Sunday, November 15, 2015 –
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The ball bounced slightly as it made its way toward Staff Sgt. Gretta Smith who at just the right time connects with her right foot, sending it sailing through the air. Immediately, she's off, sprinting her way to first base only to be denied by a teammate who handily catches the ball. With that, everyone on the team breaks out in smiles and laughter and the next player moves into kicking position.
The team was expecting to play another team at Clanton Park in Charlotte, N.C., Nov. 15, but at the last minute the opposing team forfeited, and rather than simply pack up and go home, they turned the occasion into an impromptu practice session, all with a contagious display of enthusiasm.
Smith, an executive administrative assistant with the 108th Training Command (Initial Entry Training) sees the time she spends playing kickball with her teammates as an opportunity to reach out to others in in her community as a citizen as well as as a Soldier.
“This is where you work. This is where you live. You should be involved in where you are,” said Smith, “Besides keeping you in shape it broadens your horizons as far as meeting new people.”
George Howard is the founder of the all-female kickball league known as “Ladies under the Light.” He explained the league is part of a newly formed franchise of the Goombay Adventurers, an organization that was originally founded in Washington, D.C. In 1988 to give urban professionals a chance to network with others in new or non-traditional outdoor activities with the additional goals of enhancing its participants self confidence, strength, teamwork and overall health, all benefits which have led to real, life-changing events for some.
“We are a sports and adventure league and we mainly set up events to keep us outdoors, primarily for urban professionals. We have kickball, volleyball, dodgeball, [activities] designed to keep urban professionals doing something other than the norm,” said Howard, “In the Washington, D.C., area, I've seen some miraculous things happen. I've seen marriages happen, I've seen great networking opportunities happen and I've seen people get jobs.”
The Charlotte, North Carolina, franchise is relatively new, having been formed in 2014 and despite being new, they are seeing steady growth and feature both all-female and co-ed teams.
“Last year, which was our first year we had roughly around 80 people show up,” said Howard, “Throughout the three seasons we drew around 300 people.”
Smith heard about the “Ladies under the Lights” kickball league from her co-worker, Carlisha Martin, a Child Youth and School Services (CYSS) specialist in her unit. She started with the league in September and she has no intention of stopping anytime soon.
“I've been asked to do the co-ed league so I think I'm going to follow up with it in the Spring,” said Smith.
Smith also wants to encourage others to give kickball a try, whether its with the all female or the co-ed leagues by sharing what else she has found while playing a fun and off the beaten path sport.
“Come out and have a lot of fun. Its not just a team, we get together as a family afterwards,” said Smith, “If you want an additional part to your family, come out and join the team.”