same time during the entire seven to eight-week season. Locations include Hudson River Park and Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Teams of five to 12 members usually meet from 6:45 to 7:30 p.m. Then they go out for a drink. The league often offers a free pitcher for each team as an incentive to socialize after the game.

Soccer League
Price per person:
$125 per six-week season, which includes a team shirt and equipment.
Sign-up deadline: For outdoor soccer leagues, the deadline is July 2, while for indoor soccer leagues, the deadline is July 14.
Meet-up locations: Baruch Field on the Lower East Side.
Highlight: NYC Social hires professional referees for every soccer game.

NYC Social operates leagues in a variety of sports including flag football, bowling and kickball, but outdoor soccer is especially popular during the summer — especially this year, with the World Cup well underway, said Liz Newman, a spokeswoman for NYC Social.

“There are intramural and varsity teams, so even if you’ve never played before, it’s not a problem,” said Newman. “It’s more competitive than cornhole, but it's still casually competitive.”

The leagues are made up of eight to 16 teams, and each team will meet at the park or indoor space from 6 to 10 p.m. to play against another team. There are six games and then a playoff game for a chance to play in the championship.

Game coordinators and professional referees will be on hand at every game to help new players learn the rules.

At the end of each game, teams are invited to get to know each other better by going to a nearby sponsor bar, which offers specials for NYC Social members, Newman said.

Pool League
Price per person:
$8 per night for an 11-to-15-week season
Sign-up deadline: Anytime
Meet-up locations: Local bars and billiard halls in Queens, Brooklyn and The Bronx.
Highlight: Five winning teams get a free trip to Las Vegas for nationals each year.

The Brooklyn-Queens American Pool Association League runs about 200 teams, which meet in various bars and billiard halls in the city, including in Williamsburg, Park Slope, Bay Ridge and Astoria.

Scheduling is flexible because members have the freedom to arrange when and where they’ll meet. Each member pays $8 per night, instead of a flat rate at the start of the season, said Ross Banfield, who has been the league operator for 12 years.

Each team of eight plays one team each week and playoffs take place in the last few weeks of the season.

Seasoned players and rookies are put on the same teams so that team members can learn from each other. Women make up about 35 percent of the league, Banfield said.

“Every team has a limit on the amount of advanced players on their team,” said Banfield. “It makes it all fair. Anyone will have a great time meeting all kinds of crazy people at bars and educating the world on what pool is all about.”

The league gives out $90,000 worth of prizes each year, including cue sticks, trophies, T-shirts and cash. The league holds final tournaments at the end of the year, and the top five teams in the league get a free trip to Las Vegas for the national team championship. The best of the rest of the league will play in another final tournament for a $5,000 cash prize.

“Prizes and trophies are just the bonus or the gravy extra,” Banfield said. “The league is really just a reason to do something on Tuesdays and blow off some steam.”

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