We Kick It prevails at kickball finals

Adult kickball fosters community spirit on the Northside

(l-r) This year's champs, We Kick It; Johnson
(l-r) This year’s champs: We Kick It; Annetta Johnson (Charles Hallman/MSR News)

This summer’s adult kickball league is now completed. Its champion was crowned Sunday, August 21 before dusk at North Commons Park in North Minneapolis.

“It’s been a great turnout every Sunday,” reported Squad of Players League Co-Director Tyrone Johnson. “It’s always been positive. I’m glad everyone came out to support it. The neighbors all-around said they liked sitting on their porch, watching the games.”

It was Wendy Sumpter’s first time attending. She told the MSR that a friend, who discovered the kickball league on social media, asked her why she hasn’t been out there.

“I had to come see what was going on at North Commons, a park I grew up in,” said Sumpter. “I think it is a great idea. To have real teams play real kickball — it’s wonderful. I’m hoping they do it next year because if they do, I’ll be here to watch more games.” she said.

Since mid-June, the park was the spot for Sunday afternoon kickball, once thought of as only a kid’s game. Neighbors routinely came out to watch and cheer, some cooking ribs, hot dogs and burgers on their portable grills for themselves and for others. Kids ran around on the side — between games they played kickball themselves on the park’s artificial turf.

(l-r): Dre Mills, Joe Small, and Ron Tolliver
(l-r): Dre Mills, Joe Small, and Ron Tolliver Charles Hallman/MSR News

Annetta Johnson offered the MSR a plate of her just-cooked ribs as she cheered on her two sons and a nephew — all members of the Orange Crush team that finished as runners-up — while she flipped over her food on her grill.

“It’s been a blast. I really enjoy the game. It’s good sportsmanship,” she reported. “It’s a family affair. It’s nice to have something on the Northside that’s positive because you hear so much negative… We have a group of young men who come out and bring their families and have a good time each Sunday.”

Now that her sons are adults and with families of their own, “It gives me a chance to come together with them on Sundays and have a good time,” said Johnson.

“We want kids to know they can have fun, feel comfortable and feel safe,” noted Ron Tolliver, a father of four, who has played in the three-year league since it started in 2014. “This year has been the most fun,” he said after the Crush lost in the finals to We Kick It. “Second place is all right but that wasn’t what we came here for.  But having fun, everybody laughing — that’s the whole key.”

“It’s a community thing,” added Vonnie Johnson, a member of this year’s champion We Kick It squad. “When I was asked to play…and I saw that it was in the community, and people come out. This is positive and I would like to be a part of it.”

“I think it is a good atmosphere for the community — no drama — everybody is having a good time. It’s a fun way to exercise for me,” notes former WNBA player Tamara Moore. She plays on the Orange Crush squad. “Everybody out here knows each other. We grew up in the community, whether North Side, South Side or St. Paul. I think it is bridging a gap between fun exercise and be competitive.”

Orange Crush
Orange Crush were runners up Charles Hallman/MSR News

Keilly Olsen is a second-year player who returned after taking off last summer due to her children. Playing Sunday kickball allowed her to both satisfy her athletic needs as well as interact with co-workers, she said. “We spend so much time together at work. It’s nice to do something outside of work.”

Her Nite Nite club won the third place game, defeating the Dominators 4-1. “I was hoping to meet up with them in the championship game,” continued Olsen. “We feel like this was the real championship game – [our] two teams should have been in the championship game.”

Tyrone Johnson noted that the nine teams were competitive each week: “Everybody wanted to win.”

Nite Nite Squad won the third place with Olsen in middle
Nite Nite Squad with Olsen in middle Charles Hallman/MSR News

Olsen says she will be back next season, but she hopes that officials will be used next season — players volunteered to call games this year. Tyrone Johnson agrees: “There’s been a lot of talk around the teams to bring in umpires.  So we are going to look for some volunteer referees.” He said that he plans to begin working on the 2017 season later this year, including setting up an informational web site.

“I think it’s important to show that there are positive things happening in the community, and I like to be a part of it,” said Olsen.

“So much is going on in North Minneapolis, and this is positive,” said Vonnie Johnson. “For the kids to be out here seeing adults playing, and the camaraderie and having competitive fun, maybe that would get the young adults, kids, teenagers, and the babies to see that the Northside is not just violence. Adults are out here [being] positive in the community.”


Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.