While kids with kickball skills find glory on the playground, few grow up to be professional kickball players. Amanda Casares ’10 — a graduate student studying environmental resource management and a volunteer assistant coach for the Binghamton women’s soccer team — is one of the lucky ones who did.
As an undergraduate, Casares was a double major in geography and philosophy, politics and law, as well as a soccer standout at midfield.
In her four years as a Bearcat, she racked up accolades including most valuable player, captain, America East All-Conference team member as well as nominations to be the America East Woman of the Year and NCAA Woman of the Year.
So when Casares, who was interning at National Geographic in Washington, D.C., last May, came across an ad looking for experienced soccer players to join a kickball league, she felt confident signing up. “I’m a soccer player. I can kick that thing, no problem,” she recalls thinking. But her resolve faded when she showed up for the first practice. “All of the pitchers were these big, jacked guys with huge arms and they’re throwing [the ball] sidearm with a ton of spin. And I remember thinking, ‘Oh boy, what did I get myself into?’”
This was not your average, backyard kickball game.
The 17-member co-ed team was named the Other Shot Callers from the DC Liberty kickball league — part of the World Adult Kickball Association (WAKA), a social-athletic organization with thousands of league players in more than 35 states. “Everyone on the team was an ex-Division I athlete and super competitive,” Casares says.
Now an outfielder, Casares enlisted former soccer teammate Kristie Bowers (current assistant women’s soccer coach at Binghamton) to help her strengthen her arm. “She put me through keeper throwing drills with a weighted soccer ball to practice the motion and learn proper throwing technique,” Casares says.
The Other Shot Callers came out on top in their league and were seeded second for the Founders Cup Tournament in Las Vegas — essentially the World Series of kickball.
Casares went two-for-two in the finals and made the game-winning catch. She was named MVP of the tournament after playing for only five months. To top it off, the team won $10,000 and a champagne limo ride back to the hotel.
“It was pretty wild,” Casares says. “I remember thinking, ‘oh my gosh, we’re one out away, and what will I do if they kick it to me?’
“Then knowing I caught it and seeing everyone else’s reactions was amazing. We just won $10,000 playing kickball!”
– Ashley R. Smith