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Team Mentality

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Tim Horan, co-owner of Philadelphia Sport & Social Club. (Photo by Shane McCauley)Lauren McGlennen never thought there would be a coed touch football league, but four years ago, she made this post:

“Athletic girl looking to play coed football.”

Soon after, a phone call led to her joining a Philadelphia Sport & Social Club team. “I remember driving up to my very first game,” says the Glen Mills native. “It was almost like your first day at a new job. You know no one. You don’t know how the team works or even what the rules are; it’s basically learn as you go. I walked up and introduced myself, and that was it—I was instantly hooked. Everyone was so nice, and their stories are so similar to mine. We’re all a bunch of athletes looking to get back into sports. Some never stopped playing.”

A 31-year-old pharmaceutical sales representative by day and a sports junkie by night, McGlennen has always been a tomboy. In high school, she swam and played volleyball and softball. She still plays on a USA Volleyball team out of New York. She’s even played football with the boys in her neighborhood. Now, she’s the ultimate “weekend warrior.” Last year, she was even named Ms. PSSCY.

“Mr. and Ms. PSSCY (the Y is added to mock ESPN’s ESPY Awards) is someone who embodies what the PSSC league has to offer,” McGlennen says. “They have a lot of heart and love being active in the leagues. Randomly, I still get asked, ‘Hey, weren’t you Ms. PSSCY?’”

The title—and the celebration—are thanks to Tim Horan, PSSC’s co-owner and director of business development, who today is between appointments and bar-side at the Radnor Hotel (though he’s drinking iced tea). Once a sports reporter for the Daily Local News in West Chester, where he bought his childhood home, Horan, 41, partnered with 29-year-old Dan Feeney, PSSC’s director of operations, and bought the business in August 2008 from Worldwide Sport & Social Club in Chicago. A third full-timer, 26-year-old Eric Long, is league manager. There are also 50 part-time employees—mostly coordinators, referees and officials.

PSSC has become the Delaware Valley’s largest and most popular organizer of recreational adult sports leagues and social events. A 12-team coed touch football league that began in the spring of 1993 at Waldron Mercy Academy in Merion Station has grown into 1,400 teams comprised of 17,000 athletes playing basketball, flag football, floor hockey, soccer, softball, volleyball, touch football, dodgeball and kickball annually. There are 30,000 active young professionals on PSSC’s e-mail list. Its new social networking site (phillysocial.com) gives participants and attendees a place to interact.

“All we have done is grow,” Horan says.

When Horan came on board full-time in January 2004, there were 400 teams. Today, with an office in Manayunk and one in his West Chester home, Horan has serious plans to expand. In the beginning, PSSC opened its headquarters on Bryn Mawr Avenue in Bryn Mawr, but then shifted away from the Main Line. Now, Horan has every intention of returning to—and reclaiming—the Main Line. And he plans to expand even deeper into Delaware County by the fall.

Right now, PSSC’s growth has been linear, stretching from Center City down the Schuylkill Expressway to King of Prussia, and into and around Manayunk and Conshohocken. Recently, though, the West Chester Sport & Social Club made its debut. There’s also a Delco Sport & Social Club, another in South Jersey and one in Delaware.

“We’d like to grow from 1,400 to 2,000 teams, and from a $1 million business to a $2 million business,” Horan says. “Route 422 services 60,000 cars a day between King of Prussia and Pottstown. Then there’s Bucks and the Lehigh Valley. We want to have [a club] in almost every neighborhood in the Delaware Valley.”

There’s a “dearth of space in Lower Merion,” Horan says, adding that fields and gym space and towns bustling with college populations drive the business. “Where we can find both is where we go.”

He mentions traditional Main Line haunts like the Baldwin and Shipley schools, along with the new Haverford Reserve, a 55-plus community with field space and artificial turf on former state hospital property.
 

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Coed football in the spring and fall is PSSC’s hottest ticket. On Saturdays in Fairmount Park, it entertains 160 coed touch football teams and another 20-plus soccer teams—more than 2,000 weekend warriors in all—on 14 fields. More than 50 softball teams comprised of 750 players meet Sundays in the spring and fall. Participants tailgate. They bring their playpens for their children and Frisbees for their dogs. Some are members of three or more teams, and might play three to six games. Other leagues run on weeknights.

Beginning in May and ending in September, PSSC sponsors a tournament in Stone Harbor, N.J. It also hits Sea Isle City, Avalon and Wildwood. In summer, there are Phillies bandwagon trips monthly. A diehard fan, Horan put on a Phillies’ uniform for the first time this past January at Phantasy Camp.

All participants register online at playphillysports.com. PSSC creates a schedule, posts it, informs team captains, secures and lines fields, hires officials, and hands out T-shirts by the dozen. Champions earn a special long-sleeved shirt. “We know winning means something,” Horan says. “We see our league champions’ pictures on Facebook. We hear the friendly trash talk on Facebook.”

Horan spends $50,000 a year on T-shirts, all paid for with team fees ranging from $500 to $600, or what amounts to $40 or $50 per athlete. Each season is a guaranteed eight weeks, so it averages to about $7 or $8 a week. There are five seasons, which consume about 45 weeks a year.

Year-round, PSSC hosts happy hours, parties, and the aforementioned PSSCY (pronounced “pesky”) Awards that recognize the best teams and MVPs in each sport and crown Mr. and Ms. PSSCY. There are also lifetime achievement awards. All winners get 3-inch, T-Ball-size trophies “to show you we’re not too serious,” Horan says.

It’s the social aspect that makes PSSC different. “We play games, then hit the local sponsor bar and eat wings—not too many juice boxes and orange wedges here,” says Horan. “We try to keep it recreational in nature, but some of the leagues get incredibly competitive—especially men’s flag football.”

Only basketball and flag football have all-male teams. The rest are coed, which is another part of the successful formula. The coed teams can accentuate the difference between winning and losing. The men cancel each other out. “If I’m driving the basketball against a woman who played at Saint Joe’s and I’m a 5-foot-4 bald guy (which Horan is), I’m not going to be able to cover her,” he says.

Sometimes, on-field relations turn into business, and commercial relationships are forged. “In a world where it’s all about who you know anymore, well, the PSSC fields, courts, etc., are a great way to get your name out there,” McGlennen says.

Couples also meet, marry and start families. Will Goewey and his wife, Jennifer, met while playing on opposite teams during Thursday-night two-hand-touch summer football.

“He was playing offense and I was playing defense, and we had a huge collision on the field,” says Jennifer. “I had a welt on my hip and he was hit in his private area. He gave me attitude, and I just basically said, ‘F— you.’ Then, by coincidence, one evening we were both at the Boat House in Conshohocken. I still wanted to give him a piece of my mind. Instead, we ended up talking the entire evening. Then, we dated for three years, got married and now have a little girl.”

Horan thought he’d be a career bachelor. Then he met his future wife, Kelly, in Avalon, N.J. He turned 40 (his personal deadline) on his honeymoon. Last March, daughter Tessa was born. “I’m around all these young athletic women, but I never thought I had an interest in marriage,” he says. “I was busy chasing a buck in the sports business.”

Passionate PSSC devotee McGlennen never imagined she’d have to sit out. But on the first day of the spring season, she fractured a finger, severed its tendons, and had two surgeries and rounds of physical therapy. “This was devastating,” she admits. “I love Fairmount Park football. I run a team and I play on three other teams. Even though I couldn’t play, I came to the fields every weekend.”

Meanwhile, Horan is off to Barnaby’s sports bar in Havertown to meet with young coeds about spearheading growth into Delaware County.

“We need some young, good-looking kids,” he says. “I mean, you can’t be 41, short and bald and go up to a couple of good-looking women and ask if they want to play some softball.”

Or can you?

To learn more, call (215) 483-9340 or visit playphillysports.com.

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