Breanna Brown and her son before a game. photo/Tom Major
The Other CBS, Pt. 3
One way to mark a transition to adulthood is when new acquaintances no longer ask, “Do you play any sports?” but rather, “What do you do for a living?” The rec league athletes run by Casco Bay Sports encourage us to rethink that shift.
Breanna Brown has been playing in Casco Bay’s leagues for 15 years. “Back in 2008, I was relatively new to Portland and looking for something to do to get out of the house at night, something that wasn’t sitting in a bar,” Brown said. “I was actually looking for kickball, and then I was like, ‘Oh, dodgeball sounds fun! Sign me up for that instead.’”
Andrew Reed’s reason for signing up was similar. “I’ve been part of Casco Bay Sports since the middle of 2013,” he told me. “I had recently moved to Portland. My friends and I were looking for something to do on a Saturday. We started by doing dodgeball, three-on-three. Then we rallied a team together for the regular dodgeball league. We were very naïve, going into that first tournament, about how seriously people took dodgeball. We got clobbered. But through the dodgeball leagues, we’ve met a lot of great people and had a ton of fun.”
Taylor Tarr estimates she’s also been playing in Casco Bay leagues for about 10 years. Unlike Brown and Reed, Tarr was recruited to play flag football, because Casco Bay Sports requires teams to have both men and women. “A co-worker needed an extra girl,” Tarr said. “I was horrible, afraid of the ball. But then it became really fun.”
All three athletes have explored the range of sports offered by Casco Bay and found the right games for their interests, skills and schedules. Brown tried softball, but has committed to flag football in addition to dodgeball. Reed plays golf through CBS, as well as dodgeball. And Tarr has tried just about everything Casco Bay offers.
“I’ve done volleyball and cornhole,” she said. “I tried pickleball once, and floor hockey. … I’ll probably try water polo this year. Maybe our football team will take that on. We always try to do things together.”
Both Tarr and Reed said the learning curve was steep at first, but all three players have found the right level of competition for their abilities.
“The [dodgeball] league’s always looking for more players at all skill levels,” said Reed. “Teams are generally pretty good about having a variety of players on the team. There’s not one group of all-stars bulldozing through the competition. … People take it seriously, but are also there to have fun. The regular season is pretty easygoing, but once the playoffs happen, people get more serious about winning.”
Brown explained that flag football has four divisions of competition. “We’re in Division D now — least competitive,” she said. “We’re just looking to have fun and run around and not die.”
Dan Finnie, who runs the flag football league for Casco Bay Sports, says players like Tarr compete across the divisions. “Taylor plays on multiple teams,” he said. “She is A level for women, but also plays in B and C. A lot of players play on multiple teams in different divisions so that they can play more than one hour out of the four each week.”
Fitting a sports league into a working parent’s schedule can be tough, but the players find a way. Brown and her husband, who met playing dodgeball, have three children, yet both still play. The kids enjoy watching the games, cheering for their parents, and socializing with the children of other players. Reed and his wife, who also met playing dodgeball, have two children. Reed manages to slip out for games after the kids’ bedtimes, but his wife hasn’t continued on the team — for now.
Tarr, who volunteers for the Animal Refuge League and helps coach the Dirigo Girls’ Flag Football program, in addition to her job and studies, said, “Football has become life. … Family barbecues, Thanksgiving — we do things as a team, or even as a larger group. They always have parties or get-togethers. There’s nothing like three days a week of football.”
Tom Major can be reached at email@example.com.