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Social Boston Sports offers fun, friendship for young adults

Mario Santillana has been playing soccer in the <a href="https://socialbostonsports.com/" shape="rect" target="_blank">Social Boston Sports league for three years.</a> Michael Swensen for The Boston Globe

On Wednesday and Sunday evenings, scores of young adults, varying in gender and age — though most are 20-something — swarm the turf at Dilboy Stadium in Somerville.

The air was a crisp 59 degrees on one of the first brisk nights of the fall. From afar, the field looked like a free-for-all, but there was order under the beaming lights of the stadium.

The players, wearing brightly-colored T-shirts, are part of Social Boston Sports, an adult recreational league devoted to giving grown-ups a chance to get active, make friends, compete, and have fun.

Jose Moreno, a 25-year-old Venezuelan native who moved to the area two years ago, said he found the league online.


“I wanted to meet some new people since I’m new to Massachusetts and of course get some exercise,” said Moreno, who works full-time as an engineering surveyor. “It also helps that I love soccer.”

A three-year veteran of SBS, Mario Santillana had last played soccer at Revere High.

“I just liked the guys I played with, and I loved the chance to get out and play some soccer,” he said. “It’s a really good community. It’s good for people.”

Stacy Tomlinson, who played college soccer at Endicott, appreciates the different levels of play. “You can play super-competitive or really relaxed,” said the West Newton resident. “I like the choice.”

Andrew McCormick, a University of Connecticut graduate and new resident of Somerville, joined recently because “it’s hard to meet people after college,” he said. Plus, he was starting to put on weight. SBS helped him solve both those issues.

“It’s just a bunch of old folks who want to play sports,” said Pat Colin, 27, who played football and lacrosse at Hamilton College.

Three games bustle at once at Dilboy, with individual fields marked by orange cones and substitutes mingling together on the sidelines. There is order, though: a playoff bracket, RSVP spreadsheets, and schedules.


Players have a choice between a friendly league and a competitive league — though both are intended to promote socializing.

“I play for my health. It’s better than running 5 miles on a treadmill,” said Mike Cioffi, who sheepishly admitted he’s 29. “I’m afraid of 30.”

Cioffi, who graduated from Matignon High School in Cambridge in 2007, said the games are a good way to de-stress. He’s played soccer since he was 4, including four years at Matignon, but he opted for the friendly league over the more competitive one.

“It’s nice to be a little more lax,” Cioffi said.

The program isn’t limited to Somerville — or to soccer. Social Boston Sports has more than 7,400 active participants playing 16 sports in numerous leagues at dozens of facilities in the Boston area, said Kate Kerins, city director for SBS.

Prices vary depending on the sport. A seven-week session of soccer, for example, costs $111. A seven-week session of kickball is $70.

Kerins’s own story echoes the very ideals SBS was founded on: community, activity, and above all, friendship.

“I started as a player in 2009,” said Kerins, a 31-year-old Arlington resident.

She said she learned of SBS while working at a restaurant shortly after graduating from Saint Anselm College with a degree in politics. Four people at a table she was serving left their contact information and invited her to play on their dodgeball team. Kerins still plays with those four one night a week, almost a decade later.


Like many of the players interviewed, she said she liked the exercise and active lifestyle afforded by SBS. But the biggest selling point was the community and friendships she gained. She started working part time atSBS and was offered a full-time job in 2014.

“I’ve been to over 10 weddings of SBS people,” Kerins said. “There are babies that came from this. So many best friends. I look at it as a kind of response to Facebook and Twitter, and Tinder . . . It’s a way to have community and to meet people.”

Social Boston Sports was acquired last year by Volo City, a Baltimore company that owns similar groups in seven other cities. Kerins said not much has changed since the ownership change — SBS is still focused on the “player experience.”

One thing Volo City has ushered in is a kids’ foundation. SBS is hosting free intramural leagues for local children, staffed and funded by SBS players. A player can join an adult league for free, provided he or she volunteers at a kids’ league.

Kerins said SBS started with one kids’ league last winter and is hosting three this fall.

Most players haven’t been involved for as long as Kerins, but they all get something out of it. Alex Browning, 28, joined in 2015 because she “needed to make friends” after moving to the area from Texas.


Browning had never played scholastic or competitive soccer before. She accomplished her goal of making friends nevertheless.

“My team, when we first got together, we were a group of introverts,” Browning said. “We found ways to get closer, and we bonded.”

Charlie Wolfson can be reached at charlie.wolfson@globe.com. Michael Swenson contributed to this report.