WAKA Kickball - A Critical Assessment - Part One

Posted by Brandon |

Recently I started playing in the World Adult Kickball Association’s Fiesta Division league on Tuesday nights in Santa Barbara. We have played four games and are at our halfway point and, while I’ve had a good time meeting some new people and winning games (we’re 3-1), overall I would say that my kickball experience has been very underwhelming. The game itself is so flawed rules and organization-wise that I have a hard time taking it even remotely serious as a “sport”, even a recreational, just for fun one.

First of all, you should know that kickball is indeed exactly what you remember it to be. Basically, it’s baseball played with a big rubber ball and your feet. Kickball leagues are spreading like wildfire across the country. Over the past few years the sport has gone from something that only elementary kids play to a sport for college intramurals to a social-rec sport for adults. WAKA is the largest kickball organization with leagues in many major cities, a league in Iraq for troops, and a national championship tournament.

There are a few things that I like about WAKA, the first being that they accept individual players. I signed up and didn’t know anybody in the league so I was promptly placed on That’s What She Said, last season’s champions (hence the winning). They also do a nice job keeping people up-to-date on the goings on in the league with their website and newsletters and it’s nice to get free food and drink specials at the after game bar.

However, those things don’t make up for the other problems with the league. The first issue is basic, the field. We play at Santa Barbara Junior High on a big grass field. That’s fine, you don’t need much out of your field to play kickball other than lights. It would be nice to play on softball fields, but finding fields that have lights to rent is a tough task.

But there is no field preparation to speak of for us. The grass has gone uncut and is starting to get dangerously long, there are no base lines painted on the grass and the league only provides cheap, plastic flat bases and orange cones to mark the field. During a game, the cones get kicked or knocked over, the bases easily move when you hit them and are nearly invisible to the umpires, making close plays nearly impossible to get right. At the very least, the league should have those puffy breakaway bases that you stake down.

Speaking of umpires, each team provides two players to umpire other games. I’ll get to my problem with the rules in a second, but you should know that basically nobody knows the rules including the people who volunteer to ump. Combine not knowing the rules with poor visibility, booze (this is a social league after all) and no oversight and nobody to supervise and you can understand why there are problems. Even though this is supposed to be a social league, it still gets pretty competitive and there have been way too many disputes because of poor umping.

Our game on Tuesday was very exciting (or at least as exciting as can be given the rules). It was tied going into the bottom half of the last inning with us kicking to win. Two quick outs later, it looked bleak. But then one of our guys really got into one and somehow managed to end up on third base (a triple is almost unheard of). A walk later, one of our girls grounded to the pitcher, he fumbled the ball and then threw over to first. The throw was on time, but the first baseman fumbled it as well and it was clear to nearly everybody that she didn't get control by the time our kicker got there. She was safe. The runner at third scored and we won the game. But the first base ump called her out, even though she admitted she didn't see the play. The guy that was standing next to her who also seemed to be umping, said she was safe. The home plate ump wasn't paying any attention at all. About ten minutes of hard arguing back and forth by each side, the victory was finally given to us, why I don't know. It ruined an otherwise interesting game and I was more frustrated than happy to win.

Perhaps this would be a good point to go into some financials. In our league there are eight teams, each consist of 17 to 19 players. The cost to play is $66 per player bringing the team fee up to between $1122 to $1254. One of the teams is made up of Sharkeez employees (our post-game bar) so I think that they play for free but even with only seven paying teams, the Fiesta Division brings in $7,854 to $8,778.

They do give everybody a t-shirt and rent the field and throw two parties (which probably don't cost much because of the deal with the bar) but that should leave plenty leftover for a new set of bases and perhaps they could use $60 a night, $15 a game, and hire a couple umpires. These are not bank breaking ideas.

To be continued soon...