By Mark F. Gray, Special to the AFRO,

During their annual “Player Appreciation Day,” the Goombay coed spring kickball league took over Tucker Road sports park in Fort Washington for war games.  However, the only shots that were fired came from the teams who competed in skills competition during a family friendly afternoon and evening where social camaraderie trumped the winners and losers of the various events.

 There were team goals to win, but it was hard to keep focus with the scent of barbecue and the sounds of a live DJ in the air. These cosmopolitan weekend warriors competed in skills matches that would determine the best in the league in distance kicking, running the basepaths and mastery of the grills as well.

Goombay’s Spring Coed Kickball League featured a skills competition where players tried to outdistance their counterparts to win individual honors. (Courtesy Photo)

In 2014, Goombay founder Butch Goodwin added the skills competiton to Player Appreciation Day as an element to give these amateur athletes another level of competition.  While many outsiders remember kickball as a secondary school physical education activity, it is a fiercely competitive sport throughout leagues in D.C. and Prince George’s County, which has developed a cult following of fans.

“It has always been a fun day, not only for the players, but for their friends and families as well,” Goodwin told the AFRO. “But we get a lot of attention from people who are playing basketball and softball that will stick around to watch our games because they see how much fun we have.”

Goodwin’s innovative concept of physical fitness and socializing creates a unique atmosphere of community that is unmatched in local recreational sports.  While the teams compete fiercely for league championships, once the games are over they are one big happy family whose atmosphere becomes infectious. Player Appreciation Day is as much about the game as it is about the ancillary activities which make it more of an event.  

There is a family reunion quality to the day where each team brings a grill for their own cookout, while DJ EZ acts as more of a host, and not the typical public address announcer.  He engages the crowd by not only keeping the fans abreast of the action on the field, but he playfully adds to the day like a summer league basketball host. That element of entertainment contributes to a crowd which approaches the size of a Bowie State basketball game.  The mix of music, food and attractive people makes for an event where people who stumble upon it find themselves wanting to learn about the league itself.

“We started this about five years ago and it has become a day of free food, family activities and play,” Goodwin said.  “It’s another chance to get folks active.”

The battles were in the skills competitions that followed the games themselves in what has come to be known as, “I Declare War.” Those events feature individual base running, kick ball measured for distance, a tug of war and a cook off.   

Team Havoc swept the kick competition with Alejandro Q winning for the men with a strike of 138 feet, while Jenn hit for a distance of 132.  “Fastest Male” base runner was won by Nitemare’s DeQuan in 11.76 seconds, and the “Fastest Female” winner was Game Changers Mon’twaynise McLauchlin in 12.67.  The “Fastest Male 40” and over winner was Savage’s James “Turtle” Brown in 11.82 secs and Catch 22’s Angela (LACE) Lovelace at 14.57.  

In the all important team cook off battles: Food presentation was won by Catch 22 and the Main Dish category went to Da Crew. The “Best Side Dish,” was won by the Dream Crushers while the victors in the “Dessert” category was team Chix-n-Dix.