20110727-Abizzachbarker-0101Kickin’ it with Acadiana Sports Leagues
A new business in Lafayette offers young professionals a mix of recreational sports and social networking to ease the work week.
By Andrea Gallo

Doctors, police officers, lawyers, construction workers and every profession in between face off for Wednesday night kickball as part of one of Lafayette’s only businesses dedicated to both work and play, Acadiana Sports Leagues.

Zachary Barker, the president/owner of ASL, moved from Nashville, Tenn., to Lafayette in September and saw what it was missing — a “fun, competitive environment” to “bring young professionals together and break up the boredom of a week.” That led Barker, who was a recruitment/marketing director for Nashville Sports Leagues, to start his own.

ASL is two-fold, the first being the athletic, competitive aspect. Spring leagues include kickball, dodgeball, co-ed flag football and men’s flag football, while softball, basketball and soccer should start soon, Barker says. Along with sports, ASL also offers team trivia, which Barker says gets just as competitive, if not more, as the sports on the field.

What makes ASL unique, however, is its social interaction component. Athletes must be 18, but are recommended to be 21, because after the games, the teams rendez-vous at Legends, an ASL partner, where each gets a free bucket of beer.

Another unique part of ASL is its referee audit, where after every game, the players evaluate their referees and give comments and suggestions. Barker said some of the suggestions have shaped ASL to become more efficient, like a ball and strike clicker for kickball, which transformed and improved the game.

“It gives us, as athletes, the ability to voice our opinions,” says 36-year-old Brandon Beard, who plays kickball, dodge ball and flag football. “It becomes a learning experience for the referees, for the league and for us.”

Barker and his players agree that after college, it is difficult to meet people and to stay active and in shape. ASL, Barker says, provides that environment.

“People are used to being active and having that stimulation,” he says. “When you switch into the real world, there’s no structure for those things anymore…we create that outlet for people to go out and have that break.”

Barker says people can sign up for the league and pay a team fee that ranges from $295 to $595, or individuals can sign up as “free agents” and pay $65, where Barker generally puts together a team of them.

After moving from Houston to Lafayette, Reginald Curry II, 30, signed up as a “free agent” to play flag football after learning about ASL from Facebook. Curry plays co-ed and men’s flag football and says he wants to play basketball once the summer league starts.

Chris Byrd, 33, also signed up as a “free agent” for flag football and says he was impressed with “how we quickly molded into a team.”

“We all became friends…we were able to practice and get to know each other,” Byrd says.

In order to make co-ed football as fair as possible, Barker says, they devised specific rules that force teams to incorporate women if they want to win, like bonus points if women catch the football or score a touchdown.

Curry and Beard say they are amazed at the women’s competitiveness. Curry says it makes the game “a team effort,” and Beard, whose team won the co-ed flag football playoffs last season, says his team meets to strategize and draw plays.

Kickball “epitomizes what ASL is,” Barker says. Because it requires no special skill set, athletic people don’t have much of a leg up over more inexperienced people and it’s fun and competitive.

Liz Webb, 28, says this is her second season playing kickball and she looks forward to Wednesday night games and loves the competitiveness of her team and the people she’s met.

“It’s a casual, no-intimidation atmosphere for networking in such a non-pressured way,” she says.

Webb came in second place and Beard came in first place with Neal Bertrand in ASL’s all-star competition, where players had to get Facebook likes on their ASL photos to win. The social-media driven competition was a way for Barker to spread the word about ASL to people in the community.

Curry says Barker also awarded him the opportunity to be an extra in The Daisy Chain, a local film that needed football players.

ASL’s current challenge is finding facilities to play in, and Barker is always looking for fields and gyms and hoping to partner with a school or church. He says once ASL is running efficiently and he’s able to empower people in Lafayette to run the company, he hopes to expand to the Baton Rouge and New Orleans areas.

“It’s become a matter of learning how to become efficient,” he says. “Before we hire someone I want to make sure we’re in full capacity.”



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