Moving to a new city can be challenging, especially when you realize that the bar scene has an extremely low success rate of netting quality friends. I was faced with this dilemma after moving to San Diego a few months ago from the Bay Area. Sure, going out clubbing and sharing a night of martinis and music with random people is fun, but how often do you text the person you met just a few hours earlier? Not to mention that with the party scene often comes a haze of smeared mascara, ringing ears and memory loss, and who wants that?
So maybe my local gym is a better place to meet potential friends. I love yoga, and spin classes are always fun, but what I don’t love is the grunting, overly aggressive, stare-at-you-so-long-it’s-weird folks who make you feel inadequate unless you compete. And here I am again, back at square one. I want to meet like-minded people while maybe, just maybe, crossing that half marathon off my bucket list.
Well I am happy to tell you there IS a solution. I’m talking good clean adult fun, where attitudes are left at home and no one cares what brand of shoes you are wearing. Where winning is good and all, but the bigger question is “Did you have a good time?” Let’s talk VAVi–an adult (21+) sports league that has grown by leaps and bounds since bringing the fun to San Diego in 2002. Want to learn to golf? There’s a class for that. Have a strong desire to channel your inner middle-schooler? Join a kickball league. Think you can play better than Chris Paul? First, come back down to Earth and then think about participating in VAVi’s men’s basketball league. If you need some further inspiration, let me introduce Steve Stoloff, new father and CEO of VAVi Sports.
NAME: Steve Stoloff
TITLE: CEO, VAVi Sports
VAVi CLUB of CHOICE: The Run Club, Ran 6 half-marathons and 1 marathon
Q: How did you make your way to San Diego and become involved with VAVi?
Steve Stoloff: I grew up in upstate New York and found myself working a grueling 100 hours a week in Manhattan. I got tired of the corporate life and wanted to move where lifestyle and quality of life was a priority. After 9/11, Enron, and the collapse of the economy, I moved to San Diego in 2002. I came on full-time to VAVi around 2007-2008, after Latane had approached me about buying out the co-founder. I have been a runner since high school, so naturally I joined the run club and have completed five or six half marathons and my first full marathon, the 2013 Rock and Roll Marathon, after training for six months.
Q: What was the inspiration behind the founding of VAVi, and is there an interesting story behind the name?
SS: VAVi was founded in 2002 by friends Latane (the current President) and Tyler with the idea of creating a sports league for adults post college. We wanted a name that was catchy; so, we retrofitted an acronym on the name…Various Activities for a Variety of Individuals.
Q: Discuss the goal of VAVi Sports and talk about the company’s core values and mission.
SS: Our core purpose is to bring fun to life! Our roots are in San Diego, and we started an industry association to connect all of the leagues, like VAVi, nationwide. Our first conference took place here in San Diego, and we look forward to many more meetings to improve the world of adult sports.
Q: How many sports and activities are offered?
SS: VAVi is sports, social events and vacations. We offer 20-30 sports leagues, about 12 events and a few vacations per year. In 2013, we brought six busloads of people to Mammoth Mountain, and nine busloads (700-800 people) to opening day at the Del Mar racetrack. We also organize mass participation events, with over 1,000 people attending. One of these events being the ROC (Ridiculous Obstacle Challenge), which had 13,000 participants; the race did a national tour in cities like New York and Phoenix.
Q: How many members belong to the club, and how do you join? What about non-athletes–how can they get involved?
SS: We have about 90,000 active members in Southern California, with 35,000 playing in a sports league throughout the year; and in terms of our events, we have about 50,000 people. Joining is easy. You can either sign up for free online or at one of our events to receive member benefits such as giveaways. Membership fees are required when you want to join a sports league as an individual (free agent) or small group. Non-athletes can attend our social events with the common thread being an activity. Take kickball for example, our most popular sport. The whole concept is people didn’t grow up playing kickball other than on the playground; they didn’t play in college, they don’t have skills specifically for kickball. You really don’t have to be an athlete to play kickball, whereas if you entered a basketball league, you realize that this is a competitive league. But VAVi usually skews social, so if you are less athletic or you don’t care about winning so much, then you may choose a VAVi league.
Q: Tell us about your sponsors and the advantages of becoming one.
SS: We have sponsors for major categories; for all happy hour and social events, for example, Miller Lite and Southern Comfort have signed on. The Sports Medicine Division at UC San Diego Health System sponsors our sports leagues. They include health and wellness tips like flexibility in our newsletter and also discuss injury awareness. Drinks are sampled at our events, and we partnered with Mammoth and gave away free tickets to promote the property. Our sponsors are looking to target the active 21-40 demographic. We will partner with the community, such as a local bank, if they contribute to one of our supported charities such as the Challenged Athletes Foundation. We will allow the local company to promote their business with a sponsored athletics event. Getting involved with VAVi is easy, in addition to approaching us at one of our events, there are sponsor materials and contact information on the website.
Q: In what ways does VAVi give back to the San Diego community?
SS: Because we are so diverse, we don’t contribute to just one charity. Our concept is that we are out in the community, with sports and non-profits naturally crossing over, we give to various establishments. Not just money, but time as well. I sit on the Board of the Friends of Parks and Recreation, the Pacific Beach Recreation Council, and our employees all sit on different non-profit councils. We pick the charity based on the VAVi event and the correlating theme. The Challenged Athletes Foundation was a perfect fit for the Ridiculous Obstacle Course (ROC Race) and the Mud Run, with the Mud Run being a military-type of race. It is always inspiring to see disabled athletes participating in those events. We also have worked with AJ’s Kids during the holidays and donated to Rady Children’s Hospital.