Whether you’re looking for a new outlet for your super competitiveness, want a more fun way to get in shape, or would just like to meet some new people, Chicago has some great sports clubs to complement its many gyms. From playing volleyball on North Ave Beach and learning to row on the Chicago River in summer, to finding companions to run or cycle with during the harsh winter, there’s no reason not to get out there.
Chicago Sport & Social Club
The largest adult recreational sports company in the city with over 100,000 annual participants, Chicago Sport and Social Club offers leagues in a wide array of sports, including volleyball, softball, dodgeball, football, soccer, basketball and tennis. Membership is free but each league has its own fees, with individual or team prices available, and places are offered on a first come, first serve basis. It also does classes in rock climbing, stand up paddleboarding and more.
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Chicago Cycling Club
Chicago’s undoubtedly a great city for cyclists, and the Chicago Cycling Club is another opportunity to get out there on two wheels. Scheduled rides happen every few days in morning and evening, ranging from serious training and workout rides to sightseeing, food and drink tours. Membership is not required to participate, but paying the annual fee of only $20 to help maintain a club that’s been going since 1994 is a no-brainer.
Alongside an array of fitness facilities including swimming pools, cardio equipment, weight machines and exercise studios, Lakeshore Sports & Fitness in Lincoln Park specialises in racquet sports, offering one of the most competitive tennis programs in Chicago. It has a range of recreational, instructional and competitive options for adults and children, with leagues available. It also has squash courts and racquetball, and hosts a weekly basketball league from fall to winter.
Another option if you’re interested in multiple sports, Players has citywide, seasonal leagues and tournaments for all levels of play in the usual big sports, as well as bowling, kickball and bubble soccer. It even organises international skiing trips each year for winter sport fans, while its annual beach volleyball tournaments at North Ave Beach are a summer highlight, as are its social events, which include a Whiskey & Wine Beach Festival and a Tequila & Sangria Festival.
Started as a simple running club, the Chicago Area Runners Association has evolved into a non-profit organization dedicated to running advocacy across the Chicagoland area, the third largest such organization in the country. Membership gives you access to personal coaching and customized training plans, an exhaustive calendar of races from one mile runs and 5Ks to marathons, and events including clinics and social gatherings. New membership starts at $50 for adults.
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Chicago Metropolitan Sports Association
The Chicago Metropolitan Sports Association (CMSA) is the largest not-for-profit gay and lesbian sports organization in the Midwest, with a range of leagues open to all who wish to play, regardless of sexual orientation, gender, or gender identity. Badminton, pool and golf leagues are different options available at CMSA, and individuals and teams are accepted. Alongside annual events like the Pride Bowl, it offers brunches, parties and self-defense courses.
Ever thought about learning to row on the Chicago River? Housed in one of the best facilities in the nation, the WMS Boathouse at Clark Park designed by renowned architect Jeanne Gang, the Chicago Rowing Foundation has programs for all age groups and skill levels, from training for beginners to sessions and facilities for teams competing in regattas nationwide. The foundation also promotes exercise and teamwork through a wide range of recreational and fitness programs.
Roller Derby was created in Chicago in 1935 and carrying on that tradition today is the Windy City Rollers, an all-female flat-track roller derby league founded in 2004. It holds learn-to-skate clinics and tryouts regularly, and training programs for any level of experience if you make it onto the Haymarket Rioters, the league’s farm team. The teams practice several times a week and the league’s best players play games nationally. Start thinking about your roller derby name well in advance.
S3 Simply Social Sports Leagues was founded by Ben Shimon in 2009 with a goal of running the funnest coed recreational social leagues in Chicago. The focus is on making friends and having a good time rather than being competitive, and everyone heads to a bar after for post-game parties and exclusive specials. Ben is particularly proud of the couples that have met over volleyball, softball and kickball. Its success has led to franchises in New York and Boston.
Established in 1998, Ultimate Chicago is the place for fans of the sport originally known as ultimate frisbee. It has outdoor and indoor leagues throughout the year for men, women, coed, and youth, and competes in annual tournaments including the Cinco Tournament and the Chicago Heavyweight Championships. Pickup games for casual players and clinics to learn to the sport and improve are also held regularly. An annual membership is just $10.