Copyright 2014 Charleston Newspapers
Charleston Daily Mail (West Virginia)
Former West Virginia University football player John Pennington, fondly known to Mountaineer fans for catching the 28-yard pass in the final minute of the first half of the 2003 Backyard Brawl against Pitt, is giving back to the place where he was born and raised.
After returning home to Charleston years after his Mountaineer highlights, he came to believe the younger generation was losing interest in the city, claiming they didn't have anything in which to participate.
Pennington started tossing around an idea with a friend about creating a group that would give people a place to socialize and network with others in the area - that's when The Athletic and Social League LLC was born.
This co-ed sports league provides various athletic activities to people in Charleston to help promote healthy competition, encourage people to get outside and give back to the community.
Pennington said the idea behind the league is for anyone who is interested to come out and have fun to participate - no experience necessary.
"There's some good players (here), but we want to keep it a league that anyone can play in. You don't have to be a great athlete to go out and have fun and compete, he said. "We're extremely laid back and we just want to help people and give them something fun to do.
His current job as wide receivers coach, strength and conditioning coordinator and special teams coordinator at Concord University keeps him busy, but he still makes time to participate in events that the sports league puts on.
Pennington said the league is family-friendly and is a great way for people that are new to the area to develop friendships.
"It's a place where you make new friends and there is a lot of people in the league that are new to Charleston. It rekindles relationships from high school and college and you meet and network with people, he said.
Program Director Ian Humphrey said the league has become very successful since it was founded last year.
"It's expanded big time. Last year we started out with volleyball and flag football, he said adding that they now offer sports such as bowling, ultimate Frisbee and cornhole. "I think people should get involved because other big cities like Orlando and Washington, D.C., have something like this.
Pennington estimates about 260 people participate in the kickball league, 50 people participate in the football league and 90 people participate in the volleyball league. This year, he said the group has donated to Walking Miracles, a local nonprofit organization that helps young cancer survivors by connecting them to different resources and programs.
Both Pennington and Humphrey said people between the ages of 24 and 35 currently make up the league, but they hope to attract an even younger demographic next year.
The athletic league has been involved with Generation Charleston, a group that aims to attract and maintain young talent in the Charleston area, and Pennington believes that has helped double participation from last year.
Don Wilson, a chairman of Generation Charleston, said working with The Athletic and Social League helps them with their organization's goals, too.
"I think it mainly ties in with our target demographic. We target people from all professions between the ages of 18-55, he said. "They are looking to provide activities in the city and our (organization) ties in around the theme of live, work, play. The play' aspect of it has been a huge component in attracting membership.
Generation Charleston was formed in 2006 by The Charleston Area Alliance to create opportunities for the younger generation to get connected and make a difference in the city.
"The Athletic and Social League has helped out hugely by running our kickball league, he said. "It's a great way to meet and make new friends and it's probably going to help people who are new to the area acclimate better into the city.
For more information about Generation Charleston, find it on Facebook and Twitter @GenCharleston or on its website at http://generationcharleston.com/. For more information about the Athletic and Social League, find it on Facebook or on its website at http://www.athleticandsocialleague.com/.
Contact writer Shawnee Moran at 304-348-4872 or shawnee firstname.lastname@example.org Follow her on Twitter @shawnee moran22.