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LifestyleRecreation

Long Island sports leagues help restart social scene 

LI Kick owner Sal Farruggia spoke to Newsday Saturday about what it's been like to be back out playing sports after they were shut down for months due to the pandemic. Credit: Randee Daddona

Coming back from quarantine hasn’t been easy but Long Islanders are finding their way. Many local millennials are reconnecting through recreational sports leagues like LI-Kick, which currently offers volleyball, kickball, soccer, dodgeball and bowling in a coed social setting.

"It’s a community that both plays and parties together," says owner/operator Sal Farruggia, 34, of Glen Cove. "You might play with someone in a volleyball league on Wednesday, they'll invite you to join their kickball team for Thursday and then on Friday you could hang out somewhere outside the league."

PLAYING POST-QUARANTINE

After the spring-early summer lockdown, the games resumed in mid-July when LI-Kick member Justin Mazza, 28, of Albertson took the initiative to captain his own kickball team, the Royal Bulldogs.

"Everyone was itching to get back. We all missed the competitiveness as well as the friendly camaraderie among the players," he says. "During quarantine, it felt weird not having something scheduled every Monday and Wednesday. A huge thing in this pandemic is getting out of the house. I work from home and sometimes you just need to get away from screens."

However, Mazza says the benefits even continue off the field.

"It’s all about the outside stuff. We always have an event going on," he adds. "If you want to go to dinner, there’s always someone who will join you."

When JoAnne Palmieri, 31, of Bay Shore found herself going through a bit of life change and was seeking something new, she joined a kickball team.

"All my friends were starting to get engaged and married. I was at a different stage looking to meet single people and do something to have a social life," she says. "It's hard to meet people especially now in a COVID world. There’s no going out to the bars and mingling with friends anymore. You have to look for different ways of keeping a social calendar especially in your 30s."

SAFE STEPS

At the time COVID hit, Tyler Strauss, 26, moved from Manhattan to his parents’ house in East Northport and was seeking a social outlet. This past summer his friend invited him to play in a volleyball league and now he participates in kickball and soccer leagues as well.

"During the lockdown, all I did was work. Joining these leagues was a nice way to step back into the real world," he says. "This felt like a little bit of a safe step. Whenever we play everyone spreads out, plus we all wear masks to and from the field." According to state guidelines, players aren't required to wear masks during physical activity, but can should they choose — except for when bowling, during which masks must be worn at all times.

Liz Boylan, 27, of Rockville Centre considers herself to have a "timid social demeanor," but playing in LI-Kick’s volleyball and kickball leagues changed that.

"Playing in the leagues has kept my endorphins up post-quarantine and brought a positive feeling back into my life. It gave me something to look forward to during the week," she says. "I love being able to go home after work, put on my sports gear and hit the road. Now I just have to remember my mask along with my cleats."

LI-KICK

WHEN/WHERE Held at various locations (check website for details)

INFO 516-500-1386, li-kick.com

REGISTRATION Ranges $60-$130

GOING VIRTUAL

When the pandemic hit last spring, LI-Kick was faced with a bit of an issue.

“I had 1,000 people playing on March 9 and by March 10, it went to zero,” says owner/operator Sal Farruggia. “Then I found a way to keep people together when they were supposed to be apart.”

In order reconnect his league members, Farruggia and his friend DJ Mike Battaglia, 36, of Oyster Bay turned to virtual programming. The duo quickly developed a new division of LI-Kick called Game Night Social offering games like Bingo, pub trivia, The Price is Right and a Game Show Showcase. The new venture became so popular they started hosting birthday parties, corporate events, fundraisers, bachelorette parties and college events.

“Some people’s birthdays have been ruined by coronavirus, they have no plans and they don’t know how to celebrate their big day,” says Farruggia. “We come in and they can invite all their friends from across the country. No one has to drive anywhere so attendance is great. Everybody wins.”

For more information, visit: gamenight.social or call 516-500-1386. - DAVID J. CRIBLEZ

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