A new trend is keeping adult millennials — the generation of Americans born roughly between 1980 and 2000 — in good shape: for-profit businesses that run adult sports leagues. Popping up around the country, such businesses set up teams, arrange for referees, and coordinate practice and game sites. Customers sign up as part of a team or as free agents, with costs running anywhere from $50 per person to $90 per person for a season.
Eric Willin, COO of EZFacility, a sports business software provider in Woodbury, New York, says that such for-profit leagues are a natural fit for millennials. “Members of the millennial generation tend to have grown up with schedules packed with extracurricular sports,” he says. “They learned to develop social circles through the sports they played, and they miss the physical exercise plus socializing they got through the organized teams they played for. It’s no surprise that this group is enthusiastic about competing in adult recreation leagues, and no surprise that the supply is developing to meet the demand.”
Valley Sports Leagues, in Parkland, Pennsylvania, is one company that organizes adult leagues. Operated like nonprofit youth sports groups, it coordinates teams playing a range of sports, including men’s and women’s basketball, flag football, dodgeball, and kickball. Ahmed Attia, one of the co-founders of Valley Sports Leagues, told the online publication The Morning Call, “If we could help an individual switch lifestyles to a healthier one, that’s really what we try to target. It’s kind of hard to not show up when you have teammates counting on you.” The idea that customers will seek a structure that holds them accountable to teammates is what drives for-profit adult leagues.
In general, millennials are much more receptive to this idea than are Gen-Xers, members of the preceding generation. According to Sports Marketing Surveys USA, a research company that provides data for the Sports and Fitness Industry Association, millennials are twice as likely and their Generation X counterparts to participate in team sports as adults.