A Rookie’s Perspective

I’m Mike Z and this is my KVKL story.

I moved to the Kansas City area in September of 2020 from Albuquerque, NM. Up until March 14th, I only knew one person that lived in Lawrence… Peter Loughead whom also moved from Albuquerque. But on March 14th everything changed when I posted on the KVKL Facebook page looking for a team to join. I received a couple responses and after Rob Z from the Love Garden Squids gave me a call I was welcomed into his kickball family.

That was the catalyst to forging so many meaningful relationships with some very amazing people. It started when I attended a couple practices that the Lawrence travel players put on in April. There I met some incredibly talented people that were fast, could throw ridiculously hard, and knew their kickball. The first thought I had at those practices was, how in the world does Lawrence have so many quality players? Albuquerque is quite a bit bigger than Lawrence and even has a comparable kickball league in terms of size, but the quality of play is just so much higher in Lawrence. That’s when I first realized I may not be the upper tier player in Lawrence that I thought I would be.

Soon enough it was May and Love Garden started hosting practices as well and I got my introduction to the “small ball”. I was amazed by having the ability to actually palm the kickball. Throwing it was different, catching it was different, and kicking seemed harder too despite the slow pitches. Not only was the ball strange but playing in dirt was new to me too. Anyone that has seen me play in grass knows that I like to throw my body when I make throws and suddenly the ground was not a comfortable thing to hit. I came away from those practices with quite a few cuts from the dirt. And then there were the rule differences. Catchers can’t move?? The 3rd base person could line up halfway between home and 3rd?? It seemed like such a weird league. Despite those things, I was getting very excited about playing in what Peter described as the best kickball league in the country.

The first few weeks of the season were tough on me. It was a much bigger adjustment to playing in KVKL than I imagined it would be. Kicking this tiny ball that came in super slow still seemed like such a challenge. For weeks my batting average was nothing to write home about and I got a little discouraged as my fielding wasn’t that impressive either. Something about catching and throwing this miniature kickball was monumentally different and I was not grasping it well, figuratively and literally. Even with my spiraling confidence, all of Love Garden continued to support me every week.

Then Jake came into town to join Love Garden to start attaining eligibility for the tournament. His coaching made an immediate impact. I started kicking better and my defense started to improve as well. Further, Jake wrote up an instructional article about kicking. I studied every word. From then on, I’ve been steadily improving and thankful to be a part of such a supportive group.

Suddenly, I found myself playing in a Game of the Week. This must be one of the coolest perks for the players in the league. The opportunity to play under the lights with a massive crowd is a surreal experience. It features a great balance of pressure, excitement, and comradery with the team as well as with the crowd. I absolutely loved the experience.

Next the league put on the Kickball Is For All clinic which was a wonderful experience. It is so amazing that one of the fundamental pillars of the league is for everyone to have fun and to continually improve. That’s what I find so special about KVKL, the focus on community inclusion. Not to naysay my past leagues, but they were more focused on tailoring to the top teams and ignoring the bottom. KVKL is something else. Not only is there the focus on kickball however, but the league does a ton of charitable work which is very impressive. I’m blown away by all that this league does that isn’t even kickball related.

Here we are with the tournament coming up this weekend. And suddenly I’m playing kickball loosely, confidently, and having a blast. I cannot be thankful enough to have been introduced into a community that supports everyone and encourages the most fun. And lastly, I am so grateful that I’m part of a kickball team that feels like a family and I can’t wait to experience the playoffs with them.

KVKL is something special. Thanks for letting me be a part of it.