With nearly 10,000 participants, CARD’s adult sports leagues keep Chico in shape, one game at a time
The competitive fires had Pleasant Valley High’s Varley Gymnasium glowing Sept. 22, as Shasta High School’s varsity girls volleyball team came to town to square off against its league rival for a match in front of a wildly enthusiastic crowd. Each team moved with fluid, well-practiced precision: Shasta players in matching black and purple and PV in white with blue.
At the same time, one good volleyball lob over at PV’s aptly named Small Gym the lights were also on, but at first glance the fire was barely a flicker. Inside, one of the Chico Area Recreational District’s co-ed volleyball leagues (the “B” league) was just about to begin its first match of the night. There was no fanfare; just one ref, one spectator and four players in a mish-mash of unmatched tank tops and T-shirts moving into position on each side of the net.
It was the two women and two men of Angie’s Poker club vs. the three women and one man of Incognito. Things started off a little shaky with a couple of serves flying into the net, but as they warmed up, the CARD leaguers began volleying very much like the high school team, and a loose but very spirited three-game match took off.
The adult sports leagues are the most popular component of CARD’s mission to provide recreational outlets to the Chico community. It’s a year-round enterprise with local businesses, or organized groups of friends and family sponsoring teams to the tune of nearly 10,000 participants a year. Even without a business sponsorship it’s a minimal investment, with a per-person fee ranging from approximately $15 to $45 depending on the sport. For the money you get to play an organized, refereed “season” of volleyball, softball, baseball, basketball or soccer at one of CARD’s well-managed facilities or one of the local borrowed junior high or high school gyms
Each league is split up according to skill level, and, while open to all Chico residents, the competition even in the lower-echelon leagues can be stiff. Jake Preston, a recreation supervisor at CARD and one of the organizers of the adult sports leagues attested to the level of skill in these community leagues, explaining that many “former Butte College players, former Chico State players and high school stars” regularly compete. He went on to point to the health benefits of competitive sports to the community as being “huge,” citing CARD’s overall efforts at “giving people the opportunity to play a sport, no matter what the age.”
Thursday night’s volleyball match was pretty competitive, but both teams seemed more jazzed by the handful of thrilling dives and volleys that led to the ball careening way out of bounds, than by any points won. Effort and creativity received the bulk of laughs and high fives, especially by the motley crew of Angie’s Poker Club, one of eight CARD teams sponsored by club owner Angie Harris. She takes part too, playing on most of the softball, volleyball and basketball teams she sponsors year-round. In fact, after this night’s hour-long match is over, Harris takes off across town to the Community Park Field House to play volleyball again—in the “D” coed “recreational” league (the rec leagues, as opposed to the competitive ones, have added “guy rules,” such as limiting spiking and requiring men to serve underhand only).
Out of breath after her match, a spirited Harris was all smiles as she sang the praises of the CARD program: “It’s great exercise and you get to know a lot of people. … I can’t say enough about it. I can’t do enough for it.”
Harris began participating without ever having played an organized sport, and joked that “it was kind of like the Bad News Bears out there” on the softball field that first time 18 years ago. Now it’s five nights a week of competition. When asked how her teams are doing in the standings, Harris just laughs off the question. “We don’t care.” She says. “We’re here for the exercise.”
Over in the “big gym,” feeding off the energy of the home crowd, PV prevailed three games to one and improved to 3-0 in league standings. And just for the record, in the Small Gym, CARD’s Incognito came up big, taking the last two of the night’s three games.