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Millennials Flock to For-Profit Rec Leagues

A number of millennials grew up with their schedules full of extracurricular sports. These teams allowed them to stay physically fit but also helped these young adults maintain a steady social circle as they grew up, but once they graduated from college and entered adulthood, the opportunities for organized team sports started to dwindle. 

According to 26-year-old Fred Schiller, as he got older, his motivation to exercise started to fade and he wasn't into going to the gym alone. His attempts to organized pickup basketball games saw little success. So when Schiller heard about Valley Sports Leagues, a for-profit business that sets up adult leagues in various sports, he jumped at the chance to get involved. 

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Valley Sports Leagues was started by 27-year-old Ahmed Attia and 22-year-old Lea Peterson and operates like a nonprofit youth league where teams are set up, referees are arranged and sports sites are found. Participants are able to sign up as a full term or as a free agent, and costs range from $50 to $90 per person for a season. 

There are a variety of options for sports, ranging from men's and women's basketball to flag football, dodgeball and kickball. 

Schiller says being part of a team holds him accountable to making sure he shows up and gets some physical activity. 

"I can very easily talk myself out of going to the gym," Schiller said. "But if I know that people are going to count on me to be there, I want to make sure to follow through on that. I think this will be an easy way to kick-start my routine and get me back in shape."

It's no surprise to sports industry experts that for-profit companies such as Valley Sports Leagues are popping up throughout the country. These companies typically target millennials who are the most enthusiastic about competing in adult recreation league sports according to Cameron Jacobs, business operations manager with Sports and Fitness Industry Association. 

A survey conducted this year by Sports Marketing Surveys USA, a research company for SFIA, show millennials are twice as likely as those in Generation X, people born between 1965 and 1979, to participate in team sports as adults. 

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Valley Sports Leagues isn't the only company of its kind. Lehigh Valley Sport and Social operates a similar business and has grown from 13 leagues with about 100 teams five years ago to 35 leagues with almost 250 teams this year. They have also had the opportunity to expand their sports offerings and now offer some more non-traditional options such as quoits, disc golf and bar games. 

Mark Cruttenden, director of Lehigh Valley Sport and Social, and Attia say most of the participants in their leagues have been millennials who are happy to get back to team sports and get moving. 

"We'd like to be that extra push," Attia said. "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."

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