Local Pickup Games inspire camaraderie – Berkeley High Jacket
Pickup games are constantly being held in parks around Berkeley, made up of groups of people who come together – often spontaneously – in a public place to play sports. These games are intended for recreation and are not affiliated with any particular teams or leagues. Despite the impromptu nature of pickup games, a website called Meetup adds a level of organization to pickup football in East Bay.
The most famous pickup sport is basketball, but there are many different sports played in the Greater Bay Area, where athletes of various disciplines are always looking for extra hours with their sport. Through collecting games, athletes find a community that shares the love of their sport, as well as an environment in which they can thrive.
A range of players participate in pickup games, from casual participants to more skilled athletes who can use these games as a way to improve their skills outside of their normal training schedules.
Joaquin Almanzan is a sophomore at Berkeley High School (BHS) who appreciates the ease of pickup games. âI love to play basketball because of all the sports it is one of the easiest sports to grab and take out to play,â Almanzan said. Asked about the range of players in the pickup environment, he said: âI think that’s really the point of playing basketball entirely, playing with people who have different skills than yours and learn to play against them or with them. “
Like many other days, on a Friday in November around 4:00 p.m., a basketball game started at Ohlone Park in Berkeley. The match was intense three-on-three, with contested shots, athletic feats and a fast pace. The pickup game went on for hours, until the sun set completely, and after the competition all the players went their respective paths and didn’t look back.
Antonio Nordman, a sophomore at BHS, enjoys staying active during his offseason with basketball. Nordman, who played in that Friday night game, shared his thoughts on the relationships one builds by playing in a pickup game. âMost of the time you don’t know almost everyone you play with, and you don’t really intend to get to know them any more,â he said.
However, that doesn’t mean people are disconnected or frozen when they engage in a pickup game. âIt’s that camaraderie. In a game, if you dump a three, you will get that good dap. It’s a great time, âadded Nordman.
While pickup games can be a lot of fun, there can be downsides to playing with strangers. With such a spontaneous event, you have no idea which team you’re going to be on, and it is possible to end up with bad chemistry or an unhealthy sense of competition.
Scott Friedman is originally from Portland, Oregon, and has enjoyed playing basketball since he was a kid. He spoke a bit about his experience playing in toxic pickup environments. âBasketball is at its best when you have five guys playing as a unit. When you have even one selfish player on your team, it interrupts the flow of what it means to play team basketball. At this point everyone starts playing selfishly, [and] the game loses its fun, its beauty, âFriedman said.
Pickup culture has been steeped in the sport since its inception, and people across the country have figured out a set of unwritten rules for pickup versions of their games. These informal yet authentic play centers have ultimately helped popularize many of the sports we know and love.