If your football days are long over—or never were—and you’re hesitant to join a hockey team without a pair of skates, you can still get in the game—or at least some kind of game. Here’s our list of the best recreational sports for adults that will quench your thirst for playful competition this year. You might even meet a few new friends or drinking buddies in the process.
Pickleball is a sport that’s been growing in popularity in recent years due to its simple setup and low-key equipment, but it’s actually been around since the 1960s. The game itself is easy to pick up and can be a bit engrossing. It’s like a combination of ping pong and tennis, but without the overhead smashes and crazy running back and forth all over the court—but don’t worry, you’ll still get in a great workout.
You can play it with two or four people; all you’ll need are paddles, balls, and a net to get a game going. The paddles are similar in shape to ping pong paddles, but about twice the size, while the balls have holes in them like whiffle balls, making each stroke lower impact compared to regular tennis. The badminton-style court should be around 20 feet across and 44 feet long, while the net should be between 34 to 36 inches high. Many parks, rec centers, and health clubs now have pickleball courts to play on, so if you’re looking to play, search in your local area or check in with your gym/club to see if they have a court to use. But if you don’t have access to one, don’t worry. You can order a pickleball set and play in your driveway, backyard, or park.
Games are usually played to 11, with a team needing to win by 2. Points are scored only by the serving team. The serving player must hit the ball underhand and contact with the ball has to be from waist level or below. Following a serve, the other team must let the ball bounce once before returning it, and same the serving team when it’s hit back, but after those two bounces, players can then hit the ball for a return before it hits the ground. The area within the first seven feet on each side of the net is considered a “no-volley zone” so that players don’t smash the ball like in regular tennis. For the full official rules, you can check out this explainer from USA Pickelball. Need a place to play? You can search here for options nationwide. The website will give you all the available pickleball courts in your local area, as well as the schedule, cost to play, and any relevant contact information. You also can search by location and find information on leagues, tournaments, courts, lessons and events from the Global Pickleball Network.
It’s more than just the game you saw people playing on the quad at college. Ultimate Frisbee—or as many players call it, “ultimate”—is a non-contact sport that has some pretty straightforward rules. Similar to American football, you have two teams, and points are scored when one team catches the frisbee in the opposing end zone. At the start of the game, the teams start on opposite sides of the field, with one team throwing the disc to the other team, similar to a kickoff in football. The offensive team can’t run with the frisbee—players can pass it to teammates from either a standing position (and one pivot step), or within three steps after catching the frisbee if they don’t come to a complete stop. The offensive team loses possession of the frisbee if the disc is caught by a defender, it hits the ground, or if it goes out of bounds.
Field measurements from USA Ultimate are 70 yards long, 40 yards wide, with end zones 20 yards deep, but not everywhere you play may have space like that. If you’re playing with friends or in a social league, you can make your own measurements with markers on the field for the bound lines and end zones at the distance you’d like to play. Looking for places to play or leagues to join? The USA Ultimate website has a map with links to all 50 states, providing websites for local leagues. PickupUltimate.com also has links and information for pickup/social games happening around the country. You also can try searching for local clubs or competitions in your area and games that may be organized by Community Center or Parks Departments in your town or city. There are also semi-professional leagues like the American Ultimate Disc League and the Premier Ultimate League, highly competitive local leagues, national competitions, and college teams—and in 2028, it’ll even be eligible to become an Olympic sport.
Miss your pee wee or high school football days? With flag football you can get back in on the action without having to worry about getting smashed over the middle by an oncoming linebacker. There’s no need for tons of equipment or even helmets. All you need to play is a football, a flag belt, and maybe some cleats—or at least some solid running sneakers. The rules are basically the same as regular football, but instead of tackling or making contact with players, you pull the flag off the opposing players’ belt to make the tackle. You also can decide to play full no-contact or with some contact, meaning light blocking when plays are in action, but that’s something you can decide with your crew of players before starting a game. Another advantage of flag football is you don’t need as many players as you do with traditional football. Many leagues do 7-on-7 or 8-on-8 games, but even if you have less players, you still can play a fun, competitive game with just four or five people per side.
Most teams are made up of a quarterback, receivers, a running back and lineman on offense; the defense will usually match up 1-on-1 with each receiver, while one or two players stays close to the quarterback, depending on how you set your “rushing” rules. In some flag football leagues, quarterbacks are not allowed to run and can only either pass the ball forward or hand it off to a running back, but those rules can be tweaked based on your preference. Some people will set a “rushing clock” between 5-10 seconds, meaning that until that time is up, the quarterback can’t run past the line of scrimmage, but the defense also can’t go after the quarterback. But once that timer is up, the defense can try and snatch the quarterback’s flag for a sack.
Organized leagues and clubs for flag football have been growing in recent years, with ones in New York City like NYC Flag Football, which has multiple league options, local ZogSports leagues, as well as games, clinics and tournaments run by the NYC Parks department. If you’re located in LA, the Department of Recreation and Parks has an adult flag football league. Another great resource is GotFlagFootball.com, which provides a database nationwide where you can search by state to find flag football league options in your area. The NFL itself has been investing in the sport, creating leagues for kids around the country, but they also have resources you can use on their NFL Flag website if you want to start your own league; it’s got gear you can order, official rules, and playbooks. If you want to take a step up and try your hand at being a professional, there’s the American Flag Football League, which started in 2017 and has a men’s and women’s division.
If you’re into hockey, but don’t want to deal with getting skates and having to actually find an ice rink to play on, ball hockey is for you. Instead of playing on ice, all you need is a stick, ball, and some protective gear, since you can play on foot without any skates. You’ll need a little bit more equipment than some of the other sports here, but much less compared to traditional ice hockey or street hockey. Usually, players will have hand gloves/covers, shin guards, and a helmet, with goalies wearing a full set of protective gear. You can find leagues and organized clubs around the country like Ball Hockey League in North Hollywood, which offers tournaments and pickup games, New York Street Hockey group, which holds weekly games in Queens, and a ZogSports weekly floor hockey league in NYC. There’s also a national organization in USA Ball Hockey, which has resources, events around the country, tournaments and much more that can help you get involved. If you aren’t joining a league and just want to play with friends, you can order a ball hockey set yourself on websites like Amazon that usually come with a collapsible net, multiple balls, and multiple sticks you can play with.
Whether it’s on the beach, in the park, or indoors, volleyball is one of the most fun and social sports you can pick up. Gear is minimal: You just need a net and volleyball. It’s a great workout, as volleyball has quick spurts of jumping, lateral movements, and cardio. It takes teamwork to help set up a shot and there isn’t a better feeling on the court than when you time your jump perfectly and block your opponent’s shot right back into them. The best way to get started is to just go out and play. Look up whether your gym, local park, or community center has a league you can join and, in many cities, you can search for fields or courts that are available. Through sites like ZogSports, you can search for volleyball leagues in multiple cities, including New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Washington D.C. In most cities, with a few clicks, you’ll be able to find yourself a game, and maybe a new weekly hobby. For example, in New York City you can find a full list of all the volleyball facilities on the NYC Parks website. Some leagues also host tournaments and other season-long groups that are a bit more competitive than just a weekly pickup game. The New York Urban Volleyball League hosts clinics and takes participants of all skill levels, while Big City Volleyball offers indoor and outdoor games, leagues, and clinics all around the city. If you’re looking for something a bit more competitive, you can find a wide range of indoor competitions and beach volleyball events taking place around the country through USA Volleyball.
If any of these sports will make you feel like a kid again, it’s dodgeball. It also might be the easiest one to get started, as all you need to play is a dodgeball and a few other people to compete with. Playing can help you build agility and upper body strength, and before you know it you’ll be able to pinpoint your throws with perfect accuracy. To find leagues or games to play in, search for events in your community; check out local parks or rec centers; or seek out organized leagues like ZogSports in New York City and the World Dodgeball Society in Los Angeles. No matter where you live, you’ll likely be able to find a league, similar to ones like FXA Dodgeball in Virginia, the Chicago Sport & Social Club, and Miami Dodgeball. If you want to take things up another level like Vince Vaughn and his Average Joe’s team in Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, there’s the National Dodgeball League, which has teams around the country, as well as USA Dodgeball.
Soccer has been a growing sport in the U.S. for over a decade and that’s also extended to pickup leagues around the country. Joining a soccer league in your city or area is a great way to meet people and stay active if you’re itching to play an organized sport. The equipment is minimal, too; all you’ll need are some shin guards, cleats, and a soccer ball. Most parks have a soccer field you can play on and many leagues offer night and weekend games so you can fit things into your busy schedule. If you’re in New York City, there are a bunch of places you can find pickup games and casual leagues, including at Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 5, which has an incredible view of the Manhattan skyline while you play. You can find information about availability of the field on the park website here. There’s also Pickup Soccer NYC, which is all-season and NYC Footy, which offers 5-on-5, 6-on-6, and 7-on-7 leagues all around the city. You can also search for games and leagues around the country through websites like Meetup, which has a searchable list based on city and region. The United States Adult Soccer Association also holds local, regional and national competitions during the year and offers rules and resources as the official governing body of adult soccer in the country.
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