Co-Ed Sports Create Social Synergy
Story and photos by Dave Droschak
Camaraderie on the field, being able to select your level of commitment, and maybe hoisting a few after the game are part of the popularity of co-ed sports across the Triangle.
“The social aspect is huge in our co-ed programs,” said Ted Jeffcoate, sports program coordinator for the Town of Cary Parks, Recreation & Cultural Resources. “The competitive side of it is very much secondary to getting out and spending time, just like you would spend time at a bar or any other recreational activity with a diverse group.”
Jeffcoate has been in his position with the Town of Cary for nine years and has seen the popularity of co-ed sports even transition recently into such activities as indoor and beach volleyball.
“It’s just like softball – all you need is a ball and four or five people who want to play,” he said. “It’s super easy and super fun – and low pressure.”
Co-ed sports remain a viable option in the world of recreational activities because, to be honest, not much skill is required to have some clean, wholesome fun with your partner or friends.
“Softball is relatively easy if you don’t have a ton of experience,” Jeffcoate said. “My wife is not athletic, but she enjoys getting out and spending time with people. Golf is impossible if you don’t know how to golf; even basketball can be tough for people who haven’t played. But slow-pitch softball is sort of designed to carter to all different skill levels. It’s not very expensive, and you don’t need a lot of equipment. And it’s already popular, so there are a lot of opportunities as opposed to trying something new and different that might be up-and-coming.”
Jason Simpson, athletic programs manager for the City of Raleigh Parks, Recreational & Cultural Resources Department, is in charge of 26 co-ed softball teams and 17 co-ed kickball squads, totaling more than 650 adults. Teams are made up of about 15 players, with males and females alternating in the batting order, with different sized balls used when each of the sexes settles into the batter’s box.
“I would say it’s definitely popular, and something that is not going away anytime soon,” he said. “Why? I think because it’s just different. It’s an opportunity for men and women to get out on the field at the same time and spend time together and work as a team. It is a bonding experience for a lot of folks. There is plenty of opportunity to play in a men’s open league or in a men’s church league, but co-ed is different. That’s attractive to many people.”
It’s also inexpensive (a t-shirt is all that is really required), and with underhanded slow pitch it’s a game geared toward all skill levels. Add in a major social component for couples and singles looking to meet people in a relaxed setting, and it’s a hit.
“What happens is a lot of times we get married couples out there, and it’s an opportunity for them to do something together,” Simpson said. “Even though it may be just an hour or an hour and a half, it is quality time together – and it is so much fun.”