During the weekends, especially spring and summer, Roosevelt Island’s Fire Fighters Field, Octagon Field and Pony Field come to life courtesy of the Zoggers. Like a rare breed of exotic bird descending the fields in their colorful sneakers and occasional old-school knee-high socks, Zoggers congregate, strategize and ultimately play ball—be it kickball, dodgeball, football, or baseball. Styling team colored tee shirts with cool names like Catchers in the Rye and Purple Reign, the Zoggers, whether on the field or in the local Bar & Grill afterwards, make their presence known. They’re loud, really loud—laughing, talking, and cheering . . . nonstop. And it makes you feel good just being around it, little snippets of laughter sneaking in through open windows or tapping you on the shoulder while walking by on a sunny day. You begin to look for your favorite player or the most engaging team, high-fivers, and talk about the games later, as if you were a part of it all. I had to know more about this phenomenon. I asked around, did a little research, and discovered a wonderful back story as motivational as the Zoggers themselves.
Celebrating its 10th Anniversary, ZogSports remains true to its original mission. “When I conceived ZogSports post 9/11 everyone was asking what they could do to give back,” says founder and CEO Robert Herzog. “I predicted that the whole kumbaya feeling wouldn’t last so I decided to integrate charity and social good into something people wanted to do anyway – play team sports, hang with their friends and meet new people. It worked. Getting teams to think about what charity they will play for and raising awareness is much more important than the $1.4MM we’ve donated. We strive to encourage social good and feel great about what we’ve accomplished so far.” Here’s a copy of Herzog’s letter to the ZogSports family on the 10th Anniversary of September 11th which tells his moving story.
ZogSports offers an impressive sports sampling with 4 different competition levels, creating an appealing and diverse community for everyone from the ex-college athlete to the New York artist. “Zoggers are fun, social New Yorkers,” explains Ali Chanin, Director of Marketing at ZogSports. “Most people that play in our leagues are young professionals in their 20s and 30s.”
And Zog takes care of everything. They find appropriate fields and provide the refs and the equipment, allowing teams to concentrate on the game at hand. Each team selects a charity of choice to play for and ZogSports donates a percentage of league profits to the winning teams’ charities each season. The final piece to the ZogSports puzzle is the social element. “We get the party started,” Ali declares. All of the leagues have organized happy hours after every game. Participants are able to not only hang out with their own team but have the opportunity to mingle with the other team as well—Zog’s version of the end of game handshake.
“Everyone loves Zog,” says Sophie Gorson.” I love the energy, the people, and playing a team sport. Sophie missed playing team sports and heard about Zog from a friend already in a league. Her experience allowed her the opportunity to get in a much-needed workout while becoming a part of a fun community. Favorite Zog sport? “I am particularly fond of dodgeball . . . great way to get some stress out after a long day at the office.”
Jonathan Sosis needed a workout that didn’t include the same old boring gym routine. “I absolutely hate the gym so it made me feel better about having the diet of a nine-year-old.” His sports include football and kickball. The sense of community also drew Jonathan to Zog as he wanted to expand his circle of friends. “Everyone just relies on one another to show up and play each game,” explains Jonathan, “and then win or lose, we go off to the bars to just hang out and have fun.”
Because ZogSports is co-ed, the organization has seen its share of romances too. Zog believes that co-ed teams make the leagues more social. “While everyone likes to win, having co-ed leagues takes some of the emphasis off winning vs. losing and promotes people to play for the fun of the game,” says Ali, acknowledging that it also increases happy hour attendance. “I’ve overheard quite a few guys and girls encouraging their teams/opponents to go to happy hour because they wanted to meet someone they found attractive on the other team.” You might say that they’re the Love Connection of New York sports. Over 50 married couples have found love while playing on a ZogSports team.
With locations in New Jersey, DC, Hartford, Atlanta, and soon Minneapolis, ZogSports is spreading the love. If you’re pumped and ready to join a team or sitting on the sidelines but interested in learning more about this inspiring organization, you can visit their website at www.ZogSports.com. Be sure to connect with them on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter for updates, cool photos, videos, and all things Zog.
The Roosevelt Island Blog asked me to write a post about September 11th, including interviews with residents. Here’s an excerpt. To read the post in its entirety, visit Roosevelt Islander.
As the anniversary of 9/11 crept over the world this week, New Yorkers prepared themselves, contemplating how they’d honor the memory of that day and its victims, prompting instant reminders of where they stood a decade ago—at that hour, that moment. I remember—12 hours away in a dusty conference room filled with colleagues, watching in silence.
Over the past few months, as my family and I have settled into life here on the island, I’ve listened to pieces of personal stories from those who witnessed it all first hand and those left behind. A scene I’ve never been able to erase from my own memory, dazed New Yorkers walking along the bridges, trying to find their way back home, now seems to have been a premonition. These were people I would one day see again, people I would laugh with, families I would bond with over St. Patrick’s Day parties, roof top surprise birthday celebrations, and nights outside our local grill—my neighbors, my friends.
New Yorkers’ notorious reputation for being tough holds true, but what fails to be mentioned more often than not is the compassion and loyalty woven into those steely exteriors. Who knew that ten years ago as I watched in silence from miles away that today I’d stand side by side with them, listening to their stories, and together remembering a bitter September morning.