Health & Fitness

From bocce to bicycling, sport leagues offer social spin

Seamus Laffey is defended by Sean Dolan during an ultimate Frisbee game hosted by the Xoso Sport & Social League July 15 at Grant Park.
Seamus Laffey is defended by Sean Dolan during an ultimate Frisbee game hosted by the Xoso Sport & Social League July 15 at Grant Park.

For those new to the area or just looking for a new scene, outdoor sports teams and recreational groups have become the way of choice to meet like-minded, active people, especially those under age 35.

The leagues offer everything from bicycling to hot-air ballooning, filling parks and nature areas across the Sacramento area and holding out the promise of instant friends and even romantic partners.

Ultimate Frisbee player Andrew Bila, 27, who moved to Sacramento three years ago, said one of the first things he did upon arriving was seek out social athletic leagues, and started playing ultimate, volleyball and soccer, sometimes during the same season.

“I’m a big proponent of it,” he said of league sports. “It’s a great way to stay active, healthy and meet new people along the way.”

Wednesdays are ultimate Frisbee days for the Xoso Sport & Social League, a 21-and-older social athletic club in Sacramento. The leagues at Xoso are only slightly competitive, Bila said; the main goal is socialization.

Laura Ball, a Xoso marketing manager who has played bocce and softball, said the organization has more than 10,000 people sign up every year.

Last week, 14 ultimate players sprinted onto a yellow-green patch of Grant Park bathed in end-of-the-day sunlight, weaving seamlessly among each other in pursuit of a yellow neon target. A light breeze picked up as the disc flew slightly off course, grazing the fingertips of two opposing players and colliding with the grass.

“If you’ve just moved here or graduated from college, it’s a really great way to get plugged in with the community and meet some new people,” Ball said.

The teams do take one task very seriously: creating pun-derful team names such as Da’Boccery. Every team has its own “home bar” that it retreats to after games to knock back beers.

Across midtown, “footies” belonging to the Sacramento Australian Football Club hustle across Doc Oliver Baseball Field on Tuesdays and Thursdays in Land Park. A combination of football, rugby and soccer, the sport is more intense than Xoso’s milder offerings, and include bocce, kickball and corn hole. Its upper-level leagues can get more competitive.

“It’s a very active game. There’s a lot of running, there’s a lot of skills,” said coach Matt Bishop. “It obviously appeals to very active people, although you don’t have to be a super athlete to play.”

For those who just want to stay active, the outdoor gear behemoth Recreational Equipment Inc. organizes monthly hikes and picnics to Donner Summit and regional lakes and peaks, along with in-store classes on camping, kayaking and other outdoor activities.

A popular outing and date night option is the meteor shower hike in the Auburn recreational area, said REI’s outdoor programs manager, Jason Flesher.

“We sit under the stars from 10 to 11 at night and watch the meteor showers,” he said. “We’ll get you out there, but the night is yours.”

Then there’s the hot casual sport of the moment, bocce, increasingly seen wherever brewpubs and beards converge.

In the baseball diamond last week at Grant Park, Shawn Cox, 27, crouched and slowly wound back his right arm, tossing a small blue-green ball across the dirt in a bowling-like pose. The California State University, Sacramento, alumnus signed up for his first bocce league with his girlfriend, and the two Xoso players now organize bar outings after games.

“For me and my girlfriend,” he said, “it’s good for us to get out and do something instead of watch TV or play computer games.”

Ashiah Scharaga: 916-321-1083, @AshiahD

Social outdoor activity options

Sacramento Wheelmen Bicycling Club: Most members of the group are in their 40s or older, said part-time ride leader Sandy Yarrow. The nonprofit group makes several weekly bicycling trips, including its 8:30 a.m. Tuesday and Thursday breakfast rides for those with nontraditional work schedules.

Events: A complete calendar of monthly rides can be found here. Weekly ride schedules and leader contact information can be found here and start at various times and locations in Sacramento.

Membership cost: $20 a year, with discounted rates for signing up two to three years at a time.

Learn more:

Sacramento Hot Air Balloon Team: It flies after sunrise from spring through fall. Licensed hot air balloon pilot Sandra Bryant doesn’t charge for rides, and those who come out for three or more events become part of the crew.

Membership cost: Free

Learn more: The group’s Meetup site

Activities and Sports for the Awesomely Mediocre: This group is organized by all of its members, who can post and organize events in the Sacramento area from softball and volleyball to running and cycling with no membership fees. It celebrates outdoor community activities for people of all ages and skill levels and even has an upcoming hashing outing.

Membership cost: Free

Learn more: The group’s Meetup site

Buffalo Chips Running Club: This is one of the region’s oldest recreational running leagues. Nonmembers are welcome to check out a few of the club’s weekly runs before registering. “Running levels are all over the map,” runner Paul Spolidoro said. “There is something for every level of runner out there.”

Events: A weekly workout calendar as well as running routes can be viewed here. Tuesday’s speed workouts, which average 40 to 60 runners every week, are a good bet for meeting members and getting involved, Spolidoro said. The club also sponsors and hosts four running events every year, its most recent its 39th annual Fourth of July 5-mile run.

Membership cost: $25-$40 annually

Learn more:

Sacramento Sierra Club: The chapter organizes hiking, kayaking, skiing, biking and camping outings, with nonmembers welcome on most trips. Upcoming outings include a 36-mile backpacking hike on the Desolation Wilderness loop, a Mount Rose peak climb and camping at Manzanita Lake.

Events: A schedule of upcoming hikes and contact information for outing leaders can be found at here.

Membership cost: $39-$150 varying memberships, $1,000 lifetime membership

Learn more: 415-977-5528 or