In less than a summer, two Ole Miss alumni have given locals a new pastime option.
The Oxford Kickball Squad hosted their bi-weekly kickball tournament Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. in Pat Lamar Park, regardless of the rain.
Organizers Chaning Green and Blake Summers have been hosting the event since its inception over a month ago in hopes of offering a healthy, active outlet for every Oxford resident.
The pair of Ole Miss alumni first organized the group after witnessing the success local LGBTQ+ organization OutOxford had with their “Fun in the Sun” celebration in April.
“We spent that day playing outside and I was like ‘Hey, I want to do that again, but I want to play kickball,’” Green said. “Blake was like ‘Make a Facebook event and I’ll share it.’“
They spread the word and their first game caught the interest of about 15 participants through social media and their numbers have remained steady. Social media isn’t the only way they’ve been spreading the word, though.
“The last time we played, Blake yelled at two people who were just standing beside us and went like ‘Come play kickball with us’ and they did,” Green said.
They credit their success to their absence of other commitments such as scheduled practices or membership fees.
“It’s just us having a good time and enjoying spending time together doing something outside and active,” Green said. “We’re not even seriously keeping score.”
There are no age, weight or height requirements either.
“Our youngest was a 2-year-old boy the first game,” Green said.
“If you can still kick it, you can still kick it…literally,” Summers added.
Because the fun is not limited to a certain age range or group, Summers believes it opens up the experience to become something more than just kickball.
“It’s networking,” Summers said. “You might find someone that you wouldn’t normally encounter.”
The opportunity for community engagement is what attracted Oxford resident and kickballer, Meaghin Burke. She brings her son 2-year-old, Bremen, along to run the bases with her in the games.
“He has a blast,” Burke said. “I am always looking for fun, outdoor activities that I can participate in with my son, and this fits the bill perfectly.”
Though she says Bremen is not an official member of the team, he still gets a few practice kicks in with his young friends that he has made from the group.
Social environments like the one Green and Summers have provided become a place to engage with people they have never met before.
“This free, family-friendly event engenders communication, connection, and joy,” Burke said. “Those are some pretty good benefits.”
Fellow kickballer Betsy Chapman can agree. She saw the kickball squad as a way to further expand Oxford’s strong sense of community and knew she had to be a part of it.
“When I heard about it, I was so excited,” Chapman said. “I kind of got that same feeling of being of being a little kid running out to the playground for recess – pure euphoria.”
Community is important to Chapman’s line of work as Director of the Oxford Community Market. She sees how important it is to invest time and resources into building a sense of connection between local residents.
“The world feels kind of crazy and disconnected right now. I think it’s more important than ever to build community, make personal connections and just have fun,” Chapman said. “Community connections are utterly essential to one’s overall sense of well being and quality of life.”
The game itself cost next to nothing for the two organizers to provide.
“It’s funny how it’s so cheap to do something like this,” Summers said. “It probably cost me $4 in materials to bring all of these people together.”
Green and Burke hope to keep the group going for as long as they can with games every other Wednesday afternoon in Pat Lamar Park.
“We just want to keep giving the opportunity to come out and have a good time with us,” Green said.