In case you haven't heard, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that a staggering 67 percent of Oklahomans are either overweight or obese.
As children, most of us had little difficulty finding activities that harnessed our attention as well as provided the exercise necessary for a healthy life. Whether joining a little league baseball team or simply organizing a neighborhood game of kickball, physical fitness was rarely an issue until we reached adulthood.
Unbeknownst to many, quite a few of those same activities are still accessible to us as adults. Though traditional favorites like softball, golf, and bowling are as readily available as they've always been, there are a number of other sporting leagues and organizations in the Tulsa area that cater to people with a wider variety of interests, skill levels and desire of impact.
In addition to offering participants a great physical workout, the numerous athletic organizations in town also offer the benefits of social interaction and an opportunity to break away from monotonous daily routines. After spending countless hours wading through paperwork in a cubicle, the idea of spending an hour or two a week engaged in a competitive event can become something to look forward to.
While jogging and weightlifting are widely regarded
as great ways to satisfy the need for physical activity, they may not be everyone's cup of tea. The good news is that, whether male, female, 36 or 63, Tulsa has something to offer everyone willing enough to put away the gadgets and get off the couch.
It's a new year, and with that comes the all-too-familiar resolution to become more active.
Hell on Wheels
With a troupe of intriguing characters, roller derby became one of the most watched sporting events in the nation during the 1970s, filling prestigious venues like Chicago's Comiskey Park and New York's Madison Square Garden to near capacity.
Over the next few decades, oversaturation and the lack of a mainstream league saw the sport's popularity diminish, but in the mid-2000s, a revival of sorts began, and women's derby leagues began forming once again across the country, with as much flamboyance as ever. Women took to circuit tracks sporting colorful derby aliases like "Michelle O'BamYa," "Punky Bruiser," and "Ally McBrawl," once again making roller derby one of the most fascinating sports to watch. The sport's popularity quickly grew in a number of major U.S. cities, and Tulsa was no exception.
Roller derby's resurgence in Tulsa began around 2008, when Huntington Beach, Calif. natives Court and Jenny Collier purchased Skates roller skating center in Sand Springs. The couple, which had been competitive skaters since childhood, founded the Tulsa Derby League with junior, men's, and women's roller derby teams, bringing a once familiar sport back to the Tulsa area.
Currently, the league is home to about 45 local derby enthusiasts -- 35 of whom are women -- engaging in one of the most exhilarating sports exhibitions on the planet. With speed that rivals that of professional hockey and NFL-style ferocity, it's no wonder roller derby continues to be one of the most popular activities among local adults. Collier said the league has garnered much interest from not only participants, but spectators as well, gathering audiences as large as 300 at any given time.
"It gets pretty intense," Court Collier said. "There are a lot of big hits; there are injuries. It is really exciting. Once people come and watch it, they're usually hooked."
While roller derby may seem like a daunting activity for those seeking casual athletic undertakings, the truth is that the Tulsa Derby League welcomes skaters of all proficiencies, from seasoned veterans to those who've never so much as laced up a pair of skates -- or "fresh meat" as they're known in the slang-heavy derby world. Collier and his staff welcome novices with open arms and strive to cultivate proper technique regardless of experience or skill.
"Myself and my assistant coach have a really strong background in teaching roller skating," Collier said. "When fresh meat comes in and they can't skate at all, we spend a lot of time on basic skating technique and positioning. Surprisingly, within a month or two they're playing roller derby.
"There are no prerequisites at all," he added.
An added benefit of roller derby is the phenomenal workout the sport's participants receive. Roller derby offers a virtually nonstop cardiovascular workout, which often produces quick, healthy results.
"I've had girls come in and start up and within about six months they've lost 50 or 60 pounds," said Collier. "Roller skating is considered one of the best athletic sports there is as far as muscle tone and training."
"It really teaches centering your core, focus; we do a lot of strategizing for games," Collier added. "Most of the [people] that join are hooked. They stay with it for years."
While the costs associated with competitive roller derby may seem a bit high -- a $100 annual fee, $30 monthly dues to the USA Roller Sports Association and equipment costs around $200 -- the expenses are similar to those often found with a typical gym membership. The sport's major benefit over a traditional gym is that, while offering equally as satisfying a workout, strapping on a pair of skates and competing in a high-energy sport like roller derby can be one of the most exhilarating athletic experiences around.
Whether you're looking to lose a few pounds, maintain an already healthy lifestyle, or just looking to release some pent-up aggression, roller derby can make for a phenomenal extracurricular activity.
In a short while you may even become the next "Susan B. Agony."
Visit the Tulsa Derby League's website at derbystrong.com for more information or contact Collier at 918-241-2342.
Fun at the Ol' Ballpark
Bill Hayward has a motto for baseball: "It's all for the love of the game."
There's no denying that baseball has been one of the most historically popular sports for youth athletes. For decades, children have spent many a summer's day idolizing and re-creating the greatness of heroes from America's pastime. Children would gather in vacant fields across the country, mimicking the talents of legends like Mantle, Mays, and later Bonds and McGwire.
Some time after high school, however, the game becomes less accessible. Memories of daylong pickup games and months of little league begin to fade as adulthood sets in, leaving many baseball-starved men surrendering their passion to nights of third-rate, beer-league softball.
But the flamboyantly striped pants and oversized fluorescent yellow ball isn't the only alternative.
Thankfully, there's the Metro Tulsa Baseball Association.
The Metro Tulsa Baseball Association is a unique organization allowing baseball fanatics the opportunity to continue playing the game they love at a competitive level.
Founded in 2005, MTBA is a unique organization. The league was a rebirth of sorts for the former Men's Senior Baseball League of Tulsa. After 15 years as a player, Hayward -- along with current league president John Beaver -- took their concept of a men's league founded on little more than a desire for improved quality of play and passion for the game and made it a reality.
"[MTBA] was a vision of what we wanted and what we wanted to do with baseball in Tulsa," Hayward said. "And it did turn around the level of competition."
Since then, the league has provided amateur baseball players of all ages the opportunity to play the game well beyond high school or college. Currently, the league is home to players with a variety of skill sets, ranging in age from their twenties to mid-sixties. Former high school, college, and even inexperienced players all take part to make MTBA one of the most interesting adult athletic experiences in Tulsa.
Perhaps the most alluring aspect of Tulsa's adult baseball league is the professionalism with which the league operates. Unlike the loose dress codes associated with amateur softball, the MTBA requires each team to have a distinct uniform, lending proper respect and appreciation for the sport. Additionally, top-notch umpiring crews officiate games, which are held at quality, local high school fields.
Joining MTBA is much easier than it may seem. The league currently offers open enrollment via an annual workout. While the setting of the workout is formatted much like a tryout, the main reason for the event is to accurately assess and place prospective players on the proper teams. Once drafted, players are responsible for a league fee of about $200 per player plus any additional team costs (uniform, equipment, etc.).
Existing and newly formed teams are also welcome to participate in the league, but their approval is subject to review from the board of directors.
For more information check out metrotulsabaseball.org or contact the league at email@example.com. Who knows, in a short time you too may be reliving your glory days on the diamond.
Three years ago, the 2010 Winter Olympics captivated much of the world. Unlike most Olympics enthusiasts, Tulsa's Eric Vardeman wasn't engrossed with the figure skating, bobsledding, or luging taking place in Vancouver. He wasn't on the edge of his seat, waiting to see if Apolo Ohno would set the record for individual speed skating medals or if Bode Miller would continue to dominate the alpine skiing ranks. Instead, Vardeman's focus was a lesser known sport that more closely resembled frantic housekeeping than a competitive tradition. His heroes weren't the silver medal-winning U.S. hockey team, but rather a cast of characters bidding for Olympic gold in the sport of curling.
In the months that followed, Vardeman sought ways to participate in the sport himself. After a friend informed him of a league in Oklahoma City, Vardeman immediately decided to try his hand at the sport. A short while later, Vardeman found himself continually traveling back and forth between Tulsa and Oklahoma City to support his new obsession.
Weary from the 100-plus-mile treks, Vardeman decided to propose the idea of a curling club to the brass at Oilers Ice Center in Tulsa. Early last year, his vision was realized as he was granted the opportunity to create what is now the Tulsa Curling Club.
The Derby League
Feeling that many wouldn't share his newfound love for the sport, Vardeman's goal was to form a small recreational club. What was initially intended to be a simple means for a few friends to get together quickly became something even Vardeman couldn't foresee.
"All I was really looking for was seven other guys so we could play matches together," Vardeman said. "Then last January we had an open house just to gauge interest, let people try it out, and see what it was all about. I was expecting 20 or 25 people. We had 67 people show up."
As a result of the unexpectedly high number of prospective curlers, the Tulsa Curling Club was an immediate success, and the league's inaugural season began with 16 teams -- 14 more than Vardeman had hoped for. A sustained interest in the sport led to three ten-week seasons of curling during the club's first year, and with a rapidly growing interest, prospects for 2013 are even brighter.
"One of our players calls curling the softball of winter sports," Vardeman said. "Anybody, really, can play and anybody can get involved. There's no height or weight requirement; you don't have to be a tremendous athlete. Anyone can play. Not everyone can go out and play soccer; not everyone can play softball."
Another alluring fact about curling is that it's a rather inexpensive sport to partake in. Outside of a $160 season fee and annual dues of $30, the only other necessary expense is a slider -- a device that goes over a shoe to help participants slide on the ice -- that can be purchased for around $20. With the annual dues, the club aims to expand into intercity competition and ultimately have affiliation with the nation's standard for the sport, the United States Curling Association.
"When we [join the USCA], then we can play in what's called the National Playdowns, which is how they choose the Olympic teams," Vardeman said.
Currently, the Tulsa Curling Club has participants from a wide variety of age groups as well. Because the sport's broad appeal, Vardeman said the club's members range in age from 19 to 66.
"There's more cardio involved that what can be seen with the naked eye," said Vardeman. "The first couple of weeks, your core hurts. There's a lot more activity than just sliding down the ice."
Though curling is a sport more commonly associated with folks who dwell in more northern regions, there's no denying the growing popularity of the sport in Tulsa. Like Vardeman, many have taken mere curiosity and turned it into an enjoyable way to spend a few hours each week. It doesn't take much experience to get involved, and the skills required for the game can all be acquired in a reasonable amount of time.
According to Vardeman, there are two simple guidelines to heed in order to enjoy the sport of curling: "At some point you will fall, and at some point you will look stupid on the ice. ... But if you can get past that, you will definitely enjoy the sport."
For more information, visit tulsacurlingclub.com or email Vardeman directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pedaling with Purpose
One of the most popular sports among active adults, cycling gives its participants the opportunity to enjoy the many sights of the city and its surrounding areas, all while receiving some of the most exhilarating aerobic training possible.
If you need further convincing, just ask Bryan DuVall.
For nearly two decades DuVall has been at the front and center of the cycling community in Tulsa. Currently the road-racing captain of local cycling club Team Soundpony, DuVall took to cycling as an alternative to a childhood of competitive running that saw little chance for continuation once he finished college.
DuVall's love of competition and desire for speed made cycling the perfect substitute.
"I've always been a little bit of a speed freak," DuVall said. "Once I figured out how much faster you could go on a bicycle, it was instant love for me.
"If you enjoyed any kind of competitive athletics in high school or college, you typically run out of options pretty quickly the day you graduate. [Cycling] is a nice avenue to continue [satisfying] that competitive nature," he added.
Competition, however, is only a small portion of what cycling has to offer those interested in taking on a new activity. While several local clubs often compete in cycling events throughout the nation, the heart of these clubs is the vast amount of casual enthusiasts that encompass them. Currently, Team Soundpony has 94 members ranging in age from 14 to 60. While many choose to compete in nationally ranked events, the majority are simple hobbyists.
"Enthusiasts are the driving force of the cycling community in Tulsa," DuVall said. "If the community was made up purely of racers it would be a fraction of the size that it is. We welcome with open arms any person to our club whether it be a full-blown racer or an enthusiast."
And while many sports offer little in terms of recreational level activities, casual cyclists in Tulsa enjoy a multitude of noncompetitive options throughout the year. Events like Tour de Cure -- a charity event benefiting the American Diabetes Association -- and the widely popular Oklahoma Freewheel draw hundreds of participants from neighboring cities and states, making Tulsa a prominent regional hub for cycling enthusiasts.
Perhaps it's Tulsa's rather impressive cycling infrastructure that has created such a devout local following. In 2010, Bicycling magazine ranked Tulsa the 35th most bicycle-friendly city in the nation. With intertwined trails stretching to all corners of the city, it's no surprise Tulsa is so highly regarded. In recent years, the city has gone to great lengths to help promote cycling, creating a continuing path around the Arkansas River and adding paths along the Creek Turnpike that extend well into the city's eastern limits. Because of these luxuries, Tulsa's cycling scene is hard to beat.
Another benefit of cycling is the relatively low startup cost. Outside of initially purchasing a bike and safety equipment, cycling can be enjoyed for one of the smallest expenses in the amateur sporting world. Joining a cycling club involves an annual fee, ranging from $50-$100 -- Team Soundpony's fee is $50 -- and most recreational rides are free. Cyclists wishing to compete in races are responsible for acquiring an annual license from USA Cycling for $75.
In addition to DuVall's Team Soundpony, there are also a number of other organizations prospective cyclists can choose from, and most cater to cyclists of all skill levels. Tulsa Wheelmen and the team at Tom's Bicycles are a couple other clubs that always welcome new members and provide cycling events for competitors and leisure cyclists alike.
For more information on joining Team Soundpony, or for advice on equipment and cycling in general, contact DuVall at T-Town Bicycles, 918-492-8696.
These are just a few of the local sports leagues available to adults seeking participation in amateur athletics. There are literally dozens of amateur athletic activities available in Tulsa and its surrounding communities. Throughout the city, bowling leagues, basketball leagues, even dodge ball leagues can be found with ease. Whether you're a former professional athlete or someone who's simply looking for a new hobby, the amateur sports scene in Tulsa has something unique to offer most anyone.
So, grab your bat and glove. Dust off and lace up those old skates. Or try something completely different.
There's a lot of fun to be had throughout Tulsa, and with a little help from the city's multitude of sports organizations, maybe we can start improving on that all-too-concerning problem of obesity that continues to plague our great state.
If playing sports isn't your thing, don't worry.
There will be plenty to watch live over the next few months.
Put on your shoes, buy a ticket, and soon you'll be calling for the beer man with the rest of us. Here are just a few options.
Drillers -- The Colorado Rockies -- the major league team the Drillers are associated with -- is set to start spring training the second week of February. "Some of the minor league prospects will be with them ... as well as some that will be here," said Heath Hicks, marketing/public relations assistant. "There's a lot of changes going on in the Drillers organization." While Hicks didn't elaborate on what those would be, it appears that the Drillers still aren't sure who will be in their lineup. Let's hope they get that figured out soon; the home opener is scheduled for April 11.
Conference USA -- Conference USA is bringing the tourney to Tulsa. That's right. You can see the TU men's and women's basketball teams (hopefully!) bring home a championship without ever leaving town. The CUSA tournament takes place March 13-16 at the BOK Center and Tulsa Convention Center.
2013 Bassmaster Classic -- "It's essentially the Super Bowl of bass fishing," said Heather Miller of South Carolina-based Full Circle. And it's coming to Tulsa. More than 50 fishermen are coming from across the U.S. -- and one from Zimbabwe -- to compete in the Bassmaster Classic Feb. 22-24. While all the fishing will take place on Grand Lake, the weigh-ins will occur and the champiwonship will be awarded at the BOK Center. Three Okies are scheduled to compete: Edwin Evers of Talala, Tommy Biffle of Wagoner, and Jason Christie of Park Hill near Tahlequah. Will they be able to bring the championship home? "Right now everyone seems to think they're the frontrunners," Miller said. "Is [Grand Lake] truly going to be considered home field advantage?" Only time will tell.
Tulsa Oilers -- Rob Loeber, the Oilers' broadcaster, made no bones about it. "This season hasn't really gone as well as we hoped it would," he said. But there is a silver lining: "What I've really liked is the loyalty of our friends and our supporters. ... I've also liked that we have a really good group of guys in our locker room." With 25 games left through the end of March, don't count the Oilers out of the playoffs just yet. "We're still very much in contention. We're not even close to being mathematically eliminated," Loeber said. And he said there are reasons to hope. "One of our goalies -- a guy named Shane Madolora -- is really starting to play well the last few weeks. ... Ever since he's come to us he's provided a really consistent, solid presence between the pipes."
Tulsa 66ers -- Ben Coldagelli -- PR manager for the 66ers -- is particularly proud of the relationship the team has with the Oklahoma City Thunder. "We are a direct affiliate and are owned and operated by the Thunder. So far this year we've seen five different Thunder players play at least three games with us ... Reggie Jackson, Perry Jones, DaAndre Liggins, Daniel Orton, and Jeremy Lamb," Coldagelli said. "We've received the highest number of assignments of any D-league team so far." Because of this relationship, the 66ers practice the same plays as the Thunder. "Kind of the main focus of the team is to develop our players," Coldagelli said. The idea is to make good D-League players into great Thunder players. About halfway through their season, the 66ers can be seen at the SpiritBank Event Center in Bixby.
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